Hello, it’s me again. Have you all been well? I hope you have. You may remember me from my recent stint of blogs about web series that have started to use VFX, and left you with a passionate plea to start watching Red vs Blue, the longest running web-series in the world, based on the Halo games. Well here I am again, because the internet just doesn't stop, and recently it’s been turning out some real gems in terms of visually invigorating moving pictures.
Staying with a Halo theme, we saw the release of Halo 4 a few weeks ago, and what an incredible reception it received. Reviewers threw out high scores like they were going out of fashion, and consumers flocked in their thousands to clean the shelves of the midnight releases. It made a solid $220 million in its first 24 hours on sale, out-grossing the first 24 hours of The Avengers and beating the biggest single-day film debut of all time, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, because giant super soldiers with battle rifles laugh in the face of emotionally unstable teenagers with magic sticks on a daily basis.
To help raise awareness for Halo 4, Microsoft created Halo 4; Forward Unto Dawn, an hour and a half show that aired in 5 releases in the run up to its release. Set before the first Halo game, it shows a young group of cadets at a UNSC camp completing their combat training before The Covenant show up and start a full blown war in their back garden. Master Chief rolls in to deal his own personal brand of bullet related justice, and an audience collectively dropped their jaws at how awesome the whole things was.
This was, in fact, fantastic. Credit where credit's due; this wasn’t a quickly hashed promotional video broken into 3 minute chunks and spewed out of their home site once a week for fun (I'm looking at you, Far Cry 3). Microsoft spend over 10 million dollars to basically create a feature length film better than most things you've seen at the cinema in the past few years, the emotionally driven struggle of cadet Thomas Lasky trying desperately to shine through his training while his family, team mates and health push him towards quitting, against the backdrop of an interplanetary military politics and the promise of an impending invasion.
The series is visually rewarding throughout, however it’s the last 40 minutes that really allow the VFX to shine. What starts as a character driven story about young love and hardship quickly becomes an action spectacle when an alien army decides to start a planet wide invasion in Lasky's back yard. A sneak attack during the night allows the Covenant to slip in an out of the shadows like ghosts, letting the creators utilise a 'less is more' approach that actually benefits the show, reflecting the horror and panic the cadets feel as they try desperately to survive against an overpowering force they have no knowledge of. Tensions run high as they are stalked by a cloaked Elite, pulses race as Master Chief guides them against a squad of Jackal snipers, and fear becomes almost overpowering as they are forced to outrun a huge Hunter in a desolate forest. And you know what they say about Hunters; they always travel in pairs....
Forward Unto Dawn had more money than most small countries have behind it, hence its impressive VFX throughout. Thankfully it proved to be more than an overpriced commercial for Halo 4, instead serving as an exciting and rewarding investment for anyone who took the time to watch it. FUD is a fantastic piece of entertainment in its own right. It's been pulled from Youtube at the moment ahead of its DVD release, but thankfully you can still catch it over at Halo; Waypoint. and I urge you to take a few hours out of your evening to check it out.
Let’s face it, you've got nothing better to do until your copy of Halo 4 arrives, so kill some hours in style.