This movie disturbs me. I am disturbed by how Microsoft is approaching the Halo franchise and universe. If this movie is any indication of what their intentions are, then fan boys like me have reason to worry.
Forward Unto Dawn is set as a prologue to Halo 4 and centers around Thomas Lasky. In the movie Lasky is a military cadet and despite being the son of a higher up member of the military chain of command he struggles not only to fit in but also to make the grade. A clear history of disobedience trails Lasky and this is the source of his conflict with his classmates since his actions have continued to negatively effect his entire squad’s grades. If he is to make it through and graduate, Lasky must learn to be a team member and get past the inner demons that have been the true source of his dissension. His mettle comes to its true test when the military academy comes under the attack of an alien force.
I don’t want you to think I’m going to completely talk down the movie and Microsoft’s effort so I’ll start with the positive things in this movie. When I first heard that this movie was being done, I immediately wondered – how are they going to handle showing the aliens on screen? It’s hard enough to do aliens in movies well but with Halo being well known via video games there was even more pressure to not only do them better then well but to stay true to the Halo universe as well. The production crew tackled the task by limiting the on screen time of the aliens. Which worked well to not only ease the burden of doing them but it also added the feeling that these beings were unknown and frightening. When they were on screen, they looked very much like their video game counterparts. I was particularly impressed with the Hunter battle in the woods. Even environmental items like vehicles looked very much true to the form of the video games.
Now onto the things that were not as positive about the movie. There were a few plot problems and they may have been little things but they are there nonetheless. Take for instance in one scene one of Lasky’s squad-mates talks her way onto a transport by telling the guard that her mother is a high ranking official in the military and he summarily grants her passage on the transport. The problem with that is that it was already set up in the movie that every cadet is there because of who their parents are and would have been equally as important. Why wouldn’t the guard have just shrugged his shoulders and told her to get back in line? I would also question why everybody standing there didn’t break out in protest? Riddle a few more head scratching moments and the movie just wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. Another problem would have been the role of Master Chief. Master Chief is the primary focus of the games but little more then a secondary one in this movie.
Outside of the movie is where I really see some issues. Microsoft has already announced they will be making a Halo television series. You can expect it to be along the lines of this movie in its style and story if not a direct continuation of it. That is a problem not only because of the lack of the main characters of the Halo universe but also that the television series may not necessarily mesh with the video games. Case in point, Lasky starts out in the movie as a very anxious, nervous, and somewhat not self assured character but seems to find faith in himself in the final battle. Add that to the cut scenes of a future Lasky where he appears and acts battle hardened. This is in stark contrast to the timid and submissive Lasky that is found in the video game of Halo 4. Overall Microsoft is also mishandling how they are distributing the story. If you watch the video clips that could be found at terminals in the anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved, you had a much different sense of what has happening in Halo 4 when you played it. The problem with that is that not all players with go and find all of those to watch them. Some players may not even buy the game to begin with since it was only an HD remake of the original. But Microsoft did not seem understand that they have splintered their story telling since they have done it yet again. I have some serious worry for those players that did not play through the Spartan Ops included in Halo 4 before the next game is released. Those people are going to be very confused. They’ll have to do what I did with the terminal videos and go find the videos on the Internet.
The movie itself is solid and fine. What it suffered from was that it was not what Halo fans wanted and it wasn’t compelling enough to make a movie fan interested in the games. Go ahead and watch it on Netflix. Unless you are a huge Halo fan or watch the movie and find you absolutely love it, you can save the $17.99 Amazon is asking for something else.