Starring: Pablo Schrieber, Yarin Ha, Natasha McEllhonne, Bokeem Woodbine, and Ryan McPartlin.
Where I Watched It: Paramount Plus
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Description Provided By: Descriptive Video Works
The Plot: It’s Halo. I know that doesn’t mean much for people unfamiliar with the franchise, but for those who are, it’s Halo. For those who aren’t, this takes place way in the future, and we are introduced to a group of colonists who start dropping some exposition about Marines, Spartans, and some more Halo mythology before an alien race drops in and starts massacring people. Then, we finally get to see the Spartans (humans) in full awesomeness as they drop in to fight off this alien scourge, but when Master Chief (Schrieber) stumbles upon an alien artifact, as well as a lone survivor (Ha), that’s when the makings of how the rest of the season could play out really start to unfold.
What Works: I may be a blind critic, but I wasn’t always, and I very much played Halo as a video game, and let me tell you… I felt very well serviced. I feel like I need to tip my hooker or something. There are so many moments that fans of the game series will drool at, just the attention to detail. Like, the fact that the Spartans have shields, and those shields can be depleted, but they can also recharge, just like in the video game. And when this happens, it’s THE SAME SOUND EFFECTS. Amazing.
It’s a little like being a kid in a candy store at first, as you keep looking for specific references to the games. Like when they travel to Reach, I felt like I suddenly became a dog and started wagging my tail. And don’t even get me started on the energy swords.
Some video games get these haphazard adaptations, but this wasn’t that. This felt like a carefully crafted love letter to fans, and the beginning of something epic. Like we might finally have a contender for that Game Of Thrones type pop culture phenomenon. Of course, only future episodes will really let us know. This could go downhill super fast, but I was really excited coming out of the pilot.
What Doesn’t Work: It’s not that it didn’t work, it’s just that so much was happening in the first episode, that the only character I formed any sort of meaningful connection with is the lone survivor. None of the Spartans, not even master Chief. I just feel like I need more episodes and time to marinate on them. This pilot really tried to do a lot, and while it introduced all the key players, we really only ended up with a reason to love or relate to one.
The Blind Perspective: I guess, considering I just watched Jackass Forever today, i should thank Paramount Plus for letting me watch a few seconds of the credits so I quickly caught the company, even if I didn’t have the narrator.
As far as the actual narration, I have to take certain things into account. First, I used to be able to see. And if these designs are similar to the game (which is what I presume), then I feel like some things could have used more specific description. For example, the aliens and how they look. This really is a thing for any science fiction project ever, but fictional races of creatures that aren’t human always need a bit more description for the blind audience, because every alien is different. For example, this race looks nothing like any of the many different Star Wars races, or anything out of the Alien franchise. There’s such a spectrum, that we can always use as much as possible, even if it comes in pieces, like the longer we sit with the alien race, in each encounter, perhaps we learn a bit more about what they look like. Sometimes large and humanoid or whatever just doesn’t give enough.
How much larger? A foot taller/ Ten? More muscular? Do they have hands or claws? Is their skin like ours, or is it scaly? The more you give, the more invested a blind and visual impaired audience can get attached to a genre they typically avoid due to a lack of substantial audio description.
For example, I know what an energy sword looks like. And I didn’t feel like the description actually captures what that is for an audience that’s never seen one before. If I asked a blind person who has never experienced Halo what they thought it was following this, I’m betting I’ll get something close to a lightsaber, which its not.
It was a very interesting time for me, because having spent countless hours playing Halo, and driving warthogs, jumping into a multiplayer game of infected, or any of the many other game modes, I can still visualize the guns, the sword, the vehicles, and the characters. So basing my history on all that knowledge, I felt like for an audience unfamiliar with the game, the descriptions could be better if you want Halo to be actually set apart from other science fiction TV shows. Using safe, generic descriptions will make the audience feel like this is just another disposable interchangeable sci-fi series that leaves a lot to the imagination.
Final Thoughts: This first episode is fan service. But to be fair, videogame adaptations have a negative assumption that they will be bad, because so many that came before were bad. It needed to open up like a grenade being tossed by a Spartan, nice and explosive, and I felt like it did that. But the giddy feeling you get from fan service doesn’t last forever, so it’ll be up to the writers over the next couple of episodes to keep up the momentum. So only time will tell in the long run, but for now, I am very happy.
Final Grade: A-