Not The Master Chief You Know
This is my first angry rant of a blog post. Originally, it was going to be entirely about the travesty that is Paramount’s Halo TV series. Then I got to thinking about other beloved IP’s disgraced by Hollywood and now, it is just going to be mostly about said Halo series.
**To be transparent, I am not a Halo lore nerd. I very much enjoy Halo Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo ODST, Halo Reach, and Halo Infinite, but I don’t search every corner of the games for lore and expanded story lines. The main plot doesn’t leave me with many questions that keep me up at night. I think they do a reasonably good job of conveying exactly what I need to know to advance in the story without being confused as to what is going on. With that being said, I don’t turn my brain off while playing. I pay attention to what the games tell me, I just don’t feel the need to read the series WIKI from cover to cover.**
The red flags were there, we should have known. Originally, this show was planned to be a movie. Production then shifted to a series. Several delays and script rewrites later, the show finally got the green light. But there is an issue here, this happened roughly at the same time as the hype and buildup for Halo Infinite. Do you think this might have been on purpose to draw a bigger crowd to both? Ok I’m being overly cynical, the show could still turn out alright, right? Maybe it’s just an incredibly convenient coincidence? Then we had the trailer for the show. Why are you playing “In the Air Tonight?” I love me some Phil Collins but Halo has an iconic soundtrack and theme song. Is this a licensing issue or a terrible creative decision? Isn’t Cortana supposed to be a purple or blue? Where is Sargent Johnson? Hey BrendawnoftheDead! Did you hear the showrunners repeatedly state that they did not look to the Halo games when developing the show? Let me repeat that, THEY DID NOT LOOK TO THE HALO GAMES WHEN DEVELOPING THE SHOW! The games! You know, the interactive entertainment responsible for creating the IP! Without the games, there is no Halo. I would totally understand if the showrunners did not want to look at the numerous books, comics, and fan made YouTube series as many of them are absurd fan fiction, but Halo has a well established canon. If you are not looking to the video games, then what are you making exactly? What are you trying to accomplish and what story are you trying to tell? Did you have an idea for a sci-fi show and slap the Halo name on it for ratings?
Let’s clear the air, I have no issue with TV adaptations making creative changes as long as the end result is still recognizably the IP in question. Game of Thrones (Seasons 1 through 5) differed from the books in a few spots, but the overall plot and character stories were largely in line with the source material. Katalin Stark not becoming a zombie was cut from the show, and it isn’t any worse because of it. Comic Book Batman can bench press 1,000 pounds. Ben Affleck and Christian Bale are both convincing as Batman, this was cut for a more realistic portrayal of the character. Again, the movies are no worse because of this creative change. This is my biggest gripe with the Halo series. The creative changes are far too significant and border on character assassination.
This is not the Master Chief you know. While he certainly not the most vocal, Master Chief is by far the most important character in the Halo Universe. He is the vessel that the player occupies on a journey to save humanity. Because of this, he doesn’t speak often and always acts with the greater good for humanity in mind. You learn more about Master Chief through his actions than his words. The show butchers this character and because of this, never had a chance. The Master Chief character written for the show is an imposter who stole John 117’s Mjolnir armor. First and foremost, Master Chief is always in control of his own actions. His AI companion Cortana is uploaded into his armor, NOT HIS FREAKING BRAIN. She is there to provide guidance and help problem solve, not to take over his consciousness and control him like a virtual reality game. The show gives complete control of Chief to Cortana in order to become the perfect soldier. Why Master Chief then? She could just take over any spartan and be equally as effective. In the games, Cortana chose Master Chief because he was the best of all the Spartans and had a quality that no other spartan possessed, luck.
