For once, a video game adaptation that doesn’t feel like you’re watching someone else play the game. Without the budget to stage a full-on Halo combat story, however, Nightfall instead references a bunch of other movies, with a large dollop of Jim Cameron’s Aliens, Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and a huge swathe of generic sci-fi from Riddick to Lockout.
First question: do we treat this original five-episode X-Box Originals web series as TV, or as I saw it assembled, as a movie?
Second, although Ridley Scott’s Scott Free production company gathers an impressive TV cast making the most of unoriginal material to deliver a compelling sci-fi drama, I’m no expert but even I know this isn’t Halo as-played.
Beginning with, and laced through with entirely unnecessary cod-philosopical voiceover by Steven Waddington’s (Imitation Game) ex-marine Aiken, the set-up of vast future space colonies and interstellar wars comes down to a Hitchcock McGuffin; a unique element toxic only to humans, found only on one derelict slab of the Halo space station, built by the Ancients 100,000 years ago.
Despatching a detachment of Spartans – space marines – with the local colony security force, we’re in Aliens territory complete with drop-ships, high-tech weaponry and a lot of macho B-S in the dialogue. What do you know, the indigenous lifeforms turn out to be a wriggly mass of space-worms attracted to electronics. Cue space-ship crash, loss of tech, and a trek across hostile wasteland to retrieve the nuclear weapon which will deal with the chemical weapon problem.
Overlay the tensions among the soldiers over who gets off the rock in the two-seater space tug, and there’s a recipe for mutiny and distrust amongst a killer elite.
Waddington’s Aiken is the beating heart of the drama, Mike Colter’s (Million Dollar Baby, Salt) Locke, is it’s conscience; Christina Chong’s (Johnny English, Dominion) Macer is the eternal optimist to counter-balance their war-weary, bleak outlook. Luke Neal (Jupiter Ascending) as Horrigan has the thankless job of fermenting the mutiny.
The plot is more or less by the numbers, you can guess precisely the order in which the characters fall and who’s left standing at the end. The whole thing ticks along like a mid-price Swiss watch and does exactly what it says on the label – the one you find if you peel away the one that says Halo, because I still don’t think this is it. RC
Halo Nightfall (2014)
Director: Sergio Mimica Gezzan
Writer: Paul Scheuring
Running time: 1 hr. 38 min.
Cast: Mike Colter, Christina Chong, Steven Waddington, Luke Neal, Alexander Bhat, Alexis Rodney, Christian Contreras, Eric Kofi Abrefa