By Stewie Sutherland
Released worldwide on both DVD and Blu-ray, Halo Legends takes one of the most popular franchises of our time and spins seven short films about it. It goes without saying that in something like a war for survival, there are many interesting stories to tell. When that war for survival is scattered across colonies, planets, star systems, space stations, artificial constructs and alien worlds, you get an appreciation of just how many of those stories are out there. 343 Studios and Warner Brothers intend to bring new and old fans of the Halo series a handful of those tales to their living rooms.
Last month, AMO reviewed the first half of this set, which had been already previewed to the public on Xbox Live. Now, we complete it by reviewing the other four films and the Blu-ray release of this compilation.
Origins I & II – Studio 4˚C
Origins is the only episode of Halo Legends that isn’t a prequel story, though as the title implies it does reflect back on early events in the Halo universe. Set five years after Halo 3 on the floating, stranded aft section of Forward Unto Dawn, Cortana is reaching the end of her life expectancy. Revealed in The Fall of Reach, 7 seconds of inactivity for an A.I. is excruciating, and Cortana has now had several years of it. Descending into rampancy, Cortana spends her time looking at the sleeping 117 and talking to him. Cryogenically frozen, the Master Chief remains unaware as she starts to recite the early stages of the entire Halo universe.
From here, the film is somewhere between a verbatim flashback and journalistic storytelling. The first film on the Halo Legends disc, Origins is designed to ease people into the feel of the animations and set the stage: it does a pretty good job of it. It goes without saying that when a franchise like Halo becomes so popular and has branched out to the level it has, there has to be a beginning for it all, and this film explains it, narrated by Shelley Calene-Black as Cortana.
The first half of Cortana’s story is set over 100,000 years in the past and focuses on the often mentioned predecessors in Halo’s history, the Forerunners. Technologically advanced, the Forerunner civilization was prosperous. They had observed the newly developing worlds of the different races of the Covenant, the Elites and Earth, all in the same Galaxy.
Then, a parasite struck their empire. They treated it as a mere infection until it was too late, and with its rapidly growing threat, they dubbed it “The Flood”. The Flood, being the dangerous, plant-like zombies that they are, devoured and assimilated more and more Forerunners, growing intelligent and dangerous. Soon enough the Forerunners and The Flood were at war with each other.
Eventually, the Forerunners learn the only way to destroy the Flood is to destroy everything around it. Cortana narrates the building of the Ark and the lighting of the 7 Halo rings far better than I could, and most people who are into Halo would know these facts already. The only new one I found was Cortana’s explanation for how all the populated planets were populated once more: after the Flood-destroying light cleansed the Galaxy, Forerunner pods re-seeded the planets with stored DNA and captured life forms.
Part two of Origins documents humanity’s instinct (if not its tradition) with turning on itself and fighting. An almost disgusted sounding A.I. notes how long and how often war had broken out on Earth. If only for a brief reprieve, the discovery of interstellar travel unites humanity towards the stars, reaching out to populate new worlds. It is only for the appearance of the Covenant, who view mankind as a filth to be cleansed, that all of Earth and her colonies unite.
From here however, Cortana’s story gets to be increasingly inaccurate. She mentions events that are out of place, exaggerated, and just plain didn’t happen, such as Humanity and the entire Covenant taking up arms against the returned Flood. The movie is actually meant to be like this, as our story teller is having trouble differentiating between reality and fiction. At the very end of the episode Cortana enlarges her avatar, manages to brush away some frost between herself and John-117’s face, and begins to show the signs of her decent into rampancy.
“You see, some mysteries defy understanding, and sometimes even the things we think we know are untrue.”- Cortana, Origins II
Being the first two of Halo Legend’s episodes/films, Origins eases people into the Halo universe and sets the tone and mood. Cortana’s story is an almost melancholy recollection of past events, and like an older-style film, many scenes are viewed as grainy and faded. The music featured the most is from Halo 3’s soundtrack, and fits superbly with the story as it continues. However, Origins is a simple story: it does its job to set up the rest of the films and is interesting in some places. That said, you won’t watch it near as often as you might watch Homecoming or The Duel. It does fill one other very important job however…
Origins answers a question that’s been flying around since the end of Halo 3 – Just what’s happened to the Master Chief? As Origin’s ends on a cliff hanger, it can only be speculated what happens next.
Bungie have stated that they’re throwing everything they have into the up and coming prequel game Halo: Reach, after which they’ll be turning the reins over to 343 Studios so they can follow other projects. (Keep in mind, Bungie have also said things like this since Halo 3… and Halo: O.D.S.T.) If 343 do indeed follow up on 117’s story, I’d love to know just where they’ll go from here.
7 OUT OF 10
Homecoming – Production I.G.
Much like their other Halo film, The Duel, Homecoming is told out of sequence, but it’s easy enough to keep up. The film switches between two time frames – the present, where Spartan Daisy-023 is attempting to evac a warzone with her team, and the past, where she and four other Spartan’s escape their home facility by holding Dr Halsey at gunpoint. Inspired by the first novel The Fall of Reach, which detailed the harsh conscriptions of the Spartan-II program, Homecoming is the story of Daisy trying to go home to her old life, only to find it’s not hers anymore.