Master Chief in the show acts nothing like Master Chief in the games. First and foremost, he is entirely too emotional. In the games, he is always levelheaded. He is an inspiring leader of men and always appears to be in complete control. The guy wearing Master Chief’s armor in the show makes emotionally charged and irrational decisions. Sure, he is the best fighter but that is only part of what makes John-117 Master Chief. There are numerous examples of the show assassinating his character, but let’s skip to the most egregious of them all. Master Chief, for reasons unknown, decides to interrogate the Covenant agent (Makee?) alone. He does it without his signature armor and helmet because why not reveal yourself to the enemy? He reveals way too much about the UNSC and other things I guess I won’t spoil and then they do the deed… Ok, if anyone deserves to get laid, it is probably Master Chief. The guy saved all life in the galaxy on more than one occasion, but WHY WITH AN ENEMY AGENT!? What is the connection here? Is he trying to commit treason? Is he trying to get emotionally attached? AND WHY TF DOES CORTANA WATCH THROUGH HIS EYES!?? Jeezus showrunners, what are you doing? And oh by the way, if you are at all familiar with the games, you know that the story of Halo begins with the fall of the planet Reach. It doesn’t take much to put together that Master Chief sleeping with the enemy, revealing too much about (redacted for spoilers), causes the fall of Reach. MASTER CHIEF IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FALL OF REACH. EXCUSE ME!???
Notice how you never see Master Chief’s face in any Halo game? This is done so you can imagine yourself as the hero of the story. I don’t mind that the show eventually showed his face, but it had to be earned. It was so early in the show, the audience didn’t know who Master Chief was yet. He hadn’t done anything the audience cared about, so there is no big reveal. He did it to show his human side to a character that nobody cares about for reasons unknown. They promptly removed any mystery and intrigue of who is behind the armor, and for what? Imagine if you saw Darth Vader’s face prior to the end of Return of the Jedi. It would have completely undermined the final act of his redemption arc. He goes from scourge of the galaxy, to conflicted father, to a self-sacrificing savior. Removing his helmet and showing his face was done to show that he had at last, found his humanity buried deep within.
Master Chief is just one example of catastrophic creative change in this show, but that is far from Halo’s only issue. First and foremost, why don’t we see a halo ring in a show calling itself Halo? At the end of the first level in Halo 1, you crash land on the halo ring. An entire 20 minutes into the game. Why do we know about halo rings at all if this is supposed to take place before the fall of Reach? In the games, the Pillar of Autumn narrowly escapes the destruction of Reach and sets a course towards the course of an important Forerunner artifact after Cortana and Dr. Halsey discovered the coordinates revealed by the Forerunner artifacts found on Reach, but they have no idea what it is or what it is called. Why does the Covenant have a human as one of their higher ups? Part of their mission is to eradicate inferior races who do not believe in their “great journey”. Why does this show need to take place in a separate timeline? Halo isn’t the MCU, multiple timelines have never been part of the franchise. Why do the Spartans need behavior/ emotion controlling chips in their brains? I thought they were taken at a young age, physically augmented, and trained for a single purpose. Why does half the plot center around a rebellion that leads to absolutely nothing of significance? Why did you make the UNSC the real bad guys? You realize that they are the human side in war vs a fanatical religious cult of space aliens, right? They are flawed, but they are not the villains of the story. Why does the action take a backseat? It is well done when you bother to show it, in a story about an intergalactic war to fend off extinction…
I’ll be fair, there are some creative changes made that I don’t have a problem with, and I’ll list them out in plain English.
Having the silver team essentially be the blue team- Yeah whatever, we know what they are.
Having some jackals carry energy swords- they are supposed to be a symbolic religious ritual weapons wielded by high-ranking elites with cloaking armor, as they aren’t ideal in a traditional gunfight on open ground. That’s a detail fans probably won’t know, but they look cool so I’ll give it a pass.
Master Chief is wearing armor that didn’t exist yet- This also looks cool and honestly a nitpick.
Expanding on Halsey’s backstory- She is a complicated character whose story should be fleshed out.
Cortana not being blue- lame but fine.
The Covenant not speaking English- they do in the games to make them more relatable, but makes no logical sense.
After disappointment, my main takeaway from the show is really a question. Who did they make this show for? They didn’t make it for fans of the games, as they took far too many liberties with the plot and characters. The show runners say they were trying to bring Halo to a “broader audience.” Umm, Halo 2 and Halo 3 were the biggest video game launches in history at the time of their releases. Do you know how many people play video games worldwide? It’s a lot. Every single person that owns an Xbox or has a friend that owns an Xbox is at least generally aware of Halo. How much broader of an audience do you need? This is why video games haven’t produced many good TV shows or movies. The powers that be try to change crucial details in order to appeal to a broader audience. Doing so alienates the people that were interested in the show/ movie in the first place. Why would you purposefully make a Halo show that you know Halo fans will hate?
