The main reason for this is not just the serviceable performance of Pablo Schreiber as John, aka Master Chief himself; rather, it is that many of the action sequences are actually well-constructed. While the moments where it shifts into first-person can be a little narrowly focused and unnecessarily restraining for the purposes of being like a video game, the ones that are broader in scope are actually surprisingly good. Sometimes it can feel like some characters are basically invincible and have plot armor for every circumstance, but there is a clear amount of work put into the many stunts that make everything seem rather real. Even when it leans on CGI, the way it gets interwoven with the practical works gives everything a more grounded sense. The Covenant attack sequence, in particular, is the standout for just how many moving pieces there are and how well it all comes together. Even as there isn’t anything else following that can hold a candle to this sequence, it still is worth praising on its own.
The narrative itself has proven to be less of a success story. While much of the way everything is set up is in service of the action, there are still many moments that feel far too scattered. When first watching the show, the introduction of the character Kwan Ha, played by relative newcomer Yerin Ha, and the way she was integral to the story just as much as John was what had most drawn my interest. The way the two had similar yet different experiences made it feel like there was something more interesting going on in the background. Even when it had been made clear that they were going to go in separate directions for a while, the way the story bifurcates can feel more than a bit unfocused. There won’t be any spoilers here, for those that haven’t yet seen it or are waiting for the physical release, but the narrative remains the most disappointing part. Much of this may come down to how we’ve all been spoiled as of late with Andor which has continually made any other science fiction series of this year feel trite by comparison. Still, even if it wasn’t living in the shadow of one of the year’s best shows, Halo is hard to fully get invested in with a story as creaky as this one is.
Thankfully, these hang-ups mostly fade away when we get back into the action sequences and stray away from the meandering machinations that set them up. For those looking for more about how all these were constructed, the behind-the-scenes nuggets on the physical release are worth checking out. While there are many such extras that can feel less comprehensive than one would hope, they do cover everything from costumes to the weapons and vehicles that were made. These are the things that we don’t always notice when watching, yet are integral to the way the world gets built. There also are some looks into the visual effects and how the creators went about adapting such an expansive game. As someone who is not all that interested in that aspect, as a show should be willing to take leaps away from the games, considering they are very different mediums, it is interesting to hear the discussions playing out from the creators. It is all part of what the release boasts is five hours of behind-the-scenes special features that fill in all the various pieces that made the world and the story come to life. When it is discussing the details that are the show at its best, these special features are indeed interesting. It may also provide some indication about where all the various creators are hoping to go next for the second season which was already announced before the first had aired and even recently started filming in September.
Is Halo going to completely win over any of the viewers that may not like what they’ve seen thus far? Most certainly not, especially if you were mixed on the ending that isn’t quite as compelling as some of the episodes that preceded it. However, there is still something to appreciate in a streaming service making its show available in a physical release for those who do want to go deeper into this world. That isn’t a common occurrence these days, as more and more stories are siloed off into their respective streaming sites where they could easily be taken away without viewers ever having a chance to see them again. While Halo is likely not going to be the one that breaks this trend, which may itself be a losing battle and just a product of the direction of the industry, it still is nice to see the show being made available in this way. There’s just nothing quite like getting the chance to pop in a physical disk and enjoy a show whenever you would like to from anywhere. Yes, even as the show isn’t always uniformly good, there are still enough parts that shine to make it a surprising standout of video game adaptations.
Halo comes to DVD, Blu-ray, 4K UHD, and limited edition 4K UHD Steelbook on November 15.