After spending years in development hell, Microsoft X-Box fans can rejoice – the long-awaited HALO series is finally here. It tells the story of Master Chief (Pablo Schrieber), a genetically modified “Spartan” super soldier from the year 2552. When he discovers a mysterious object after a firefight with the villainous alien Covenant group threatening humanity’s very existence, Master Chief’s worldview is irrevocably changed.
As my experience with HALO-lore is minimal at best (I tended to get my ass handed to me every time I picked-up a controller), I cannot speak to the attention to detail that fans are sure to equally enjoy and pick apart with a fine-toothed comb. Speaking as a non-fan however, the look and feel of the first two episodes I was able to screen is nothing short of astounding. The battle scene in Episode 1 is epic and appropriately violent for a series based on an M-rated Video Game franchise, the special effects are terrific and the booming score is exactly as great as I hoped it would be. There is one controversial decision that is certain to annoy some die-hard fans, though I hope they can look past it and appreciate just how much effort was put into getting these worlds, creatures, armour, backdrops and spaceships to look as great as they do. This is easily one of the most expensive TV Shows ever made, and no expense appears to have been spared (and it looks a whole lot more real and polished than another popular space-set series that has been streaming for a few years now).
The acting is strong thus far, with Schrieber (best known for his work as Pornstache on Orange is the New Black )really embodying the stoic, emotionless demeanour of Master Chief. I was also a fan of Natasha McElhone as Dr. Catherine Halsey and Yerin Ha (also at SXSW with SISSY) as Quan Ha. Their work is compelling and does a great job lifting up the story coming together under a plethora of exposition. My main concern so far – which may be alleviated with future episodes – is that the Series does not seem to have any sense of personality. Some may decry the lack of humour as the reason (though they will likely gravitate towards the scene-stealing turn from Character Actor Bokeem Woodbine as Master Chief’s old friend Soren), yet I think it is more complicated than that. The Creators spent so much time trying to get the look and feel of the Video Game franchise just right (up to and including the HUD fans should know all too well) that they did not stop and think about how to keep the non-fans invested, and how to differentiate the story for a new medium. Much of this should be ironed out in future episodes, but I sincerely hope the series does not sink under mountains of story exposition or wait until the already greenlit Season 2 to adjust.
The first episode of HALO premieres on Thursday, March 24, 2022 on Paramount+ with new episodes every following Thursday.
As part of Television Critics Week celebrations, we were invited to sit-in on a panel for upcoming TV Series adaptation HALO. The military Science-Fiction series based on the wildly-popular Video Game, takes us into the 26th century where humanity face the threat of the Covenant, an alien entity. Set to premiere March on Paramount+, the Series developed by Kyle Killen and Steven Kane, stars Pablo Schreiber, Bokeem Woodbine, Charlie Murphy and Natasha McElhone.
Joining us on the Panel were:
Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer Steven Kane, Executive Producer Justin Falvey, Executive Producer Darryl Frank, Executive Producer Pablo Schreiber Natascha McElhone Yerin Ha Bokeem Woodbine Charlie Murphy
Executive Producer Kiki Wolfkill talks about adapting this beloved Video Game to TV and what’s involved with setting-up the backdrop in which this story is set against.
Wolfkill: “Adapting a beloved Video Game with 20 years of history, story and character development is a daunting task, but really gratifying. For us we looked at ‘How do we take the essence of the gaming experience and really express it in our own unique voice?’. From that, we set-out to build a 26th century Sci-Fi world with brutal aliens and spartan super-soldiers, artificial intelligence, military politics and ancient mystery. But at the same time against that backdrop, really tell some really personal stories and explore the humanity or lack thereof, of our characters.”.
Pablo Schreiber stars in the lead role of Master Chief and talks about landing this coveted gig.
Schreiber: “We’re very squarely in the Halo universe. It’s a show for people who love the Halo universe and just discovering the Halo universe. Master Chief is one of the most iconic and heroic characters of all time. The opportunity to explore those themes and ideas, the relationship between the warrior and the hero – what’s the similarities and where do they diverge, is what’s really interesting for me.”.
