Power up with the might and mystery of the Halo series

By Stephen Aspeling23 February 2024

Power up with the might and mystery of the Halo series

Halo is an adaptation of the record-breaking video game series of the same name. Having developed a loyal fan base over the last two decades, Halo continues to sell to millions and earn billions for Microsoft. The first person shooter launched with Xbox as Halo: Combat Evolved, transforming gamers into John-117 (better known as Master Chief) in the 26th Century, where he must battle aliens with the help of AI advisor, Cortana.

The graphics, gameplay and multiplayer capabilities have evolved as Halo has continued to rack up a plethora of sequels and spin-offs. As it’s continued to raise dopamine levels and gain ground with its vivid audio-visual immersion, the story and Halo universe has also expanded with several films and now a monumental live-action series. Surpassing its FPS predecessors Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake, it bypassed a blockbuster to better serve the far-reaching strands of its story in a series.

HALO Season 2 on Showmax

The same basic story elements hold strong in the Halo series as it comes to encompass a much broader human faction against the fate of planet Madrigal and The Rubble settlement. The focus is on Master Chief, Dr Catherine Elizabeth Halsey and the Spartan-II Silver Team as they contend with fallout from the Covenant war, the recovery of a powerful keystone and the devastating consequences and ethical quagmire of Dr Halsey’s experimentation.

Taking it to the stars are showrunners Steven Kane and Kyle Killen, whose super-soldier names could have easily been transposed into Halo’s world. Known for producing The Last Ship and The Closer, the creators bring a fresh-faced cast together for this much-anticipated foray into Master Chief’s intergalactic military sci-fi action adventure.

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief in Halo S2
Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief

Pablo Schreiber is Master Chief, giving a physicality and presence to the fairly anonymous lead character. At 6′ 5″ he has the silhouette of a super-soldier with the rugged looks to make this Spartan equally worthy of God of War. Best known for his work on The Wire, Law and Order as well as Orange is the New Black, Schreiber’s sheer determination and mental toughness shine through in a straight arrow performance.

Jen Taylor as Cortana in Halo Season 2
Jen Taylor as Cortana

Jen Taylor is the voice of Cortana, crossing over to bring her iconic and unmistakable vocal performance to the TV series, embodying the artificial intelligence being through motion capture. A digital character, this element helps interlock the worlds of live-action and video games for a more seamless feel to this adaptation. Taylor also voices Dr Halsey in the Halo video games and is known for her voicework as Princess Peach, Toad and Toadette in Super Mario Bros.

Halo’s relatively unknown cast does have the recognisable renegade Bokeem Woodbine in the wings. A welcome addition to the cast, who’s known for Fargo and Queen & Slim, his roles in Riddick and Total Recall hold him in good stead. For Natascha McElhone, it’s her Solaris credentials that resonate strongest in her turn as the complex ice queen, Dr Halsey. To inject energy and wildfire possibilities, it’s Charlie Murphy who seems to channel Miley Cyrus spunk as the enigmatic would-be villain, Makee.

Natascha McElhone as Dr. Catherine Halsey in Halo Season 2
Natascha McElhone as Dr. Catherine Halsey

At one point Neill Blomkamp was poised to direct a Halo blockbuster, which was put on ice and resulted in his test footage becoming the short film, Halo: Landfill. Props and items from the preparation eventually went into the making of District 9. While the Halo series has its roots in the video game franchise, it’s comparable with films like Starship Troopers, Pacific Rim, Dune and series such as Battlestar Galactica. The crisp visuals, action orientation and world-building has parallels with the super-soldiers and alien scum of Starship Troopers. Then, the epic scale of spacecraft, interplanetary combat and balance of humans versus technology is reminiscent of films such as Pacific Rim and even Dune.

Aware of its duty towards the audio-visual experience, Halo creates an immersive and vivid environment much like the video game. Through high-end production design, detailed wardrobe and convincing visual effects, the Halo universe is brought to life. Breaking from the video game’s classic first-person shooter point of view, the storytelling unfolds from a third person perspective as Master Chief is given a face, made human and increasingly more relatable.

Halo jumps straight into the action from the get-go as the Silver Team show what they do best in an impressive display of futuristic heroics that almost goes unrewarded. Setting the keystone’s journey in motion, it takes a few episodes for the primary setup to unfold as Master Chief, Dr Halsey and Cortana’s intersection becomes more central to the story. After getting a better sense for the precarious situation between humanity and the Covenant, the series ramps up as Master Chief begins to realise his true origins, Makee hunts for the keystone and visions of the sacred ring known as Halo begin to emerge.

An epic and spectacular series, Halo’s slow-burning mysteries unfold as Master Chief begins a quest for identity, learns to rely on Cortana and discovers who he can and can’t trust against the backdrop of a universe-altering war between humanity and the Covenant. A must-see for fans of the video game franchise, Halo slides the pod bay door wide open to all who appreciate action and science fiction.