Review: Halo Legends

Halo is a multi-billion dollar franchise that’s taken the gaming world by storm and is slowly making the move to film; this animated DVD release is the first step. When Halo: Combat Evolved was released in 2002, I was one of the many to buy it. Hell, if you owned an XBOX you had to own this game, at the very least it was one of only a handful of games out at the time. I enjoyed the game, quite a bit in fact. It was new and exciting, with fast paced first person shooter action that rivalled GoldenEye 007. However even then I found the story lacking, it was hollow and generic and ever since then as each new game has come out they have tried and failed to make the universe even slightly interesting.

When I heard about this series of short animated films, done in a style similar to the entertaining Animatrix and the fantastic Batman: Gotham Knight, I was actually interested. This could have been what got me invested in the Halo characters and want to explore the universe they created… it could have been.

Halo Legends is a series of seven animated shorts, each developed by a different Japanese animation studio. The shorts while set in the same universe and sharing the occasional character, don’t seem to have an ongoing plot throughout and jump through time randomly enough that I often couldn’t tell a short was set in an ancient past, recent times or the present. It didn’t help when they kept portraying Covenant as Japanese Samurai in straw hats.

Origins is a long narrated history lesson, one that does little more than point out Halo’s ability to be extremely unoriginal. An ancient dead race of super advanced aliens is defeated by a great evil plague of aliens (The Flood). Despite a long montage of the advanced alien cities we are only ever shown about half a dozen of them and I was never able to figure out if they were organic or cybernetic. Basically they wipe themselves out (as well as everyone else) in a last ditch effort to destroy the Flood. This of course fails and the Flood return much later to destroy humanity. Cue dramatic drum beat.

The Babysitter:
A group of ODST soldiers and a Spartan are dropped onto an enemy planet in order to assassinate a Covenant leader. The Spartan is the team’s sniper and the squad includes one cocky kid who has to take the shot should anything happen to the Spartan, but come on, what’s the chance of that happening?

One of the better shorts, The Babysitter is still plagued with laughable dialog and inconsistent animation quality and character design. While the action is better than some of the other shorts, it still comes across quite dull.

The Duel:
Something about Samurai aliens.

Quite possibly some of the worst animation I have ever seen. The Duel is a poorly rendered 3D short that has been run through a Photoshop filter to presumably look like a water colour painting. It actually looks more like a Sega CD video game stretched to a high definition resolution. However that’s not the only bad thing about The Duel, it also has the worst dialog of any of the shorts. Nonsensical dribble about honour and battle is all you will find here.

Continuing a theme of dying women, Homecoming is supposed to be a intense flash back ridden retelling of the training a Spartan goes through and the tragedies involved.

It’s hard to feel melancholy when you’re laughing this hard at the dialog. It could be good fun to play spot the Anime cliché or take a drink every time there is a slow-mo shot of a teddy bear key chain.

Odd One Out:
A Halo parody animation short that follows the high jinks of Spartan 1337 (lol) as he crashes on a planet filled with Dragon Ball Z rejects.

Someone once said comedy is hard. I don’t know about that but it’s often hard to watch people try it. Dragon Ball Z is an easy target, it’s practically a parody of itself, yet they still failed to make me laugh in this depressing mess of bad jokes and bad timing. Speaking of bad timing, this short is smack dab in the middle of the seriously themed shorts essentially destroying any atmosphere they might have achieved. There was a reason the comedic short on Batman: Gotham Knight was the first short.

One man makes a final stand and all he has to do it is some prototype armour straight from Robotech.

Half-decent action despite a thick layer of ham.

The Package:
A team of Spartans attempt to retrieve a package hidden on one of the ships in a Covenant fleet.

The Package finally brings some quality 3D rendering that isn’t just wasted on a near still photo-montage with narration. Straight out action, that despite being the best on the disc still leaves something to be desired.  I also totally called the black guy dying first.

If you are a hardcore Halo fan who has enjoyed the later additions to the franchise this DVD/Blu-Ray is made for you. However for those without such a deep investment Halo Legends seems to fit in well with the rest of the franchise, by that I mean it’s a massive disappointment.

On a positive note however the Blu-Ray does have good picture quality and includes a trailer for Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.

Halo Legends (Blu-Ray and DVD) will be released in Australia on March 3rd.