We cheat death
From his rightful victory
No one can overcome us
We are glad to plunge
Feet first into hell
In the knowledge we will rise
Greetings, my friends. This week, I’ve got a bit of a shorter piece due to the massive scope of last week’s project.
When Halo 3: ODST’s birthday rolled around, I saw the “We Are ODST” trailer from way back when on Twitter, and it really got me inspired to sit down and write a piece on why it has become my favorite piece of live-action Halo cinema as I’ve grown up and begun to truly grasp and appreciate the art of filmmaking.
Today, I aim to do just that.
First things first, though. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, make sure you watch it. You need this in your life, believe me.
Now with that out of the way, let’s get into it. Instead of sitting on a Pelican, sipping wine and nibbling appetizers like common grunts, though, we’re dropping feet first into this analysis like ODSTs.
Grounded, Gritty Reality
The trailer follows the life of a man known as Tarkov. It starts with a military funeral being held for killed-in-action ODST Staff Sergeant K. Stark. As UNSC servicemen remove the ODST flag from Stark’s casket and hand it to who is assumed to be his wife, Tarkov watches, visibly disturbed by the sight. It isn’t known how Tarkov was related to Stark, but one could assume that he was a friend or relative.
Following the handing of the folded flag, the servicemen line up to perform a traditional 21-gun salute to honor Stark. As the rifles fire, Tarkov flinches, and the camera cuts to him several years later. His head is being shaved and he is preparing for ODST training.
After a drill instructor screams at the recruits, the camera cuts to Tarkov and several others crawling through a muddy barbed wire course as the drill instructors fire live ammunition inches away from their bodies in order to harden them for combat.
In the next scene, we cut to Tarkov deploying for the first time against the Covenant. He and his fellow ODSTs exit their pods to be welcomed with hellish plasma fire. They push forward, firing at unseen enemies. As several of the ODSTs get hit and go down, Tarov himself is ambushed by a Brute as he sprints and is subsequently thrown to the ground.
Tarkov immediately pulls out his sidearm and fires it at the Brute, which doesn’t penetrate its armor and has zero effect. The Brute roars, and as it’s about to fire its Spiker rifle at Tarkov, one of the Covenant’s Banshees gets hit and crash lands into the Brute, killing it.
Tarkov, now with two deep gashes in his face, lies on the ground in shock. The scene then cuts to Tarkov after presumably several more years, now a squad leader.
His gashes now scars, Tarkov is doing something that mirrors the trailer’s beginning: holding a funeral for a fallen ODST. This time, though, the funeral is being done via field burial. Lodging a rifle in the sand and placing the trooper’s helmet on it, Tarkov temporarily puts an ODST flag over the burial site of his comrade as his surviving squadmates watch him.
As Tarkov retrieves the flag, an explosion is heard in the distance, resembling battle. Tarkov puts his helmet on, and his men do the same. As a unit, the men move out, and the trailer ends.
What I really love about this trailer is that it’s 100% honest.
By honest, I mean that it makes no effort to portray the events on screen as anything other than what they are.
One of my favorite authors, Tim O’Brien, once said this in his Vietnam war novel The Things They Carried (Which happens to be my favorite book):
“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”
What O’Brien means here is that, essentially, war is not about the heroics. It isn’t about how noble the soldiers are, or how morally “right” they are. It is simply the purest form of hell as two sides trade violence. And this is exactly how “We Are ODST” portrays warfare.
Think for a second about what makes the Halo games such an exhilarating experience. Badass music. Entertaining, catchy or funny one-liners of dialogue left and right. An epic objective to complete that will save the galaxy.
And yet, when we look at this trailer — the combat scene specifically — it possesses none of these things. There’s no exciting tracks from Marty or Kazuma. The ODSTs aren’t making jokes, and the only objective other then killing the Covenant is to simply survive. The only sounds heard are the rattles of armor plating, the controlled breathing of sprinting soldiers and the angry staccato of bullets and the high pitched whines of plasma as they’re being fired at one another. Even the camera constantly shakes in order to simulate the feeling of running through the hell of the battlefield.
