Halo: The Fall of Reach
WARNING – Contains Mild Spoilers
Back when Xbox didn’t have number beside its name, a science fiction first person shooter called Halo took the world by storm. The fledgling universe was expanded by author Eric Nylund in his prequel novel The Fall of Reach. Since then, eight different games have borne the Halo name. The franchise has spawned comic books, novels, animated features and even a live-action movie.
At the centre of all of this stands the Master Chief Petty Officer John 117, to give him his full title. A faceless hero who has sparked the imagination of millions of fans around the world.
The animated feature adaptation of the novel by the same name, The Fall of Reach tells the origin story of the Master Chief and his ‘Blue Team’ of Spartan warriors. Created by SEQUENCE, the people behind the hidden ‘Terminal’ shorts found scattered throughout Halo 4 & the remastered Halo 2, the film is of a much grander scale than their previous works.
We follow a young Dr. Catherine Halsey as she takes a personal interest in one recruit for the new Spartan program. At only 6 years old, John physically dominates his class mates at a game of ‘King of the Hill’, brutally head butting his way to victory. Even before any enhancements, Dr. Halsey tests his mental acuity with a simple coin toss. Correctly guessing the outcome of 5 tosses, John shows himself to be superior to other children and an ideal candidate for the Spartan program.
She chooses the ’75’, the final candidates for becoming Spartans. Children who are taken, rather unethically from their families, and are replaced by clones. The clones could replace a child easily enough but would not be suitable for Spartan training and thus the stealing of children is justified by Halsey. Dealing with using children for combat against their own will or parents’ consent is tough subject matter, but through the inscrutable Halsey we can accept her loose morality.
Thanks to the UNSC’s power, the children are conscripted, legally, into the Orion 2 program (aka Spartan 2). Relocated to the planet ‘Reach’, the children are told that their parents are gone and their fellow trainees are their new families. A tough regime begins immediately for the prepubescent warriors. Accidents and even death are brushed off as ‘separating the chaff from the wheat’. Again demonstrating Halsey’s single-minded nature.
Educated in all forms of war from Sun Tzu to the battle of Thermopylae where 300 soldiers, known as Spartans, held off an army 10 times its size and unknowingly became the namesake of the UNSC’s super soldier initiative.
We see John and his fellow recruits learning to act as a team, a difficult concept for our would-be hero who has, until now, only looked out for himself. 2 years on and the recruits find themselves in wilderness training. Dropped in an unknown location the unarmed kids come across a band of ‘Insurrectionists’, defeating them with guile (and rocks) in an unplanned attack they all prove their worth and John proves his ability to think on his feet and lead his team.
Successful candidates are augmented, enhanced muscle density, skeletal strength etc. The risks with these procedures soon become apparent with a 36% fatality rate. You cannot help but feel for these children. The lengths Halsey goes to, sacrificing their lives for ‘the greater good’, is abhorrent. But with these failures also comes success as the augmentations allow the recruits to operate the ‘Mjolnir’ armour. Enhancing their abilities even further than they have been already we witness John don the armour we are all familiar with and takes his first tentative steps as a Spartan.
All this leads up to the arrival of the Covenant, a brutal species of alien bent on annihilating the human race, who serve as the main antagonists of the games. Using all the firepower at the UNSC’s disposal to no avail, Halsey jumps at the opportunity to test her Spartans in combat. Launching Blue team at the Covenant like human missiles, they attack the enemy within their own ship to an explosive conclusion.
As with any film adaptation of a book, there are details missed, plot lines abandoned and scenes left out. Their choices ring true however as the story flows well and the core of the novel, being the origin of the Chief, remains intact. The animation is beautiful, at times looking like living versions of concept artwork, easily allowing the viewer to be absorbed in the detail. Pausing any frame of the film you really see the detail that SEQUENCE have gone to here and it pays off.
Fans of the novels and the games will find much to enjoy here. References to the games abound keeping the die-hards happy. Unfortunately, if you’re new to the Halo universe, you won’t find much here for you. Where the live action ‘Forward Unto Dawn’ is an accessible film for Halo fans and newcomers alike, ‘The Fall of Reach’ is really one for the fans and I’m ok with that.
Not many game developers produce material, outside their games, of this calibre and 343 are to be commended for commissioning SEQUENCE to create this film. As a fan of Halo and its expanded universe, I loved ‘The Fall of Reach’ and would recommend it to anyone who has ever played Halo.
If you purchase the ‘Deluxe Edition’ of Halo 5 Guardians you can get early access to the film through the Halo Channel app on Xbox. For everyone else ‘The Fall of Reach’ will be available to buy on physical and digital media from December 7th.
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4 out 5 nerds