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Critical Response To Halo Season 1 Flashes Warning Signs

The long wait for the Paramount+ "Halo" adaptation is nearly over, and critics have now been given the opportunity to weigh in. 

Based on their early reactions, it sounds like the series is offering the expected: a sci-fi action thriller that tries to tell a new-ish story that doesn't completely rest on the laurels of its video game source material. Most of what longtime fans will recognize is there, from the Covenant to the Spartans to the UNSC. However, there are also plenty of new elements injected into the franchise's bloodstream. The Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) has a new sidekick in the form of Kwan (Yerin Ha), the survivor of a Covenant invasion who acts as a plucky foil to Chief's near-robotic personality. It also does more to highlight the sins of the human faction, the UNSC.

The only problem with all of this is that none of it seems quite good enough to entirely please either the fans or newcomers. Critics have done well in giving the first two episodes praise where it's due, but there are also enough caveats in the general critical response for "Halo" Season 1 to be flashing warning signs. There is a strong chance, based on what critics are saying, that this could be yet another video game adaptation that either fails to replicate or build upon what fans already loved about the franchise.

According to critics, Halo doesn't do enough to impress

In many ways, the current Rotten Tomatoes score for "Halo" tells you everything you need to know. Based on 15 reviews from different publications, the new series currently sits at a 60% — neither wholly good nor repulsively bad.

As Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly put it, "In TV form, 'Halo' is all Assault Rifle but no direct hits." While Franich's C- review wasn't a total panning, he did note that there weren't any "moments of real awe" that the original "Halo" games nailed. This, according to Franich, applies to everything, from special effects that "look a bit Xbox 360" to the original — yet unfortunately bland — story that feels like it rehashes "The Mandalorian."  

Meanwhile, Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter wondered if "maybe Halo does play as more exciting and specific if you have an internal checklist of game elements ... you're looking to have acknowledged." Otherwise, he writes, "Halo has a generic story, limitedly engaging characters and a clearly high special-effects budget that yields respectable but unremarkable results."

That's not to say there isn't potential for "Halo," however. William Hughes of AV Club noted that "'Halo' isn't without its pleasures," especially in regards to Schreiber and Ha's on-screen chemistry. However, he also wrote, "But the whole thing is brought down by the writing ... and by an abiding and pervasive sense of cheapness." 

So, perhaps "Halo" will find its groove when later episodes are released on March 24.