The Master Chief Goes to Work in the First Halo Trailer (Review)

There’s a lot to like here, but at the risk of sounding nitpicky, why isn’t Cortana blue?

Back in December, we got a “first look” trailer that offered a glimpse of Paramount’s upcoming Halo TV series, though it mainly served as a reminder/confirmation that the long-gestating series was, in fact, happening. But the first official trailer is finally here with a much better look at the Master Chief, the Covenant, and Cortana as well as more story details.

First, the good. Everything looks great. Paramount has clearly sunk a lot of money ($40+ million) into the series’ production, and it shows. The challenge of pulling off something like Halo is making sure that it doesn’t look cheap: if the Master Chief doesn’t look convincingly like a 7′ tall, thousand pound juggernaut, then what’s the point? Well, to my eyes, this doesn’t look cheap. And that goes for the rest of the UNSC as well as the Covenant forces, like the Elites that the Master Chief confronts.

Story-wise, we see the expected Halo elements (e.g., Spartans, the Covenant, Forerunner technology). But we already know the TV series will follow a different timeline than the games — the “Silver Timeline” — that “contains and embraces many key elements of the core canon… but with relevant contextual and narrative details that diverge in ways appropriate (and necessary) to the storytelling opportunities presented by the TV medium.” For example, we see at least one human apparently allying themselves with the Covenant against the rest of humanity.

It also looks like the Halo TV series will explore the moral quandaries surrounding the Master Chief’s origins, which include kidnapping, child soldiers, and brainwashing. Although this stuff is covered in more detail in the Halo novels, it’s largely glossed over in the games themselves.

Now on to the bad. And specifically, Cortana. I understand Paramount’s desire to not have a naked blue avatar for the Chief’s AI companion. But if they’re sticking with the Master Chief’s iconic look, then it would’ve been nice to be at least somewhat faithful to Cortana’s similarly iconic look, as well. That being said, it is nice to hear Jen Taylor as Cortana’s voice. (And before anyone gets up in arms, it doesn’t bother me that they’re not using Steve Downes for the Chief’s voice, given that the series apparently features a younger version of the Chief.)

So sure, put me down as optimistic for this. I really hope that Paramount pulls this off, and not just because Halo is one of my favorite video game series of all time. With its deep mythology and expansive worldbuilding, there’s a lot of storytelling potential in the Halo franchise, so I hope this new series does it all justice. We’ll find out for sure when the Halo TV series begins streaming on Paramount+ on March 24.