With Neil Blomkamp’s debut feature, District 9, releasing to rave reviews, Halo fans and followers of the film adaptation can only dream of what may have happened, if Fox and Universal had trusted Peter Jackson’s choice of director and surged onward with production. At Comicon 09, Jackson and Blomkamp, present for a District 9 panel, claimed the Halo film was dead, with Blomkamp seeming particularly bitter about the entire ordeal.
But with the recent rumours of Steven Spielberg’s interest in the film, following a non-commissioned script by Pirates of the Caribbean scribe, Stuart Beattie, the Halo film may be nearing a resurrection. But is it a matter of the right people being involved, or is the Halo series unsuited for film?
Can It Be Made?
Before considering the possible Spielberg-Beattie film, we must remember the original vision, a collaboration between developers Bungie and acclaimed scriptwriter, Alex Garland. The Garland script has since been rewritten by D.B. Weiss and Josh Olson, but with the Beattie attempt seemingly piquing interest, the original vision may be overlooked.
Reading Garland’s script, I begin to realise why the production of the Halo film was troubled. I’m not claiming the script is bad. On the contrary, it’s brilliant written and, aesthetically speaking, it envisions the Halo universe perfectly.
And therein lies the problem. Films and videogames are diametrical opposites in the realm of media, one being interactive, the other not. Videogames generally last for around eight to ten hours, whereas films average two, sometimes three. Story in videogames is lightweight, and often wedged between extended periods of gameplay.
All Action, Little Story
You see, Garland’s script reads like an extended account of Halo: Combat Evolved, loosely influenced by the novel adaptation, with almost every encounter included, from the Pillar of Autumn’s discovery of Halo, to the climactic chase through the ship’s bowels. Though the intrigue and mystery of the game remains, the conversion of the story isn’t compelling enough.
Garland attempts to include some of his own insight into the plot, fleshing out the Master Chief and his history. Frequent nightmares of the planet Reach’s destruction and the Spartans’ failures haunt the armour-clad soldier.
Now, I’m about to assume the role of an extreme Halo fan, so be warned! To begin with, the Chief isn’t going to endure nightmares about his failure upon the Halo ring. He’ll be focused on rescuing the remaining UNSC survivors and preventing the Covenant’s capture of the Forerunner structure. His speed and strength aren't his only superhuman attributes; so is his professionalism.
He also speaks too often. The Chief chooses his words carefully, with barely a page worth of dialogue spanning the entire trilogy. Garland’s version, however, has elongated bouts of speech, and even swears. He’s an altogether different character. But again, Garland can’t be faulted. A silent hero is fine for a videogame, but not for a film.
The Promise Of Reach
Stuart Beattie’s script is supposedly a retelling of Eric Nylund's novel Halo: Fall of Reach, which chronicled the beginning of the Spartan project, from their initial abduction at the age of six, to their gruelling military training, dangerous genetic augments, and finally their debut encounter with the newly arrived Covenant and their failed protection of the planet Reach.
It’s a story rich with promise. Presenting the Master Chief as a child, who can talk and emote much deeper than his adult counterpart, allows the audience to engage with the character, and perhaps feel saddened by his transformation into the silent Spartan. It is also an excellent entry into the series for newcomers, unveiling the universe and its ensemble cast of heroes and villains, before finally culminating in the Pillar of Autumn’s discovery of the Halo ring.
Though the rumours of Steven Spielberg’s interest in the script are yet to be confirmed, I can see why he may be interested. It has the ingredients he often chooses; an intriguing concept ripe with opportunity for spectacular action and set-pieces; a varied cast of conflicting characters. Spielberg also enjoys focusing his films on the plight of children, often with absent or troubled parents. The Chief’s training as a child and the military acting as his surrogate parents may be the core appeal he saw in Beattie’s script.
The Waiting Game
With Microsoft quiet on the rumours of a resurrection, and both Beattie and Spielberg unwilling to comment, the future of the Halo film is a matter of time and patience. To those who believe its' guaranteed to eventually grace cinema screens, I say consider how, despite the involvement of both Microsoft, Universal, Fox, Alex Garland and Peter Jackson, the Halo film never got beyond the limits of pre-production, even with a director hired.
But the film has promise, and I personally, being a Halo fan, would love to see it be made. The prospect of the Halo story being translated into a real-world setting, with actual actors, computer-generated imagery and world-class direction and production, is too good to resist!