Premiering last month, the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn live-action series developed by 343 Industries brings the Halo universe to life in a short, yet engaging, five-part digital series. Directed by Stewart Hendler, the series was featured on the Machinima Prime channel on YouTube and it was clear to see that the budget far exceeded normal YouTube series standards.
The show is a blatant attempt to garner excitement for the release of Halo 4, which came out yesterday.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I will give you a non-biased review of the series…
Plot and Characters
The story follows Lasky, a boy fated to become a soldier in a war he doesn’t believe in because of who his mother is. He is a member of a military training school, and takes the role of the misfit for his pacifist views.
The play on tropes is one of the tactics that makes this series so engaging. We have the traditional “loser guy,” but he’s only a loser for wanting peace. He is also afflicted with a pain he doesn’t understand, adding more depth to his character and subsequent choices.
His female counterpart and possible love interest, Chyler, is not his complete opposite or the “popular” girl in the vein of other shows. Instead, she is fairly reserved. She follows orders and happens to be the best shot on the team.
Rounding out the rest of the crew, we have a “token black woman” who actually leads the squad, the Asian kid who’s bad at martial arts, the bully who is actually a hero, and, the hidden misfit, the hacker. I loved the way that their roles were handled, and the pacing of the show was perfect.
With the first few episodes, if you are a meathead or something, you may wonder why you are watching the series. You may stipulate, “Why are we learning all about these whiny brats, and who cares?!” etc. And then, suddenly, you will watch an episode that will be all the more stunning because of what you know about those characters. You won’t have an “Aha!” moment though, because you will be too busy crowing with glee at the mayhem on your screen.
The casting choices seemed perfect to me, except, originally, in the case of Lasky himself. I thought he was a strange-looking dude to fill the main role, until I noticed how expressive his eyes were. This might sound a little corny, but having those puppy dog eyes staring out of a helmet was a pretty touching element of the drama unfolding around the characters.
Tom Green, the actor portraying Thomas Lasky, was unknown to me, but I recognized Anna Popplewell, the actress portraying Chyler Silva, from Narnia. Ann and Tom have great chemistry, but you’re almost sad to see them kiss.
I also thought it was interesting how well they cast his brother and mother. They actually both looked like him. And his older self! Crazy.
Enisha Brewster was a great choice as April Orenski. You may recognize her from The Vampire Diaries or Footloose, depending on how evil a person you are (Haha, just kidding!).
Although she doesn’t get many lines, she wins my love for being a strong woman in the face of conflict, instead of the normal crap roles ladies get. In general, I think the ladies were well-represented in this series.
When I saw the hacker, Sully, portrayed by Masam Holden, I was all like, “Where do I know him from?” and then I realized how utterly nerdy I am: Masam is also Josmael from Dragon Age: Redemption.
I was watching The Man With the Iron Fists, and I was like, “Umm, is that JJ (a.k.a. Osric Chau)?” He was also Vincent from Sleeping Dogs, so he is a certified nerd actor as far as I’m concerned.
When I say this show looked expensive, what I really mean to say is that the special effects were off the hook. The effects were better than some movies (here’s lookin’ at you, Dragonball) and this was JUST FOR YOUTUBE. It kinda boggles my mind and, if successful, could prove an interesting precedent for marketing games.
Loyal to Halo
Halo fans will love that this show was obviously created with them in mind, not the masses. As such, most of the details are in there to keep you fully in the universe. There are minor problems, like the guns not having recoil and possibly the wrong edition armor on two of the characters, but the series mostly sticks true to the games.
The accompanying vignettes and talk-show style breakdown were both enjoyable and added more insight into the characters. The shout-outs to details fans may have missed the first watch through were also appreciated.
Loved it. This was lovingly-crafted, and fans of the game with more than a ten-minute attention span will love it, though fans who hate exposition and need constant action in the beginning may not enjoy the first few episodes as much.
They are releasing a DVD. If they include more footage, I would actually pay for it. In the meantime, the DVDs will mostly be for true fans, since we’ve already watched both the series and commentary for free.
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