A prequel to Halo 4, Forward Unto Dawn is a live action movie, taking the story to the start of the war with the Covenant, leading up to the events in Halo 4. A live action movie based on the beloved series of Xbox games is something that had been on the cards for a while, and almost came to life through District 9’s Neil Blomkamp, with Peter Jackson producing. And things looked very promising, with a fantastic TV ad for Halo 3. But then it all fell through (although out of that, District 9 was made, so every cloud…).
It seems that Halo wasn’t going to be the blockbuster many were hoping for. To say, that for a film based on an all out action game, that Forward Unto Dawn is rather withholding when it comes to gun fights and general balls to the wall action, would be a gross understatement. Yes, we do get some Master Chief action, and yes he does kick some Covenant arse, but the way it’s executed, when we finally get round to it, is in the style of Paul Greengrass riding atop a jack hammer. That wonderful staple of action cinema in recent years, ‘shakey-cam’. Yes it’s an effective way of masking the CGI, which itself is rather impressive for a straight to DVD feature, but the fact that ‘shaky-cam’ is bad enough for actually trying to see what is going on, it does make for a rather disappointing experience.
Events start off with a UNSC cadet training camp, where rookies are going through simulated battle scenarios and various cliché military procedure, which seems to take itself very seriously (despite the cadets having a drill sargent whom it is difficult to take seriously at all). The first half of this is about the domestic strife of Thomas Lasky, played by Tom Green (no, not the guy who grabs horse penises and sucks cow’s teats), whose brother is an ODST – Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, if you don’t know your Halo – and he is aiming to replicate his success. Along for the excessively long character building ride is Corbulo, as played by Chronicles of Narnia’s Anna Popplewell, whom I may add, seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games, as another troubled cadet.
Despite the opening acts being seemingly over-long, they do add some weight to the characters, but the time in building up relationships does seem rather stretched, as if they were trying to fill in the running time. Once the Covenant actually attacks, things certainly pick up. The tone of the film shifts from dull military woes, to an almost stalk and slash setting as the cadets are pursued by a stealth camouflaged assailant, which probably adds to the films only moments of tension, before we finally get to see the Chief. Events take on a more gung-ho turn, as what’s left of the unit flee with the Spartan arrives on the scene, to get to an evacuation point.
There are plenty of nods throughout the film to other events, games, weapons and adversaries, all of which, are done pretty well, and the overall quality of the film is very good for a straight to DVD feature based on a videogame. But combined with the dull as dishwater first half, knowledge of what could have been under Jackson and Blomkamp, and the fact that there has recently been announced a Spielberg produced Halo TV series is on the horizon, Forward Unto Dawn will leave you with nothing but disappointment. This is one for the Halo die-hard’s.