Soon after they escape, at least one Spartan is recaptured, while the other four manage to return to their own individual homes. For Daisy-023, a huge mansion in an idyllic port town looks just the same as she remembered it. Sprinting down towards it however, she’s receives a shock at seeing her exact double tending to flowers in the garden. Monitoring her from a nearby Hornet, Halsey let’s Daisy know about the clones that were created of the children so that the abductions were kept quiet – while Daisy trained with the Spartans, her clone continued her life unaware that anything had ever happened.
Drawing her pistol, Daisy prepares to take back what’s been stolen from her, but her clones kind smile makes her lower the weapon. Instead, she offer’s daisy a small Teddy bear charm she once owned that she had lost when she had been taken, explaining that she just feels she should give it to 023. Daisy leaves, returning to her life in the Spartan program, alongside her other friend who had met his own clone. They learn the other two who had escaped with them had committed suicide upon discovering what had happened to their own lives.
Homecoming, despite having many bright and colourful backgrounds and moments, is meant to show the darker side of the SPARTAN-II recruitment program. A strong female protagonist, Daisy-023 wears red CQB armour in her present-set moments, and behaves heroically in the call of duty, showing her acceptance of what had happened to her. Homecoming can be at times quite dramatic, and it’s nice to see to be honest. It gives the Halo universe some good depth and feel to it. Out of the Spartans that have been featured across all the mediums, Daisy’s story is short but interesting, dark and somewhat brutal. She carries it on her shoulders well.
8 OUT OF 10
Prototype – Bones
Prototype focuses on the unsung heroes, the Marines. Just your regular run of the mill grunts in green – the ones that are never quite as good a shot as you on the Warthog turret but you can’t help but like how they yell “How do you like me now?!” when they take down that Banshee overhead. Prototype opens up to a typical battleground-gone-pear-shaped for the UNSC – Marines are struggling to hold back a tide of Covenant attackers as civilians are evacuated and the Cole Protocol is in effect. (Up until now I’ve assumed you’ve gotten a fairly good gasp of Halo-lore to understand half the stuff I’m been talking about, but in case you don’t know, the Cole Protocol is when all data is wiped and erased and prototype equipment is destroyed to prevent the enemy getting their hands on it).
A dark and miserable skirmish is in play to the tune of Never Forget, Halo 3’s menu-song. What few Marines that are left are cursing their own luck, because they know they’ve been virtually left behind to die: their commander for this mission is a man nicknamed Ghost, who has effortlessly thrown away his men’s lives in the past to get the job done. Just as two Marines are preparing themselves to die, an explosion rips through the testing facility behind them and a massive armoured power-suit plants itself between them and the oncoming forces. The titular Prototype equipment that is meant to be destroyed is in fact been commandeered by “Ghost”, who orders his men to fall back while he uses the suit to hold off the enemy. Angry at himself for allowing his former team to die, he uses what time he has left in the rapidly dying suit to destroy a fleet’s worth of Covenant forces.
“Just get my men off this planet.” Sgt “Ghost” defying orders – Prototype
Prototype features some very cutting-edge visuals – it’s like the most modern, up-to-date art used in Anime, and it uses it to great effect. The battleground and the carnage that rips through it and follows Ghost on his mission is impressive to watch. A scene towards the end of the film features the inside display of the prototype suit, complete with flickers of static and the reflected shadow on the glass behind it.
7 OUT OF 10
Ah, but I’m forgetting one, aren’t I?
Odd One Out – Toei Animation
A good title for this one! Odd One Out is NOT a genuine Halo story, rather a mock-up parody of it. The background characters are there – Master Chief and Cortana – and they act true enough to themselves, but the story focuses on clumsy, gung-ho SPARTAN 1337 (Thirteen Thirty Seven). The episode opens with him tumbling from a ship, landing badly with a rocky splat. The Master Chief and Cortana then make an appearance commenting on 1337’s harsh fall.
“This kind of thing happens to him all the time.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time he fell off a Pelican.”
Master Chief 117 and Cortana commenting on SPARTAN 1337. – Odd One Out
After doing a quick bit of research, I found out that Toei Animation created the Dragon Ball franchise. That’s probably why Odd One Out feature’s children with shaggy haircuts, a pet dinosaur that tries to eat 1337, a giant (and thick headed) Brute that fires a laser from his mouth, and an older sibling pair called May and Guy who are all muscle and lightning quick fighters. There’s also a lot of lighting effects and explosions from the ground up. Odd One Out was okay for a quick chuckle, but expect nothing more and nothing less.
On Blu-ray, Halo Legends has the sharpest, clearest picture (with the exception of The Duel) available. The audio is Dolby Surround Stereo, so a big, fancy upgraded entertainment system won’t get you a better sound than your standard TV speakers really, but none the less it’s a downright great disc. The bonus features includes interviews, commentaries, a history of the franchise and for Blu-ray, a bonus feature on the story so far (a tad more accurate than our favourite A.I.’s recount). The DVD however only has the audio-commentary.
For what you get in a single Blu-ray case, a Halo fan cannot do without this release. You can pick and choose which stories you’ll love to watch over and over, and which one’s you’ll never want to view again, but you still need to pick it up. With the low price tag and what you get, you really have no excuse. If you’re a newbie to the Halo Universe, pick up the DVD version and watch it in order to ease yourself in: Warner Brothers may have made a film set for fans but they’ve organised it in a way that people who have never played Halo before can still sit back and enjoy.
8 OUT OF 10