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Halo Legends Review

We take a look at this collection of eight short films, and see how they fit into the wider Halo mythology.

Fans of Halo can be split into two pretty vocal camps. The first believes that the fiction of Halo is one of the more compelling and engaging sci-fi stories of recent years, and they can detail any number of reasons why. The second camp of gamers thinks that’s ridiculous – they play Halo for frantic multiplayer action and the chance to shoot some impressive futuristic weaponry. Halo Legends isn’t going to do much for this latter bunch, or for the large number of folks who’ve never chosen to invest much in the Halo games in the first place. However, for the former crowd of lore hounds, novel readers, and gamers who bought the games to see what happened next to Master Chief and the gang, Halo Legends is a welcome treat.


"Origins II"

Halo Legends is part of a growing tradition of animated feature-length anthology films, typified by 2003’s The Animatrix and 2008’s Batman: Gotham Knight. Pass an established property to a number of talented animation directors, and see what they can do when given free rein to tell a story in that universe. Like those films, Halo Legends has a fine pedigree of directors among its eight visionaries. The lineup includes some gorgeous CG work from Appleseed’s Shinji Aramaki, and the somewhat unusual choice of Dragonball’s Daisuke Nishio – who brings a decidedly humorous slant to the Haloverse.

The result is a sequence of eight short films of dramatically different tones and animation styles, all united by a devoted attention to the fiction. There’s also a nice selection of special features layered on top for good measure, for either the two-disc DVD or the Blu-ray version.


"The Duel"

The first two films, “Origins I” and “Origins II”, both by Hideki Futumura, are little more than a galactic history lesson, as told by Cortana in the days after she and Master Chief are left floating alone through space after Halo 3. As she stares longingly at cryogenically frozen MC, we get a glimpse of her understanding of the profoundly wide scope of the past. Most notably, her narrative gives a clear glimpse of the Forerunners and their ancient civilization – a relative first for the Halo franchise. As she traces the subsequent millennia, the inevitability of war becomes the central focus of her musing – leaving a somber flavor behind to introduce the later shorts.

Hiroshi Yamazaki’s beautifully animated “The Duel” explores the distant past of the Covenant, and the origin of the ritual position of the Arbiter. Despite what feels like an over-humanization of the once-mysterious Elites, the film delivers some remarkable battles in a hazy, watercolor-esque art style. It’s the most adventurous of the eight in terms of visual style, and the gamble pays off.


"Homecoming"

“Homecoming,” directed by Koji Sawai, is the most emotionally engaging of Halo Legends' offerings. This fourth film on the disc delves into the background of the Spartan IIs. In particular, it confronts the moral issues behind these children who were kidnapped from their families to become the super-soldier saviors of humankind. Sawai’s story spans two time periods, and it’s the successful bridging of the two that gives the film its punch.

“Odd One Out” is aptly named. It’s the strangest fit of the eight shorts – both within the collection, and as a part of Halo fiction. Anime enthusiasts will immediately recognize the hand of Daisuke Nishio at work in the zany and goofy character moments mixed with absurd, exaggerated action. If you’ve ever wondered what Halo would look like as an episode of Dragonball Z, you’re in luck. Other folks may be a little put off by the apparent shoehorning of such dramatically different concepts. It’s an incongruous combination, to say the least.


"Odd One Out"

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