This is far from the first time this has happened. Look no further than my favorite video game franchise, DOOM. Hollywood has taken two shots at translating Doom to a movie and butchered them both. The original DOOM movie featured Karl Urban as Doomguy and the FREAKING ROCK and still sucks. Why? Well, they decided that demons from Hell wouldn’t appeal to the mainstream… yup, they made a DOOM movie that had no demons and no heavy metal interpretation of the Christian afterlife. If you wanted to make a sci-fi movie about discovering ancient Martian DNA that could be injected into humans and turn them into supermen or horribly disfigured abominations, why did you have to call it DOOM? It isn’t remotely similar to the plot of DOOM. Having a single scene in first person and a token BFG does not make your movie DOOM. Hollywood’s second attempt is arguably worse. There are demons and even Hell, but they made Doom Guy into Doom Girl and she is nothing like the character depicted in the games. Doomguy ranges from space marine trying to fend off a demon invasion (DOOM 1), to angry man in green armor exacting terrible vengeance for Daisy (his pet bunny, DOOM II), to Hell PTSD suffering lone survivor staying in Hell to ensure that no demon would ever set foot an Earth again (DOOM 64), to too angry to die rampaging demon murdering demigod that Hell itself fears (DOOM 2016), to savior of humanity (DOOM Eternal/ DOOM 2). Granted, this would be difficult to bring to a non-animated movie, but it is what you signed up for and it is what the fans of the franchise want to see.
In a similar vein, Hollywood has butchered another franchise by trying to bring it to a broader audience. Star Trek used to be an intelligent show based in actual science theory, featuring well written characters and excellent storytelling. When JJ Abrams rebooted the movies, the focus of the show shifted from a character driven show exploring the human condition to a bombastic set piece driven blockbuster. The problem was that action used to be more of an afterthought and the plot was the focus. Now, Star Trek is much closer to Star Wars. While yes, the movies were entertaining by themselves and visually impressive, they honestly do the characters of the original a disservice. They are dumbed down approximations at best. While Abrams succeeded in making action packed movies that people paid to see, he alienated the fans of the original shows and movies. Years later, Hollywood decided to dig the franchise into a deeper grave by making modern Star Trek shows. The focus is now about modern “woke-values' ', they are poorly written, contradictory to what came before (Picard is an abomination), and doesn’t even have the quality action featured in the rebooted movies. Hollywood transformed a beloved property into a platform for the elite to express their opinions on society, alienating the original fans even further and even fans of the dumbed down reboots that wanted to enjoy spaceship battles.
My main point to this rant is that bringing an IP to a broader audience is a delicate balancing act. How do you make something appeal to a larger audience while not alienating the existing fanbase? Star Trek lazily tried to do it by introducing a new timeline. The idea was that the previous versions of characters and events still exist, just in a different version of the same universe. The issue is that the newer audience has no knowledge of what came before and the existing fanbase sees the modern portrayal of beloved characters as a slap in the face. I have absolutely no idea what the showrunners for Halo are doing. What story are they trying to tell and why does it need to be told with different (worse) versions of existing characters in a different timeline? There are so many better options for a Halo show that allow for new storylines. You do not need to assassinate Master Chief’s character in order to tell the story of what happened before Reach fell. You could have made the story, or this season, tell the story of Noble Team (the spartan squad featured in Halo Reach) before Noble Six joined. Hell, you could have made a show about Noble Six prior to arriving at Reach! Reach is essentially the last human stronghold standing in the way of the covenant and Earth, but there were many settlements before that. Why not tell their stories and have it tie into the fall of Reach? You know who has an interesting backstory with a huge opportunity to flesh out? Dr. Halsey, makes the show revolve around her and the creation of the Spartan program. Here’s an interesting idea, tell the story of the events preceding the Halo saga through Sargent Johnson’s perspective. Point being, there are endless better ideas for a Halo show than the putrid one Paramount brought forward. This all could have been avoided if the question were asked, who are we making this for? Halo is a massively popular franchise, but people that aren’t fans of the games aren’t likely to watch a show inspired by them. People that are fans of the games don’t want their favorite characters changed for the worse. If you can’t explain who the show is for, leave the property alone and make something else. END RANT.