Paramount Plus Halo review: Master Chief’s risky unmasking doesn’t work

It would have been a bold move if Paramount’s new Master Chief More Halo the series never took off his helmet, and we wondered what kind of person the hulking Spartan in his Mjolnir armor really is, as he does in the Halo video games. Repeatedly unmasking Master Chief and pointing out the difficulty he has in processing basic emotions is one of the main ways Halo tries to humanize him as he embarks on an adventure through a universe that is familiar, but slightly different in terms of continuity. But rather than using Master Chief as a lens through which to view his war-torn worlds, Halo instead, try to mythologize him with a story that turns him into your standard chosen one who doesn’t know he’s special.

Although Paramount Plus’ Halo doesn’t immediately try to knock you down with dumps of dense world-building information, it’s clear from the pair of episodes provided to the press that co-creators Kyle Killen and Steven Kane both have deep respect for the source material. As a civil war rages between United Nations Space Command and insurgent groups from Earth’s alien colonies, the future of humanity was already uncertain before the events of Halothe first season. But things got even more complicated when alien beings known as the Covenant first appeared unexpectedly and established themselves as a powerful and deadly force from beyond the stars.

While Spartan UNSC super soldiers like Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 (Pablo Schreiber) were created by Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) to deal with the rebels, their enhanced physical abilities and combat training make it one of the most effective means of humanity. to fight the Covenant – a race of bipedal behemoths armed with power guns and swords.

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief, Kate Kennedy as Kai, Bentley Kalu as Vannak, and Natasha Culzac as Rice.

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief, Kate Kennedy as Kai, Bentley Kalu as Vannak, and Natasha Culzac as Riz
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Halo opens in the middle of a Spartan-led attack on a group of insurgents who go left when the Covenant suddenly appear in a sequence that illustrates how difficult the balance of power in the galaxy has become nowadays . Master Chief and the rest of his Silver Team of Spartans already have marching orders when we first encountered them on Planet Madrigal where they were sent to kill freedom fighters like Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha). But when the Covenant arrives in a barrage of gunfire, Master Chief, Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy), Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac), and Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu) take it upon themselves to repel the invaders in a streak fight. which establishes how horrible Halois ready to get.

People don’t just get shot Halo – their bodies are devastated through flurries of bullets as the camera makes sure you never lose sight of the chaos of battle. Carefully placed blood sprays all work to remind you how vulnerable you are HaloBasic humans are up against their well-armed foes, and the brutality with which Spartans and Covenant fight each other is the series’ way of reminding you just how monstrous both groups can be considered, depending on your perspective.

It only really becomes clear later, but the way Halo glamorizing and heroically framing his Spartans in the heat of battle is actually one of the most effective ways to telegraph his larger goal, making the audience think about what it really means to root or want to be. a character like Master Chief. Halo wants you to see Spartans as cool, and the show frequently switches to a first-person perspective reminiscent of the games in an effort to make it feel like you’re part of the fight.

Corn Halo also wants you to understand how Halsey’s Spartan program stripped the Master Chief of vital aspects of his identity in order to turn him into a callous killing machine unable to truly live for himself or understand himself. What he does understand, however, is that he’s skilled enough to kill terribly rendered CGI aliens, and has some kind of connection to a powerful MacGuffin-shaped Covenant relic that appears larger in Haloover the season.

A member of the Covenant race.

A member of the Covenant race.
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Master Chief is only but so aware at first of the depth of the UNSC’s betrayal and Halsey’s willingness to break the law in pursuit of illegal science, but Halo puts a significant amount of that on screen, again, in order to show you how the story being told isn’t as simple as good versus evil. Even though Halsey and John’s unsettling mother/son dynamic is central to their nuanced relationship in the Halo games, here it plays a lot more in two dimensions partly because of the way the zoom on the pair Halo is often. Because we are not told more about the history of HaloWorldwide, it’s hard to get a sense of the extent of the debate surrounding Halsey’s work ethic and the influence she had on the Spartans. That’s part of the reason the introduction of Cortana (also McElhone) ends up feeling less like Halo translating one of the franchise’s most iconic characters across all mediums and more like trying to make the character work for television by stripping her of significant video game context.

As Master Chief, a character known for his stoicism and general silence, Schreiber is helpful — good, even — in times when he’s meant to stand there, exuding an intimidating energy. In more emotional moments, however, Halo‘s John suffers from being rendered as inert and somewhat flat in a way that has little to do with his canonical conditioning. This Master Chief is introduced as a brainwashed man who begins to remember the life he led before the UNSC abducted him and the other future Spartans as Soren-066 (Bokeem Woodbine) so that they were children. Watching someone find out who they are or were can be interesting when that person is more than an inflated number, but that’s precisely what HaloThe Master Chief often feels like: an ubercipher whose relatability hinges on his ability to see himself in hypermasculine Space Marines who shoot first and don’t ask questions, most of the time.

Corn Halo works hard to put Master Chief on a pedestal, a number of narrative decisions like the introduction of the foil character Makee (Charlie Murphy), a human kidnapped and radicalized by the Covenant, have a way of making Paramount feel like More was not entirely sold on him as a concept. That in itself wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it weren’t for the way Halo tends to feel like another episodic epic about humans battling aliens rather than a strong, vision-driven adaptation of one of the most beloved Xbox franchises of all time.

Halo is set to air on Paramount Plus on March 24.