Review: Halo 4 - Forward Unto Dawn / Director:Stewart Hendler / Screenplay: Aaron Helbing, Todd Helbing / Starring: Tom Green, Iain Belcher, Anna Popplewell / Release Date: May 27th
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn examines the early years of troubled soldier Thomas Lansky, who’s got one too many problems to count. Can filmmaker Stewart Hendler transform such a premise into a successful video game adaptation?
A surprising effort for numerous reasons, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn breaks the typical video game adaptation mold while simultaneously betraying standard war clichés. It seems second nature to anticipate 90 minutes of explosions and gunfights from this one, but director Stewart Hendler completely stuns by yanking the carpet from under the viewer’s feet, utilising a very personal, intimate approach over typical shoot ‘em up action. Don’t be fooled, there are indeed some intense firefights to absorb from the final act, but Halo 4 distances itself from the pack by leaning on a character driven narrative rather than flashy action sequences exclusively.
The story itself isn’t what anyone is likely to label groundbreaking, but there’s enough attention to detail and care for character to draw viewers into an engrossing realm of emotional torment, and subsequent evolution. Young first-year cadet Thomas Lansky is a wreck. He’s a miserable soldier who makes poor decisions, suffers from allergic reactions to mandatory active duty injections and stands opposed to war. But Lansky is about to endure a long, horrible journey that leaves virtually everyone he cares for stuffed in a body bag. The question is: Can Lansky use the pain and the loss to his favor, defying the odds by becoming a dependable and effective soldier or is he destined to end up as his friends and family have?
Technically, viewers are gifted an inspired production that balances impressive aesthetics with refined efforts from some hungry thespians. When the inevitable arrival of hostile life forms lands in the lap of the viewer, the special effects slip into overdrive, a sudden transformation from the controlled visuals of the first two thirds of the picture. They’re clean and impressive, blending a cool mix of practical and digital work. As for the cast, there’s plenty of positivity to offer forth. Tom Green – who fronts as the aforementioned Lansky – is terrific, powerful in his sincerity and vulnerability, while Anna Popplewell offers strong support as his blossoming object of affection, Chyler Silva. Iain Belcher also commands a nod. He’s a supportable character with a short fuse and a craving for perfection; the archetypical hero… who just isn’t destined to reach his own self-appointed lofty goals.
Initially released as a webseries, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn makes for a thrilling motion picture. Possessing a wealth of Halo knowledge isn’t a necessity when viewing the picture, which broadens the potential market for the film. Loaded with noteworthy strengths and a staggering amount of bonus disc supplements, the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Blu-ray is a disc worthy of investment.