Opening with a beautiful combination of the Cortana focused snippets from the ground breaking web series now you can get the whole movie/series in one go, on DVD or blu ray, without having to buy the hyper expensive edition of Halo 4 at release. This is Forward Unto Dawn, and this is what it’s like.
In the film we join a group of trainee UNSC cadets as they prepare to join the Marine Corps of the Halo Universe, whilst Studying at UNSC Corbulo. From the beginning, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the story was going to disintegrate into a hackneyed high school drama, complete with love interests, the token computer hacker nerd kid, the misfit with past losses and a military parent.
You’d also be wrong, while the stories and stereotypes of the characters are overused they are not stuck to your face like a falling plasma grenade, they dance through the film, adding weight to each interaction and conversation without detracting from the movie’s overall direction. The college takes a little from the idea of current military ideals, the training camps from starship troopers, the training planets of the Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000. It almost becomes a character in itself being the slow moving government representative which is shocked by developments within the story.
While some of the dialogue is a little wooden at times the acting here shows a selection of talents who do have chemistry. Very good, especially since this is basically an extended advertisement.
Things to take a slow turn in the second third however. Some of the stories you stop caring about, some of the actors simply cannot hold what they are expected to do, while others over egg their roles but very few find the right balance in the middling areas.
Little flashes of conspiracy leading to an end which is bound to be expected by any fans of the franchise and series but with no less punch than a gravity hammer to the face. Throughout if you watch and listen closely you can see the nods to the future threat being prepared for, but it is of course totally underestimated. A lessen in hubris is taught in one lesson; which the authorities themselves ignore.
Later on, the heart wrenching death of a major character is welcome in a sea of death of two dimensional characters. Made heart wrenching not totally due to the acting of the one who passes away, but Laskys reaction combined with a beautiful musical accompaniment which manages to compliment the scene and not totally steal it in both tone and volume. Added with a brief sign of humanity from the often inhuman, always purposeful, master chief.
The films artistic direction is what makes this stand out from the crowd. Incredibly detailed vehicles and uniforms show a true passion for the Halo Universe, even down to familiar markings on the Warthog. Beautiful panning shots interspersed with the Military academy and the Pelicans in the distance show a level of training we never saw in the Master Chief focused games of the series.
Truly beautiful musical accompaniment is the stand out moment of the show. Faithful needler and plasma pistol sounds added to the expressive tone of the orchestral music and the emotion in the voice of the (better) actors are what let this movie go from being almost an overpriced fan flick into a delight to watch. It uses darkness as a mechanic in suspending belief of the film not as a way to hide shortcoming as so many sci fi films do, especially those of a lesser budget, much like this. Slow motion is used sparingly but to good effect in the latter quarter of the film, although one jump does seem to take a few seconds too long.
The attack is where it hitches up to 11. The first sight of the enemy ships i a joy to behold even if it is slightly interrupted by one piece of poor editing, almost unavoidable when you realise this was a conversion from an episodic web series to a feature. The mixture of Visual effects and prop stunt usage is inspired for a show of its type. The covenant are never shown in a light where they can be easily seen, apart from a couple of fleeting shots which add tension naturally and not through ridiculous plot stretching. In particular the scene with the stalking elite is the standout sequence of the whole attack, bringing the visceral fear of these cadets stalking the corridors to your room. This scene could be seen as a little bland if not once again for the brilliance of the sound and its use throughout the sequence.
If I’m going to die on this ship, Chief is going to suffer the same.
An incredibly faithful rendition of Halo for fans of the franchise and just sci-fi fans themselves, including a few nods to little details like the worm colony make up of the hunters and the defining features of the jackals.
Is it worth buying on DVD? I’d say maybe, if you are a big halo fan. Is it worth buying on Blu-ray? Definitely. Even if you are just a sci fi fan and not a huge fan of Halo this holds up as a film, not simply an advertisement.
The dvd comes packaged with the blu ray as always these days in blu ray sale but the visual effects are of course given the most justice in the blu-ray version, without making anything look cheap in practical effects.
Along with over 80 minutes of behind the scenes footage, a few little feature videos and a pretty sweet A3 poster which now lives on my wall this release isn’t without its fair share of additional features, which perhaps don’t make the purchase worth it if you’re not a huge fan of the Halo series, but are a welcome addition which would be sorely missed if they were not present.
A masterpiece of modern media convergence, combing the old of the franchise with the new from 343 industries. This seamless integration makes the film not only magnitudes better from a fan-boy standpoint but allows it to maintain an overall conviction that lets the film hold its ground amongst industry legends in the movie world, never once stepping out of its universe or adding in the idiotic comedy characters we always see. Although there are a few tiny comedic nods in the film this is a production which should be seen overall as a total success for 343, the producers, Microsoft and video games as a whole. Not to be missed for anyone who even calls themselves a video gamer.
If you don’t want to fork out for a DVD or blu ray copy it is available in less convenient episodic format via Machinima but at a British RRP of 9.99 on DVD and 19.99 on blu-ray I’d recommend this as my pick so far of the year as a movie purchase.
It gets an 85/100 from me. If you like Halo, go get this. If you enjoy Sci Fi, think about it. If you like unicorns and flowers, why are you still reading?