We don't normally feature movie reviews here at Co-Optimus, but when one of the top co-op franchises gets its own movie, we'll make an exception. Halo Legends was recently released on DVD, Blu-ray, and for download, after making a few limited appearances on Halo Waypoint. Like The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, Halo Legends is a series of short anime stories, each courtesy of a different team of creators. In true co-op fashion, I'll give you my thoughts on each story, followed by that of my eight year old son Connor, who only had to hide his eyes and cover his ears a few times while watching. Each story will receive a rating, from Bronze Billy (Merely Average) to Gold Billy (Totally Awesome).
Origins is a two part story. It begins sometime after the events of Halo 3, featuring Cortana, adrift in space with Master Chief, as the narrator. She muses on her knowledge of the Forerunners and the role they play in the Halo universe. It's an epic tale, going back thousands of years to the height of Forerunner civilization. Invaded by the Flood parasites, the Forerunners fought back bravely, but realized they would inevitably lose. To prevent the Flood from spreading across the galaxy, the Forerunners construct the Halo weapons, which destroy the Flood's food source: all sentient life.
I understand why this story was the first one presented, but it's not nearly as strong as later entries. The setup for the narrative is somewhat forced, and while there is some action, it's all a bit dry and tedious. Without human (or even likeable alien) characters to empathize with, Origins isn't very compelling.
Connor's take: "Needs a little more fighting and Master Chief."
This tale takes place as the race that would later be known as Elites first joins the Covenant. An Arbiter named Fal feels alienated by the Prophets' religion, and will not change from the old ways. He and his mate enjoy the simple life they have always had. Accused of heresy, Fal is branded as a traitor, and trap is laid for him that draws him across many battlefields for a final confrontation with a former ally.
The Duel is by far the best of the tales included in Halo Legends. It stands apart for many reasons, the most obvious of which is the art style. It was rendered with a filter that creates a watercolor look, as if each frame were hand painted. The effect is absolutely stunning. The storytelling uses flashbacks, and feels like an old Samurai film in many ways. Fal is ferocious alien and a vicious fighter, yet I felt a strong empathy for him. That's not easy to do in a ten minute short film, and speaks volumes about the quality of The Duel.
Connor's take: "Very swordy! Lots of adventure and cool looking pictures."
Homecoming asks a question that I'd never seen before in Halo media: what is it like to grow up as a Spartan? A young group of Spartan IIs grows weary of their training, homesick for their formerly normal lives. They mount an escape, and eventually make their way home, but things are not quite what is expected when they return. To say more would be to spoil the tale, which is touching and perhaps even depressing, showing a side to the Halo story that is largely unrepresented.
I have mixed feeling about this story. On one hand, it has a deep meaning and is very thought-provoking. It is very well animated and has some good action scenes, which serve to drive home the human cost of the war against the Covenant. On the other hand, it relies on the same exact plot twist as The Babysitter, which we'd watched on Waypoint before. Despite this, and the downbeat tone, it's still very good.
Connor's take: "This was surprising, but still good."
Odd One Out
And now, for something completely different! Spartan 1337 (lolz) is the Odd One Out, who falls off a Pelican and lands in some big trouble. He gets eaten by a dinosaur, meets some strange looking kids, and delivers some hilarious one-liners in Bruce Campbell style. A Prophet sends a Brute to fight 1337, and he and the kids (who know some Dragonball Z style moves) destroy several mountains in the process of fighting it. Oh, and there's an old, crash-landed UNSC spaceship with an AI aboard who eventually saves the day at the end, right before the zany Spartan gets abducted by a Pteranodon. No joke!
This short was at the opposite end of the spectrum from the other, more serious tales on the disc. It is over the top, played for humor, and surprisingly, it really works. The fights are just so over the top ridiculous that it's fun to watch. My son was cackling the entire time, and has watched it multiple times already. Some might be turned off by the slapstick elements, but I found it to be a nice change of pace.
Connor's take: "Funny! This is one of the best. I like Spartan 1337."