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Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (Blu-ray Review)

For generations, humans traveled the stars and worked together to settle worlds under the banner of the United Nations Space Command. Now that peace is shattered by insurrectionists, causing a galaxy-spanning civil war. Cadet Thomas Lasky and his fellow students at Corbulo military academy now train to make this war their future. But Lasky is conflicted about his path, and his resolve is tested when the academy comes under attack from a terrifying alien assault. Lasky and his fellow cadets fight for survival, only to find assistance from a mysterious ally – a mythic, armored supersoldier known as Master Chief. 

Film 

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a web mini-series now repackaged and presented on Blu-ray for the very first time. The story involves cadets of the Corbulo military academy and is a day in the life of a cadet going through basic training during the midst of an ongoing insurrectionist war. They’re prepared to fight. We’re taken through their training regimen and through their non-military training, as well. They’re all smart kids, have lives outside of the academy, families, friends, etc.

If that sounds cliche that’s because it is. Not only is the basic underlined story cliche as hell it’s also a tad slow and dull. I’ve seen better films tackle the subject than Forward Unto Dawn. In fact, the first film that Forward Unto Dawn reminded me of was Starship Troopers minus the scathing satire and uber blood and gore. That, at least was entertaining, which is too bad since I had to patiently wait about 55 minutes before the action hit the fan inForward Unto Dawn.

As soon as the aliens dropped onto the military academy – it would be on from then on. The one alien scout sent to dispense carnage is pretty badass and never holds back on the killing. He’s cloaked, and has that cool Predator edge to him. It’s once the Master Chief hits the scene that everything that came before it can be forgiven Master Chief comes in gun blazing and leaves dead alien at every turn.

Another drawback would have to be the acting. It’s not horribly bad, but it’s also not incredibly good. Does it take me completely out of the story? No. It just makes me want it to get to the good parts even more. It’s got that video-game-ish quality to its acting. That can either be good or bad depending one what kind of video games you like. Also, before you get your hopes up, Master Chief is NOT the star of the show. He doesn’t figure into the story until the one hour mark. I thought I’d let you know, because of what the Blu-ray cover art implies. Hey, Master Chief has gotta sell Blu-rays, right?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t played a Halo game since the first one came out more than 10 years ago. I thought it was a great game even though I never beat it. I haven’t really kept up with the Halo mythology, so I’m definitely not an expert on the series. I may not know the names of the races, colonies, ships, etc., but I think that sort of served me well while I was watching the film. Forward Unto Dawn was budgeted at 10 million dollars, so if this is the only way fans will get their feature film fix then I am all for it. The last 30-minutes of Forward Unto Dawn were spectacular and I do hope that they keep on making these type of films. More action all the way through will be appreciated next time.

Video 

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is presented in 1080p, 2.40 widescreen. Forward Unto Dawn has a very diffused look to it in addition to some heavy banding. The banding is more apparent during the night time scenes and when heavy lights are shining over and into the camera. The color palette is also very subdued, with interiors and skin colors taking an almost sepia tone to them. I love sepia, but this seemed a little like overkill to me. When the action finally hits and the aliens land they look fantastic as do their weapons and energy blasts that they shoot out. Master Chief also looks great. This was obviously shot in digital and no, the graphics are miles better than any video game cut scene. It’s the banding issues that kill the final grade. Still good, but not great.

Audio 

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. I had to play devil’s advocate on this one due to the surround track kicking all sorts of ass the last 30 minutes as opposed to all the way through, which is why it only gets a “near-reference” recommendation from me. The particulars: Dialogue sounds great and never echoes, cracks, or clips. There are several moments of stillness, with cadets meditating and contemplating why they joined the military, with clear and distinct voice-overs that play over these scenes. The party gets started once the aliens show up and it gets turned to 11 when Master Chief makes his grand appearance. Bullets and energy beams whiz by the surround channels – I had to duck a few times. The LFE is very aggressive, but never sounds distorted. Forward Unto Dawn sounds awesome on Blu-ray.

Extras 

For a DTV Blu-ray (although it did premiere online first) Microsoft Studios went ahead and added some nice extras to the finished product. We get a director’s commentary, over an hour of behind-the-scenes footage, concept art, storyboards, visual effects models, storyline vignettes, an awesome isolated score track, and an additional commentary by 343 Industries rounds out the special features. Not bad at all!

  • Over 60 Minutes of Exclusive Behind the Scenes Featurettes
  • Storyline Vignettes
  • Audio Commentary by 343 Industries
  • Audio Commentary by Director Stewart Hendler
  • Concept Art and Visual Effects Models
  • Easter Eggs
  • Bloopers
  • Isolated Music Track
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Trailer

Summary 

Overall, I enjoyed Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, but wished it were longer and more focused on Master Chief (duh) than the cadets. Still, the finished product is fairly awesome, the Blu-ray is spot on in terms of presentation and supplements. Since we’ll probably never see a feature length film adaptation of Halo I’m all for more of this type of programming. If you’re at all curious about a feature-length Halo film that segues into the current video game then Forward Unto Dawn should do the trick.

 

Order Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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