He also talks about the experience working with his Castmates on the Series.
Schreiber: “It was really wonderful to get to work with all the performers. Obviously Chief and Cortana have a very special relationship, but the history between Chief and Halsey, played by the wonderful Natasha McElhone obviously is another central core relationship. Our work together was wonderful. The Chief and Soren have this very tortured and long history as well, but also very close. So to get to do that with Bokeem also was very amazing. We also introduce a couple new characters into the lore. To get to bring Charlie‘s character Makee in and I have a lot of stuff with her towards the end of the season, is really fantastic and Charlie is amazing. And this incredible new performer Yerin Ha, came in and is playing Kwan Ha, which is a brand-new character created for our Show. To get to do all of that, to create history and continuity of the franchise, and to create all these new characters, all of it was such a thrill.”.
Natasha McElhone talks about what Halo means to her and her family.
McElhone: “I have a strange relationship with the game in that my first experience with it was finding my husband with my then one-year-old son, sitting on his lap playing Halo when he should’ve been cooking, so it was a distraction – a beloved one – in our household. So it’s very strange that it should come back around and here I find myself as part of the team bringing it to TV which is thrilling for all my kids because they all love to play Halo.”.
She tells us about her character, Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey.
McElhone: “In terms of Halsey, everyone knows who she is in the game. I hope I’m building from that and the legacy that Jen (Taylor) helped create when she voices her in the game. We were trying to deep some of the other elements of the characters and perhaps build a few more branches on the tree. I’m definitely seeing her as someone who’s misunderstood.”.
Bokeem Woodbine talks about his connection the Video Gameand his character, Soren.
Woodbine: “He’s enterprising, innovative, hard-working, industrious, not without some charm. He’s got his eyes on the prize at all times. As far as Halo‘s concerned, I remember when it first came out, all my friends were Halo heads. I didn’t necessarily play myself, but I spent countless hours hanging out. None of us were rich back then, so I remember hanging-out in little ratty apartments, watching my friends play Halo for hours. It’s a lot of fun to watch people play because the landscape is ever-changing, kinda like watching a movie. So to be able for this to come around and participate in it, is really a thrill.”.
Justin Falvey, Executive Producer tells us on the long-term plan for the Series.
Falvey: “Our intention is to produce several seasons of the Show. There’s a lot of story to tell. And as Pablo indicated, we have so many buckets we can dip into with these pre-existing characters and these new characters. Talk about a world-building show, it speaks on every level to execute that wonderfully with the people we have in place. Hopefully we’ll be doing this for some time now.”.
Gaming lovers got a sneak peek at the new Trailer for HALO, an upcoming new Series Adaptation of the iconic Video Game, at the 8th annual GAME AWARDS.
Check-out the brand new Trailer and Poster.
As a live-action series exclusively for Paramount+, HALO will take place in the universe that first came to be in 2001 with the launch of Xbox®’s first “Halo” game. Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, HALO the series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future.
The series stars Pablo Schreiber (“American Gods”) as the Master Chief, Spartan-117; Natascha McElhone (“Californication”) as Dr. Halsey, the brilliant, conflicted and inscrutable creator of the Spartan super soldiers; and Jen Taylor (“Halo” game series, RWBY) as Cortana, the most advanced AI in human history, and potentially the key to the survival of the human race. Additional stars include Bokeem Woodbine (“Fargo”), Shabana Azmi (“Fire”), Natasha Culzac (“The Witcher”), Olive Gray (“Half Moon Investigations”), Yerin Ha (“Reef Break”), Bentley Kalu (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”), Kate Kennedy (“Catastrophe”), Charlie Murphy (“Peaky Blinders”) and Danny Sapani (“Penny Dreadful”). Also joining the cast as original characters are Ryan McParland (“6Degrees”), Burn Gorman (“The Expanse”) and Fiona O’Shaughnessy (“Nina Forever”).