HALO LEGENDS, 2010
The world of Halo is expanded with six unique visions of the Halo universe.
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When Halo was released in 2001, it became evident immediately that something big was happening. The emerging combination of cinematics and gameplay made this game stand out among the others in the market, and cemented Microsoft as a serious game competitor. Nine years later, the Halo mythology has delved into 4 new games (with a fifth on the way), novelizations and comic books. It only seems fitting that this series comes to fruition, in one way or another, on the home video market.
Enter Halo: Legends, a series of short films that centers on the myths and history surrounding the Halo universe. Though not original in content (Dead Space, The Animatrix and Dante’s Inferno all have done this before), Halo: Legends provides some much needed insight into its lore. Though fans of the video game probably will delight in this, those who are new to the series will have no problems jumping in and getting their feet wet.
To those who are not familiar with the back-story, here is a brief synopsis. Earth is at war with an alien race called the Covenant. The Covenant, like any intelligent species, is lead by a group of religious zealots who call themselves the “Prophets.” In the middle of the first game, the humans stumble across an interstellar ring in deep space; they dub it Halo. As the Covenant enclose on the Halo, a race to discover its true purpose of the Halo has begun. However, in the deep trenches of the device, a race of parasitic beings, known as the flood, have accidentally been released. They feast on intelligent beings and will assimilate all sentient life in the universe unless they are stopped. This Halo, it turns out, is such a weapon. It has been designed to destroy the flood, but in doing so, will exterminate all life in the galaxy. The prophets, being the religious zealots they are, believe it is their destiny to ignite the rings. Can the humans prevent the Covenant from destroying the galaxy while stopping the impeding threat of the Flood? Thus is Halo.
Each story in this DVD is rather brief, lasting no more than 20 minutes. There are seven chapters (one is a two-parter) that focus on parts of the mythology that have been discussed, but not often expanded upon. For example, the initiation of the Spartan program, the creation of the rings, and even a different take on the covenant than we have ever seen before. Each chapter is independent of one another and was created by different studios. This being the case, we will examine the DVD as parts, and at the end, we will examine if those parts match up to fill a fulfilling whole.
This episode delves into details surrounding the creation of the Spartan soldiers, and the shady history surrounding its past. This is a very emotional story and it is handled in a fantastic method. This is the one episode that, especially those who are not familiar with the events of Halo, needs to be seen first and foremost. It will give you a better understanding of Halo and make the subsequent shorts more relatable. As a fan of the game, this also provides some answers that have always intrigued gamers; what are the Spartans and how did they come to be? The answer is just as powerful and thought provoking as one would expect from a series like Halo. This is easily one of the better stories of the lot.
If the first episode delved into the mysterious past of the Spartans, this second episode enlightens us about the heart of the Covenant. As most of the episodes on this DVD use typical anime to express their visions, this one stands out among the others. The story focuses on an Arbiter, a highly ranked Covenant warrior. He has refused to accept the religious ideals of the prophets, and as a result, his village and family are destroyed. Seeking revenge, the Arbiter knowingly walks into a trap to enact his revenge. The art in this is amazing. It uses watercolors mixed with traditional anime to deliver a unique vision. It looks like a Japanese painting come to life and fits the story accordingly. His village and clothes are very much designed to look like an ancient Japanese village, and as such, the artists put much detail into faithfully recreating the feeling of a feuding Japanese empire. Once again, those who are familiar with the video games will get a little more out of this than those new to the series. However, it is powerful enough to stand on its own and is the best episode of the entire series.
Origins I and II
In this short, we have Master Chief (the protagonist from all the Halo games) and his A.I counterpart (Cortana) alone on a ship immediately after the events of Halo 3. Master Chief is in cryo-sleep as Cortana monitors his vitals and keeps watch over the ship. All alone, she reflects on the events in human history that have lead up to this point. She dwells on the wars of human past, and reveals what she has discovered about how the galaxy, and how the Halo rings came to be. This is a very good episode, but it is little more then exposition. It is the third and fourth of the series, but easily could have been the first. Though it is interesting, these are episodes almost entirely made for those new to the series. Those who have played the game pretty much have a strong foothold on the back-story leading up to Master Chief and Cortana’s lone venture. It is still entertaining to watch, but if you played the games, you can feel free to skip chapters.
Now this is what I’m talking about. While the other pieces stimulated my mind as well as my eyes, this one is pure action through and through. It is not anime, as all but The Duel are, but CGI similar in style to ‘Starship Troopers: Roughnecks.” It concerns a group of Spartans sent to rescue a valuable “package” from a Covenant fleet. This is an extremely fun short. Their attack on the Covenant fleet is in vein of ‘Star War’s’ attack on the death star. This piece has some weird moments however. It tries to incorporate a few FPS (first-person shooter) moments from the game. The last time we saw this in a film, The Rock was taking down aliens in ‘Doom.’ Not a good idea. Though those parts made me role my eyes, the rest of the episode was so engaging I did not mind. This is the Halo I signed up for. Intense shooting and an engaging mystery surrounding the “package” make this an episode that truly delivers.
This is a strong episode that carries with it a heavy emotional weight and engaging story. It does not focus on a Spartan soldier, but the inner turmoil of a non-nonsense squad leader who has lost his entire team. It is a great story of redemption that combines the awesome intensity of an amazing sci-fi battle. In the middle of a war, the human forces are losing badly. In order to save whom he can, the soldier puts on a prototype body suit, and all hell breaks lose. Think the end of ‘District 9,’ and you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this episode. It is engaging, emotional and entertaining as hell.
This story focuses on a bunch of Orbital Drop Ship Troopers (the same from Halo :ODST) teaming up with a Spartan soldier in order to take out a high-ranking prophet. However, though their goal is the same, this is not a union made in heaven. This is an Army vs. Navy type rivalry. Though I didn’t like this piece as much as some of the other episodes, it was still enjoyable. This piece is poignant, and does make you think on the definition of a soldier; I just found some of the characters too annoying to care about. This piece definitely has its moments of coolness; it just isn’t one of the strongest of the bunch.
Odd One Out
This is easily the worst of the entire collection. In fact, this may be one of the worst animated episodes of anything I have seen in a while. The director took Halo and turned into an episode of Dragon Ball Z, (and yes, this episode is made by the same company) only ten times cheesier. This is Halo. This is a game that is rated mature. This is not a kid’s game. To take something that people respect so deeply, and turn out this horrible mess only shows that the production team had obviously no idea of the Halo universe. This story follows a Spartan who falls out of his ship, then lands on a planet that only seems to be populated by three children and two teenagers. The Covenant learns of his whereabouts, and sends a trial weapon to come and take him out. Though there is action in this piece, it is way too slapstick for its own good. I cannot reiterate enough how awful this was to watch. I cringed throughout the entire episode, and could not wait until I could write this review and warn everyone else out there. STAY AWAY!!
Though this DVD has a few hits and misses, its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Every episode, minus Odd Man Out, is enjoyable in one way or another. As a fan of the series, I was thoroughly entertained and learned more about the Halo universe then I thought possible. If you enjoy the games, this is something you definitely should check out. Watch this, then go back and play the trilogy again, and I promise you, you will respect the game on a whole new level. If you have no interest in playing the game, this is still something worth watching, if only to learn about a great science fiction mythology.