While the quality of the segments are all over the place in "Halo Legends", an animated anthology of stories based or set in the universe of the video, enough of them are entertaining and it's worth a look.
"Origins", the first segment (split into two parts) is the best and the most compelling visually and story-wise. If you're already a fan of the video game series, it will be satisfying to see the whole story laid out clearly and in chronological order and if you're just grabbing this movie as an introduction to the series or as a standalone Sci-fi story the concepts and creatures are quite interesting. There aren't really any characters to speak of because it's a "historical" retelling that tells a story that spans from thousands of years ago up to several hundreds of years in the future when humanity makes contact with alien races. The animation is well done, the story is clever and it's well written. A good start to the film and it gets you excited to see more of the universe explored.
The second segment "Duel" doesn't have a story that's nearly as engaging because you've seen it before. This one takes a lot of its material from feudal Japanese samurai stories. The main character is an expert fighter who refuses to partake in actions he deems dishonorable. The higher-ups brand the "Arbiter" a traitor and sends legions of goons after him in hopes of killing and humiliating him, while a backup plan to slaughter his wife and force him into a duel to the death is also set in motion. The visual style is really unique and is quite striking visually. Every frame looks like an oil pastel piece and this sharp contrast along with the fact that this segment contains no human characters whatsoever makes it quite unique. The nods to feudal japan are interesting, if a bit exaggerated at times (one of the aliens is wearing samurai armor; not something that look like samurai armor but straight up, feudal japan stuff). Unfortunately the originality stopped with the visuals because if you are at all familiar with characters motivated by "honor" or samurai stories you'll easily be able to see where it's all headed.
"Homecoming" is the third story and the one that features the weakest animation. Something about the way the characters are drawn, particularly the faces really look off and it's a distraction. The story itself is ok, you get some insight on how the "Spartans" (the humans' elite fighting force) are chosen and trained but the characters in the story itself are bland. The ending explores how awful it is to be a soldier that has no place outside of war in a "tragic" conclusion you've seen before in any war movie (particularly the science fiction ones where you have super soldiers bred only for war). Aside from a few overly sappy moments, it's not very memorable.
"Odd One Out" certainly lives up to its name. It's a comedic story that parodies the "Halo" Universe and other Japanese animated series (notably "Dragon Ball Z"). The main character "Spartan 1337" is an unlucky goofball that suffers from an over-inflated ego (probably because despite his horrendous luck he is still a part of humanity's last hope). The animation is perfectly suited for the light-hearted and comedic style and helps you adjust from the drastic change of tone. The story is utter nonsense but there are some pretty funny moments and feels pretty fresh after seeing two mostly uninspired chapters in a row.
"Prototype" has some very good and exciting sequences, but as the 6th segment starts to play out you'll realize that a lot of the stories don't have very strong plots. The main character here is a sergeant who's become numb by war and has decided to use a prototype exo-suit to combat invading alien forces while scientists from the facility he is defending escape. You get to see a lot of flashbacks to explore how "deep" his character is because you see, the last member of his previous platoon just wanted him to be able to feel again and "be human" one last time and told him this in a "emotionally moving" speech right before she died. It feels very similar to the previous "Homecoming" story and some of the later ones as well. It's sappy and cheesy, the ending will have you rolling your eyes but the action sequences are very fun and violent.
Chapter 7 is "Babysitter" about a squad member that gets upset when he is bumped down from first to second choice for a sniper assassination. The new soldier is a "Spartan" and we get a bit of the universe fleshed out when the characters discuss among themselves their feelings about these super soldiers. When it comes to the job, there's some decent action sequences, you get to see the "Spartan" ("Cal-141") be a badass while the protagonist whines a lot. Afterwards the the ending is a letdown, with some business about the bonds between soldiers and letting go of your preconceptions about super soldiers and that kind of thing. It often feels like a retread of "Prototype" and "Homecoming".
The final segment is also the only one that isn't traditionally hand animated. The action is pretty thrilling but it also gets extremely ridiculous. There's a booby trapped room that detonates all of the contents, including the people who were tricked into walking inside the room, but just to make sure, the baddies also detonate the entire ship. It makes you wonder how much time, money and effort is required to build a massive space shuttle that the villains in the story can just throw them away willy-nilly. The mooks that are thrown at the 6 "Spartan" soldiers are effortlessly blown away by the dozens but before the action gets tiresome the story ends. The action and space battles are good, the characters are just excuses to bring more guns into the battles, the story is nutty. Overall it's a decent entry.
One of the big faults in all of the stories is well, the stories. Most of them are very simple, take a lot of their material from already established tropes and other, better and longer works or are just excuses to have people shooting at aliens for ten minutes. A few of the stories mix it up, like the "Odd One Out" and "Duel", with mixed results. The animation is average to sub-par and the most interesting tale is easily the first one, which means it pretty much goes downhill from there in terms of writing. Thankfully the stories move quickly and it doesn't feel long despite its nearly 2 hr running time. It's worth a view but unless you're a hardcore fan of the franchise you'll want to rent it before you commit to buying the Dvd/Blu-ray. (Dvd, June 2, 2013)