Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (2012)

Web series based on the 4th game in a series; consider the barrel scraped.
Web series based on the 4th game in a series; consider the barrel scraped.

“The Story of Halo 4 Begins at Dawn*”

Directed by Stewart Hendler
Starring Tom Green, Anna Popplewell and Daniel Cudmore

The starship Forward Unto Dawn drifts through space, controlled by the AI Cortana, who is basically going mad with just thinking shit to herself all day. Her distress call is picked up by the Infinity, and heard by XO Tom Lasky, who remembers who remembers who remembers…

Lasky (Green) remembers his time at military academy, almost washing out after his adored big brother was killed in action, discovering an allergy to the chemicals which stop his blood freezing in cryosleep, and the destruction of the academy at the hands of the largely unknown Covenant. He remembers desperately fighting for survival alongside his fellow cadets – including sexy sharpshooter Silva (Popplewell) and being rescued by a colossus named the Master Chief (Cudmore).

What’s wrong with it?

A lot of this film assumes at least a passing familiarity with Halo, and thus nothing is explained for newcomers (such as who the Covenant are, what the SPARTANs are and why they have freaky pale faces and weird eyes, or the complex geopolitical situation that led to the divide between the UN and the Insurrectionists.)

The first half of the film is basically every space marine co-ed boot camp sequence ever rolled into one. Admittedly when I say that I realise that’s pretty much Space Above and Beyond  and Starship Troopers, but… basically it’s the locker room scene from Aliens with a 12A/PG-13 certificate.

Anna Popplewell is saddled with being the tightly-wound ablative love interest, copping a shiv to the gut to motivate Lasky, despite it being largely unnecessary by that point. Having been established as a badass in her own right, she deserved better than to run into a fridge. Also, what the fuck, Master Chief? You have one spray thing of biofoam? Just one? That kind of inventory may be all well and good in Left 4 Dead, but we expect better in a scifi FPS.

Half of the characters that the first half of the film introduces get killed off at or around the half-way mark, and the rest become essentially redundant once the Master Chief shows up.

Apparently the Master Chief hasn’t had a promotion in 36 years.

What’s right with it?

For a machinima web series intended to promote a computer game, this thing looks frigging awesome. The elites are truly badass, and the Master Chief looms like a cliff over the freshman cadets.

While the first half is frankly slow, once the action kicks in the pacing is… well, just like the game, but without the inevitable wrong turnings and restarts.

If you’re going to set a series in the world of a computer game, there are far worse ones to choose, since Halo does have a lovely sandbox to play in.

How bad is it really?

For what it is, Forward Unto Dawn is better than it has any right to be.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The Master Chief vaults onto the back of a Hunter, slaps a grenade on its back then swaggers off like he’s Iron Man or something while it asplodes behind him.

What’s up with…?

  • The Master Chief’s team deployment? It appears to be one man goes in, two wait at the choppa (although in fairness, they might simply not have found any survivors and thus got back quicker.)

Ratings

Production values – For a quickie web series, this is more than passable. It gives most Trek a run for its money. 6
Dialogue and performances – The performances are decent, but the dialogue is functional. 9
Plot and execution – The first half is basically build up to try and emotionally involve the viewer in the second half, but honestly I don’t think this would have worked at all for anyone for whom the appearance of the Master Chief wouldn’t be enough. 14
Randomness – It’s your standard boy meets girl at co-ed military academy, which means only one of them is getting out alive. Since it’s Lasky’s flashback, we’re not even unsure which. 4
Waste of potential – Just… so much more than it should have been. 2

Overall 35%

* Spoilers – the film begins at about three in the afternoon and the attack comes around midnight. The title refers to the name of a ship and the creed of the UNSC.

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