Video game movies can occasionally make great ultimate action movies…
But this new Halo TV series on Paramount+ is quite up to the level of the most recent Mortal Kombat film (or perhaps even the level of the original 1995 Mortal Kombat version). But, after catching its world premiere at this year’s SXSW I can report that it is at least entertaining.
So, take that as you may as I also have to report that I’m not the world’s leading Halo historian. I’ve played a few of the games, I know that there are books and other pieces of the folklore out there, but this screening was purely viewed from the lens of looking for enjoyment.
Still, there’s a little something there in terms of cheesy one-liners and gruesome deaths. And it pays some homages to sci-fi action vehicles of the past like Starship Troopers or The Running Man. So, without further ado, here’s our full review:
Halo: The Ultimate Review
I’ll recount all the things I knew about Halo before going in. The main character is named Master Chief. He’s a space marine. He kills aliens with guns. There are some story arc involving the covenant and some oracle-type character. It’s all kind of complicated, but I do remember it being quite enjoyable to follow.
Also, it’s fun to shoot your friends at LAN parties.
Now, the show which made its world premiere at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas yesterday at SXSW honestly seems to be made for someone with about my level of insider knowledge.
There were quite a few cheers from more fans during the premiere when some of the iconic guns and weapons made appearances in the first fight scene (which truly was quite brutal and surprisingly well-done for the amount of CGI obviously involved).
But there were also a few snickers at times during some of the acting and plot points, as well as some obvious displeasure by some fans during the Q&A session that indicated that their deep knowledge of the Halo-verse might not be specifically targeted with the show.
Lots of CGI and Sci-fi Going-ons
Once we get past the opening battle sequence which I will say, on a big screen and experienced with plenty of fans, was quite enjoyable to watch, the show falls into some humdrum-ness as we understandably set up as many of the characters, and as much of the story as possible.
Which, I mean I get it. Total Recall couldn’t have had Arnold just wailing on people for 90-minutes straight, right? (But also, that would have been awesome ha.)
Created by Kyle Killen and Steven Kane, the bright spots for Paramount+’s flagship show definitely come from these battles as well as some of the performances from leads Pablo Schreiber (who has the univenable task of playing a helmeted character stomping around in mech armor) and newcomer Yerin Ha as Kwan Ha Boo (Master Chief’s eventual sidekick, I guess).
The acting doesn’t get much chance to take off, but it’s solid (if not bad occasionally) enough to hopefully get audiences to the next video game style battle. Which is why we care to review it here on UAMC…
So, How Ultimate is it?
As with much modern action, Halo isn’t quite meant to be an “action” show per se, but rather a big sci-fi, fan-fiction service that has action out of necessity. I mean, could you make a movie based on a first-person shooter game and not have the main character shoot copious amounts of people or things?
I actually quite enjoyed the first battle sequence close to the level of watching one of the bug attacks in Starship troopers. (Although, few movies would be as lucky to have a CGI battle age as well as that one.)
Its un-ultimateness comes more from the story so far, and so much so that I wouldn’t quite recommend it to any ultimate action fans based on anything besides possible love of the video game franchise.
So, if you’ve played the game and love it, fire this bad boy up. If not, maybe watch the first 30 mins of the first episode and see if it sticks. If not, leave it be and fire up Starship Troopers instead!