VOD film review: Halo: Nightfall
James R | On 22, Mar 2015
Director: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
Cast: Mike Colter, Siennah Buck, Steven Waddington
Watch Halo: Nightfall online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Eircom / Virgin Movies / EE / TalkTalk / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Video games have arguably become more and more like movies in recent years. Budgets have grown bigger. Franchises have evolved. Now, computer game consoles even have their own exclusive video content to woo customers.
Enter Xbox Entertainment Studios, which was formed in 2012 to produce a range of new movies and series. At the top of the list? Halo. It’s no surprise that Microsoft would want to convert its smash-hit series into live-action entertainment. It’s even less of a surprise that their attempts should function as previews for their next game. And so, after Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn comes Halo: Nightfall, which introduces a key character from Halo 5, out later this year.
Night premiered as a series on Xbox, but has now been stitched together into a feature-length outing for general streaming. It follows Locke (Colter), an agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), who is caught up in a biological terrorist attack. A few moments later and he’s on a mission to Alpha Shard, where the group end up under threat from Lekgolo worms.
It’s perhaps a remnant of its serial origins that the narrative jumps from espionage to survival horror, but Nightfall finds its feet in the latter stages, as the skin-crawlingly nasty red monsters swarm across the rocky, alien landscape. It’s the kind of high production value that recalls the Starship Troopers spin-off animation, which had a similar knack for CGI critters. The rest of the visuals are equally impressive, as the backing of producer Ridley Scott gives the team enough money to bring to life the Halo troops without looking like cosplay knock-offs: the helmets glint with that familiar yellow visor, while the solid ships add to the strong, convincing world-building.
It’s a shame, then, that the people within the universe are so forgettable. Mike Colter does his best as Locke, but never comes across as more than a military grunt; the kind of guy you’d be happy to control or observe in a cut-scene, but not someone you emotionally engage with. The rest of the team are just as bland, a fact not helped by Paul Scheuring’s script, which spends more time trying to bump up the dramatic stakes than fleshing out characters.
“Look around, do you see God?” says one. “Tonight, we’re gods.” Later, Locke’s gruff voiceover spouts another cheesy cliche: “Death comes to all of us, especially soldiers.”
The film’s release arrives after Microsoft decided to close Xbox Entertainment Studios once and for all, suggesting that the money required to build its own VOD empire wasn’t worth it. Judging by Nightfall, it’s perhaps easy to understand why they reached that decision. At worst an advert designed for die-hard fans and at best a mediocre sci-fi, this B-movie is an excellent demonstration of how to bring a console franchise to life. But, for all of Microsoft’s efforts to enter the movie business, Nightfall feels more like a video game than a film. The result is a curious failure instead of the step forward it could have been.