It’s a bit of a wake up call to Halo fans used to the power fantasy of the games. War isn’t a cool or fun experience, and considering the Covenant’s capabilities, it’s even worse in this case.
The other scenes reflect just as much as this one as well. The training scene admittedly is more of a “supporting” scene (as it doesn’t contribute to the core themes of the film other than showcasing the necessary hardships of ODST training) but the beginning and end of the piece both highlight a very important aspect of the ODSTs that is prevalent in the real-world military: camaraderie.
There’s three interesting mirrors between these scenes that reflect this. One of which is the appearance of fire in both funerals. In the first, formal one, we see flames produced from electronic torches, whereas in the second funeral, the field burial, the flames are coming from wreckage caused by battle.
I believe that what the fires in these scenes represent is the “burning spirit” of the ODSTs and their brotherhood. No matter where respects are being paid, whether its on the battlefield or in a peaceful location back home, the bonds the ODSTs possess will always follow, always be present. These “flames” will never go out.
Secondly, there’s Tarkov himself, who, from the time of the first funeral to the last one, has now become the officer seen at the beginning of the film. The 21-gun salute likely inspired Tarkov to become an ODST, and having survived long enough, he himself becomes an officer. He himself conducts the field burial and the funeral. The war with the Covenant has molded him to fit with the ODST family, both in his literal enlistment with the troopers and also in heart. He’s become part of something greater.
Finally, there’s the ODST flag. It appears in both funerals, and to me, it’s quite clear that it’s a symbol for the camaraderie between the ODSTs. Similar to the flames, the flag survives no matter where it is — at home or in the field. The fact that Tarkov picks it up and places it in his armor pouch signifies that the flag is, in essence, the ODST spirit itself, which Tarkov picks up and takes with him so that it’s always with him.
In conclusion, these mirrors between the two scenes reinforce the idea that ODST brotherhood is a sentiment that every single one of the troopers carry forever, no matter where they are and no matter what is happening. Both scenes serve as a testament to the camaraderie found in the Helljumpers branch of the UNSC Marine Corps.
It’s amazing how all of these themes are conveyed without a single spoken English word. The only speaking done is by the drill instructors in the training scene and the officer in the first funeral scene, but even then, it’s spoken in Hungarian. We don’t know what they are saying, and we don’t need to. What we see throughout the film is more than enough to understand what the piece is trying to tell us.
Dedication to Authenticity
While the narrative behind this film is absolutely phenomenal, the theme of realism in the piece wouldn’t be possible without the painstaking efforts of all the people involved. This video illustrates just how much effort and passion went into this project, and to be honest with you it actually made me shed a tear.
The people behind “We Are ODST” wanted to create a faithful, realistic Halo production that captured the truth of the universe’s main conflict which was hidden behind the addictive high of the video games and their gameplay. And they did so flawlessly. The dedication to authenticity in this film is extremely admirable, and it shows.
“We Are ODST” is an absolutely incredible piece of film that perfectly illustrates the realism of the Human-Covenant War and the brotherhood that exists between the ODSTs. Through fantastic camera work, extremely thorough and detailed costuming, great casting, and a burning passion that was undoubtedly present during the cinema’s production, Asylum (who ironically is notorious for their b-movies) created one of the most touching and impressive live-action trailers I have ever seen for a game. And, without a doubt, it is my favorite live-action Halo film. It stands as a shining example to the art of filmmaking — and it’s truly been a pleasure to revisit this masterpiece years later.
Ugh, I love this trailer with all of my two Sangheili hearts. It’s such a phenomenal piece of work.
Thank you for reading my analysis! I hope that you, like me, recognize how truly badass this film is.
Before I go, congrats to my friend VinWarrior for being featured in this week’s Halo Community Update! If you haven’t seen his piece that was featured, check it out here. It’s a great article that does a good job of reflecting on what makes Halo 3: ODST so great.
That’s all from me this time ’round. Make sure to keep an eye out in the coming weeks for my next article, which will be an article covering how Rise of Atriox is an example of how minimalism can be an incredibly effective storytelling tool!
As always, have a fantastic day. One last thing, though…
Remember to drop feet first.