We saw the first two episodes of Halo , the TV series based on the video game saga of the same name.
which debuts tomorrow in the USA on Paramount + and, simultaneously, with us on Sky Atlantic and Now in the original subtitled version.
The dubbed version will arrive on 28 ). A series born on the ashes of Neill Blomkamp ‘s Halo film never made, and in development for at least six years. Nine episodes, with Kyle Killen and Steven Kane as showrunners, for a journey into a 26th century set ablaze by the clash between humans, like the soldiers of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), and the alliance of alien races called the Covenant.
On the eve there was a lot of discussion about a helmet. Not just any helmet, but one of the most famous in video game history: that of the super soldier at the center of the story, John-117, better known as the Master Chief. For the simple reason that the Master Chief of games never took off his helmet, remaining a faceless hero for over twenty years (the first Halo was released in 2001 on the first Xbox). Here, on the TV show, we knew instead that it was going to happen, because it had been confirmed by Kiki Wolfkill of 343 Industries, the software house that follows the entire Halosaga since Bungie’s farewell, over ten years ago.
Wolfkill stated that in this series “it tells a personal story, and to do that it was necessary to show who was under that helmet. For many it is a moment that has been awaited for twenty years, for others it is a difficult thing to accept. We respect both points of view, both of those who want to see the face of the Master Chief and of those who do not want to, but for the nature of the story it is important to show his face ”.
Summary: to tell the character, we have to show you his face. An assumption in itself not irrefutable, given that The Mandalorian has shown us how you can make the public become attached to a character without showing – almost – never his face, and that on the contrary The Book of Boba Fett has confirmed how much the charm of a dude , when based primarily on the mystery of the figure, it evaporates very quickly if you look it in the eye all the time.
The problem is that here, in Halo , the moment “I finally show you his face even if you never asked me” not only is not particularly long in coming, but it is also not constructed as wisely as it did in The Mandalorian . At some point in the first episode of Halo , with a feeble narrative excuse, which would like to build some drama but can’t, Master Chief takes it off. And for a good part of the second episode he goes around without it. And beyond the easy jokes about Pablo Schreiber ‘s important nose , the point is that you immediately realize that something has broken, there, at that juncture, between you and the character. Magic?
CHANGE OF PLATFORM
But beyond the blessed helmet. The viewer is asked to digest, in the course of half an episode, a total turnaround of our Chief Master. A second before is a death machine along with the other programmed, indoctrinated and augmented super-soldiers called Spartans (there is a whole team here, and they too take off their helmets like motorcyclists in the paddock. In the photo below, one of them. , Kai-125); a second later, the encounter with a figure unknown to him induces a moral change and pushes him to take drastic choices.
The dynamic that we want to create, through the introduction of a new character in the saga such as that of the girl – Kwan Ha Boo, played by Yerin Ha – is just like the one that binds the Mandalorian to Grogu: the super-dude and the defenseless subject. To defend the second, the first goes against things he had always believed in. Various other stories are grafted onto all this, such as the power games within the UNSC, and the mad desire of doctor Catherine Elizabeth Halsey (Natascha McElhone) to launch her Cortana project; like the story of some rebel human settlements, or a certain human figure living with the Covenant, Makee, another new character.
With some flashes of hyperviolence and a fleeting nude scene, because on the path traced by HBO, at one point, everyone tries to venture a bit.
It’s not yet a series that I would call totally bad, Halo , and the second episode is slightly better than that poorly written character exercise that is the first. But is it enough for a series, with all that is out there to fight over our time and our attention, on a thousand platforms, being “watchable”? What is certain is that such a product aims above all at the people of gamers, at the vast audience that has had to deal with the Master Chief sooner or later in these twenty years. Who does not have to wait for them to explain what the Covenant and the technology of the Forerunners are, because they already know.
Who was there at the launch of the first Xbox and who is playing it today with Halo Infinite, released last November. Not exactly a niche, as Halo is as popular as few other video game franchises.
And for them, the fans – which is to say for people like me, that I played all Halo and was there when it was presented in Europe – does it work? There are some nice touches, like the sound of the low (and then recharging) shields or the angelic chorus of the theme taken from the games. Or the near-perfect look of the G81 Condor shuttles, Warthogs, Spartan armor and Elite, with their energy blades and four jaws. Seeing homages, winks and faithful transpositions of the original material makes you smile, and in his own way is already an engine of nostalgia, because twenty is twenty, and we were all much younger.
But whether this is enough or not, to please a “watchable” series, is up to everyone to decide in front of his television. For once without the pad, but with only the remote control in hand.