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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://shows.acast.com/vicegamingsnewpodcast/episodes/waypoints-51-halo-the-tv-show
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Great episode, relevant to all my interests.
I ate up Halo, despite agreeing with basically every criticism levelled at it. It makes arbitrary deviations from the source lore that don’t add anything to the narrative, characters make baffling decisions that are neither interesting nor fit with their character arcs, and the show does feel cheap despite all the money lavished on its production. And yet, here I am, a little Grunt gremlin nomnomnoming this shit out of a trough.
I guess what kept me going with the show was its unmistakable Halo-ness. The Warthog, Pelicans, and other vehicles maintain almost a pixel perfect recreation of the games and the Spartan armors are all great looking. I didn’t even mind the obviously CGI’d combat sequences, because it followed the logic and tactics of actual Halo combat. And I was a sucker for the first person sequence in the Doom movie, and that has not changed here, although I agree that’s a matter of taste that I’m in the minority on.
I’ll keep watching when season 2 comes out. There’s enough here that I think they can right the ship if they want to. The actors playing John, Kai, and Miranda all seem to be having fun and I’d love more screen time with them. And while the version of Cortana they have looks very “off” it does not stop Jen Taylor’s magnificent voice performance from coming through. Seriously, she carried Halo Infinite and is doing so much with so little here. Maybe keep her physical appearances to a minimum and up her quips in the helmet, because a snarky Cortana remains awesome.
The one episode they uploaded to YouTube for free absolutely looked the part. Even the CG Covenant characters looked pretty good. It was the plot that was…certainly a thing
As much as I agree that any Halo adaptation will have hard time making Master Chief interesting in a long-form format like TV, I can’t help but think that the primary audience for this show aren’t people who want to watch a show about new and interesting characters in the Halo universe. They want to watch a show where Master Chief does Halo stuff.
I got ankle-deep into the YouTube Halo community just before the launch of Infinite, and now my YouTube recommendations are full of 30-second show clips titled “finally the Halo TV did something cool” or ‘this isn’t how master chief would react’. The former are just clips of all the major battle scenes, and the latter are clips of Pablo Shrieber acting.
None of these fans care about the broader political or cultural implications of the Halo universe, or even the notion of a character arc, in this format. They want to see the Halo guy do the Halo stuff.
And here’s the thing: is there anything particularly wrong with a TV show that’s just Master Chief killing Covenant along to the same paper-thin plot of the first game?
There is, if you’re making a TV show. You can’t stack a TV show with wall-to-wall effects and stunt-work. Even Game of Thrones had to spread that stuff out to maybe one big action sequence per season. It doesn’t make financial sense.
From an adaptation standpoint, Halo just doesn’t make sense as a TV show if it stars Master Chief, which it has to in order to get people to watch it.
It’s sort of the perfect Catch-22: you need it to star Master Chief in order for your target audience (Halo fans) to watch it, but you’d need to fill out Master Chief’s character in ways that run against canon in order for it to work as a story, which would annoy your target audience.
The answer is The Fall of Reach the TV show. You’ve got the setup of Chief with the lore the fans actually like, and you can tie in all the military sci-fi stuff from the game.
Halo is a much more successful vehicle for stories when it embraces the military sci-fi character of its universe, rather than the straight up science fiction that 343 embraced for the Reclaimer games.
The rebuttal to that is that The Fall of Reach is too much material for a movie, but not enough for a TV show and all the ways you would pad that story out to a 12 episode reason are boring and awkward compromises.
Adaptation often boils down to either a distillation or extrapolation of the source material, and games are super problematic because they require writers to distill the multi-hour play experience while extrapolating the lore and plot into something engaging in non-interactive format. I’m at a point where I think that the best game adaptations are those CGI Resident Evil movies or Final Fantasy Advent Rising, because they are complimentary to the games themselves. They can’t stand alone, the creators know that, so they just make movies where Leon’s hair is shiny and a dog splits in half.
I’m so Halo-ignorant that you could have made a show starring any guy in a big armor suit and called it Halo and I would thought “yup, that’s Halo Man”. (Similarly, Samus is just Lady in a Suit with Big Shoulders, 99% of the time.) The fact they had to make the show “star” Master Chief was my strongest indication that this was going to be a disaster and I haven’t watched even a minute of it.
I don’t think my instinct was at all flawed.
EDIT: Not sure if anybody needs to answer this, but why is the Halo composer specifically not a friend of Waypoint?
If they’re talking about Marty O’Donnell, I stopped following him on Twitter several years ago after Gillette had that commercial in the wake of MeToo where they were like “Being a man means you respect other people” and Marty was like “HOW DARE YOU POLITICIZE RAZORS” which gave me a little window into his politics.
Marty O’Donnell is a right wing ghoul, more or less. Not much else to say on the matter. He composed some really iconic soundtracks, but yeah, he kind of sucks as a person.
I only watched the first couple episodes and stopped because it was very bad. This podcast made me feel comfortable with that decision.
I do have sympathy for the creators. They have to deal with the fact that “Halo fans” are an incredibly broad spectrum that ranges from people who played a bunch of Halo 2 multiplayer in college to people who have read dozens of novels about ancient aliens and the military-industrial complex. And as Ren alluded to with the discussion of Starship Troopers Halo really suffers from the “wow cool robot” problem. A lot of fans, including those who have read all the books, don’t really get or are uninterested in the series’ subversive themes. Creating a work that appeals to all those people is difficult, especially when it’s also the flagship IP of one of the world’s largest tech companies.
I’m not really sure what the solution is, but neither is 343. I have played all the game and read a couple novels (a 4 on the Halo scale if you will) yet I have no goddamn idea what the hell is happening in Infinite. I also went back and played some of 5 after Ren’s defense during the previous Halo discussion. It did not change my opinion that the game sucks. The new characters are dull and the Prometheans, both in concept and visual design, are terrible.
I recently ethered my Twitter account to stop myself from doom scrolling but am now bitter for having no large place to repeatedly yell “Cado play Ocean.”
Marty O’Donnell is also a major part (maybe founder?) of that studio that is trying to resurrect Six Days in Fallujah if that’s any indication of what the Halo music guy’s whole thing is now.
I for one expect some guitar heroics and gregorian chants while some jarhead called ‘Ace’ puts a 40mm grenade through a school wall.