Before I start telling you about the new “HALO” TV series, just let me say upfront that I have never played a HALO video game. I’ve never watched it being played.
And that, I’m pretty sure, leaves me more open to the show than devoted fans of the games.
We’ve seen that before. A lot of gamers hated the movie “Warcraft.” (Well, pretty much everybody hated that movie.) And a contingent of comic book fans absolutely freaked out at the way The Mandarin was portrayed in “Iron Man 3.” For that matter, comic book geeks freaked out at the way Iron Man was portrayed on screen, starting with the first film.
I rarely read comic books. I loved the first “Iron Man,” and I had no problem with The Mandarin in “Iron Man 3.”
For the uninitiated, “HALO” is set in the 26th century, when humans have colonized a number of planets. And Earth — the United Nations Space Command — is battling rebel planets. What rebels on one of those planets quickly discovers as the series begins is that humans have a bigger problem. An alliance of aliens, known as the Covenant, is waging war against humanity.
“One of the biggest things that we have to deal with here,” said Pablo Schreiber, who stars as Master Chief, “is the difference in making a video game versus making a TV show. We’re very squarely in the HALO universe. It’s a show for people who love the HALO universe, and it’s a show for people who are just discovering the HALO universe.”
Schreiber said he didn’t have any experience playing the game when he was cast in the show.
“I grew up without television or video games, and so I’m on a new journey of learning about HALO,” he said. “My entry point is always story. So that’s the thing that blew me away the most.”
Before any gamers take offense at anything that happens in the series, the producers have gone out of their way to make it clear that “HALO” is not a direct adaptation of any of the games. It’s not a sequel. It’s not a prequel. It’s a story that exists parallel to the games, even though many of the characters are the same.
(Sort of the way the three most recent “Star Trek” theatrical movies exists in a timeline outside the other “Trek” movies or TV shows.)
“We really looked at this as ‘how do we take the essence of the game experience and really express it in our own voice, the show’s unique voice?’” said executive producer Kiki Wolfkill.
“HALO” is gorgeous to look at, and extraordinarily violent. It sort of reminds me of “Starship Troopers,” only the alien enemies aren’t big, dumb bugs; they’re religious zealots.
According to executive producer Steven Kane, “If you’re a HALO deep lore fan, there are going to be Easter eggs” in the show. Including characters that have only been in HALO books, and not in the games. “And if you’re absolutely new to the game or don’t know anything about it, it’s still a great story,” Kane added. “It’s a great war story [and] love story.”
Well ... first, I have no idea which characters are which, and there are a lot of them so it’s a bit dizzying. In addition to Schrieber, “HALO” stars Natascha McElhone as Dr. Halsey, the creator of the Spartan super soldiers; and Jen Taylor as Cortana, the most advanced artificial intelligence in human history and potentially the key to the survival of the human race. The cast also includes Bokeem Woodbine, Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Olive Gray, Yerin Ha, Bentley Kalu, Kate Kennedy, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Ryan McParland, Burn Gorman and Fiona O’Shaughnessy.
And. second, after screening two episodes, I’m not even close to calling “HALO” a “great” show. It’s fine ... but the jury is still out. I’m intrigued enough to keep watching, but I’m not entirely convinced “HALO” is going to be good for the long haul. Although it will have time to establish itself — Paramount+ has already renewed it for a second season.
Also on TV this week ...
Step Into ... the Movies with Derek and Julianne Hough (Sunday, 9 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • The siblings, who are Utah natives, recreate dance numbers from classic movies. (Starts streaming Monday on Hulu.)
Shackleton’s Experience: Lost Ship Found (Monday, 9 p.m., History) • Explorer Ernest Shackleton’s sunken ship is found in the Antarctic in astonishingly good condition.
Atlanta (Thursday, 11 p.m. FX) • OMG — Season Three premieres four years after Season Two. Earn (Donald Glover) is managing Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) European tour. (Two episodes air Thursday, and they start streaming Friday on Hulu.)
Bridgerton (Friday, Netflix) • Season Two focuses on Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and his search for love. Regé-Jean Page doesn’t return as the Duke of Hastings in the second season.
Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u (Friday on Disney+) • The star of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” travels from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, performing songs from her album along the way.
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