Sunday, September 25, 2016

REVIEW: Halo: The Fall of Reach (animated movie)

First, some info: I haven't actually played any of the Halo games. I started reading Halo: The Fall of Reach after someone said that the series had some good AI-human interaction moments, but I stalled almost halfway through for various reasons. In an effort to renew my interest in the book, give me a better foundation on the visuals, and maybe clarify some of the more confusing aspects, I decided to watch this. I was sure it would spoil certain aspects of the book for me, but I was okay with that.

Yeah, what I didn't realize was that this movie only adapts a small portion of the book – up to page 154 of my copy, to be exact. I'm currently on page 168, so I suppose I'll have to muddle through the rest on my own.

The movie covers the origin of Master Chief, the protagonist and playable character of the games. Dr. Catherine Halsey first identifies him as a candidate for the SPARTAN-II program when he is only six years old. John and other children are kidnapped from their homes and replaced with short-lived clones. It is then that their military training begins. However, Dr. Halsey has more in mind for the children than just training. There are dangerous augmentations that will turn them into true super soldiers, if they're able to survive the process.

Although the artwork was nice enough - very painterly, with some very beautiful backgrounds - the animation was clearly low budget. This wouldn't have bugged me quite so much if more attention had been paid to facial expressions. Characters' faces looked stiff and wooden. As a result, the voice acting was pretty much the sole way to tell what people were feeling.

I'm not entirely sure whether the children were originally intended to just be weapons against the insurgents, or whether they were created to fight the Covenant right from the start. At any rate, the Covenant stuff only came up during the last third of the movie – most of the movie was devoted to training and to John-117 learning to be both a leader and part of a team. Although I noticed that some scenes had been cut out (much of the battle armor training) and altered (more pre-mission joking), the movie was pretty faithful to the book. Or at least the first 154 pages of it.

One other change I noticed had me shaking my head, because I couldn't really see the point of it. The movie is primarily narrated by three different people: Dr. Halsey, Sam, and Kelly. If I remember correctly, the book primarily presents things from John's POV. Why did the movie take a step back and narrate things from everyone's perspective but John? Wasn't this supposed to be his backstory?

The movie didn't help much with the part I'm at now, and it didn't even get far enough to introduce Cortana (I cheated and flipped through some of the later parts of the book, so I already know she's going to come up at some point), but I at least got a refresher on the stuff I'd already read. That's something, I guess. Also, I finally got some better visuals of the aliens. Eric Nylund's descriptions of them aren't really very good. I also hadn't realized how much variation there was in the MJOLNIR battle armor. Unless that was something done in the film purely to make it easier to tell the Spartans apart?

Anyway, unless you have some interest in the Halo franchise, I probably wouldn't recommend watching this, but that's probably obvious.

Extras:
  • Take This Life concept art featurette: This is essentially a slideshow of still from the movie, set to music. I saw maybe two or three images I thought might be concept art. The music was nice, but this wasn't quite what I expected when I saw the word “featurette.”
  • Halo: The Fall of Reach animated series launch trailer: A trailer for the Halo: The Fall of Reach movie. Which means that this movie was actually an animated series? My googling tells me it was released as a miniseries, but I don't know anything more than that.
  • Halo: The Fall of Reach animated series announcement trailer: Basically a teaser trailer for the movie.

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