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Halo Legends (Two-Disc Special Edition)

For Halo Legends, various anime directors made eight short films that explore the universe of the popular video game franchise, just as the shorts in Animatrix expanded on the Matrix features. Although Halo ranks among the top first-person shooter games, the AI narrator of Hideki Futamura’s two-part introductory episode complains about humanity’s violent tendencies: “Like a virus, war is always with you.” “The Duel,” which pits two Covenant warriors in a samurai-like battle over honor, has a watercolor look that recalls Gankutsuou: Count of Monte Cristo. Unfortunately, the effect is applied too evenly, and the characters get lost in the backgrounds. Daisuke Nishio’s “Odd Man Out” injects a welcome note of comedy, as warrior Spartan 337 copes with three difficult children and their pet tyrannosaur. Other Spartans in single fighters attack the flagship of the Covenant fleet in “The Package,” by Shinji Aramaki. The elaborately choreographed space battle is obviously modeled on the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars, but the sequence packs more visual punch than the other films in the anthology. Dr. Catherine Halsey ends this segment with the line, “Something tells me this is just the beginning,” so additional films may be in the works. Halo Legends was clearly intended to expand the audience for the already-popular franchise, but the shorts aren’t strong enough as films to win many viewers who aren’t currently members of the “Halo Nation.” The disc comes loaded with extras, including a standard making-of mini-documentary about each segment. Although the cover bears the warning “Parents strongly cautioned: Violent Content Throughout,” the action in Halo Legends is surprisingly tame. (Rated PG-13: violence, violence against women) –Charles Solomon

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