Halo (Review): Cinematic Exploration Without A Purpose

Mar 15, 2022

Halo is stunning. In both good and bad ways. Pablo Schreiber plays Master Chief in an awe-inspiring fashion, but his incredible performance falls short because of the lacking plot. Natascha McElhone is Dr. Halsey, and her daughter, Miranda Keyes, is portrayed by Olive Gray. It’s an incredible cast, but the main issue is that the cast consistently fails to amaze due to the plot.

The great things in the film are the directing, the acting, and even the score. The not so great things are only the writing and the VFX, really. I truly enjoyed the performances in the series, and the score, all of it. But Halo is missing the crucial piece that it so sorely needs, which is the story. The whole series hinges on the story, and through the first episode, it’s not working (but it gets better a bit in episode 2).

-R): Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber), Riz (Natasha Culzac), and Kai (Kate Kennedy) in Paramount+'s HALO.
(L-R): Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber), Riz (Natasha Culzac), and Kai (Kate Kennedy) in Paramount+’s HALO. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

The Bad

The writing didn’t work for me in Halo, and I’ll explain why. The plot was great, the action, the lines per character, all of it was great. But no matter what happened in the show, it always felt like the episode was missing something. Doesn’t matter what it was, I don’t even know what I thought it needed. All the same, when I screened Halo, it felt like a piece was missing.

Here’s my theory for what’s missing. In the video games, Master Chief never shows his face. And it works, because it’s a video game, and no one cares about faces anyway. In a TV series, though, you want to connect with the character deeply, and you can’t really do that through a helmet. I relate with Tony Stark because he’s Tony at least some of the time, not just Iron Man. But until the last 5 minutes of the first episode, Master Chief never shows his face. In the second one, he does, and the missing piece seems to heal a little bit.

In addition to that reason, I also feel like we haven’t gotten to truly explore the mother-daughter relationship between Halsey and Keyes, and that would also be beneficial to the series, if it was to be explored thoroughly. And, my final issue with Halo, the VFX sucks for Episode 1. In Episode 2, much better, but for the first 15 minutes of the first, the actors look like video game characters, they look animated. I mean, WHAT? It’s not supposed to look like that for a TV series, I’d venture.

Vannak (Bentley Kalu) in Paramount+’s HALO. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

The Good

Great, the bad stuff’s over with. Now, the good stuff. The cast is lit. Absolutely insane, I love them so much. Olive Gray is my personal favorite as Miranda Keyes. Her wit makes her the perfect daughter to McElhone’s Halsey, and I’m excited for that dynamic to play out through the course of the show (past season 1, obviously). Pablo Schreiber is an amazing Master Chief, and Natascha McElhone is one of a kind for Doctor Halsey. I wish I could comment on Jen Taylor’s Cortana, but it’d be a spoiler.

Otto Bathurst is an amazing director, period. The cinematic quality of this series is incredible, and the world premiere was on a HUGE screen at SXSW Festival in Austin, deservedly so. This series deserves to be seen on the big screen, but it’s a show. Probably would have been better with a limited theatrical release, likely would be unique in that respect. The cinematic qualities of the show are amazing, the visuals and stunts are world-defying.

The score is yet another function of what will make this series so popular. Sean Callery has created an iconic theme to fit the medium of television. His work with Jessica Jones and the James Bond 007 video games are purely gorgeous, and the themes for the series are reflected with Halo, dark and brooding for Jessica Jones, and action-packed for James Bond 007. The opening credits theme for the show is lovely with the animations on the credits, and the music will only get better as the season continues.

Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) in Paramount+’s HALO. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Everything Else

Honestly, some of you will be asking, can this series compete in awards contention? Probably not. For all the spectacle and cinematic experience, it lacks the plot needed to truly achieve awards contention (think WandaVision, Euphoria, Bridgerton). Maybe an editing nomination, but otherwise, it won’t have any chance at the Emmys, or the rest of television awards.

For fans of the series, don’t fret, Halo‘s already been renewed for Season 2, and likely more if it does well enough. The show will likely receive high critical acclaim, and viewers will watch it quite a bit, it just doesn’t fit with what the Emmy voters want. There’s no confirmed number of episodes either for Season 1 (a bit odd, considering it’s a streaming series), but expect a solid number soon.

Halo is a cinematic experience unlike any other, but certain elements prevent it from being a truly great TV series. The plot is shaky, and the VFX is terrible, but other than that, the acting, directing, and score are all outstanding. Halo arrives on Paramount+ on Thursday, March 24, 2022, and if you’re a fan, this isn’t a show you’re gonna want to skip out on.

Overall Grade: B

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