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The Halo Film - Can It Be Made?

Felix Kemp
Features, Halo

The Halo Film - Can It Be Made?

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?

The Halo 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

The Halo Film - Can It Be Made?

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

The Halo Film - Can It Be Made?

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

The Halo Film - Can It Be Made?

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!

Add a comment10 comments
Bullet  Aug. 19, 2009 at 19:47

Good Article, Beattie's script sounds the better of the 2 and would set up the character better for those who dont play or havent heard of Halo.

John McLaggan  Aug. 19, 2009 at 23:30

Some great pictures there although the Spartans were chemically enhanced rather than genetically, the original pool of 150 were chosen for their genetic traits but unmodified otherwise. From what I remember of ilovebees the mk 1 Spartans were genetically enchanced as they passed the traits onto their offspring.

Like you I'd love to see a Halo film although I have mixed thoughts on how it would actually turn out. What I particularly liked about Fall of Reach is that the author didn't follow a predictable route on the Spartans developing a contraversial side to them, the project was top secret with the candidates being kidnapped and then injected with extremely risky chemical enhancements knowing it would kill or disable many of them. The army also objected to the project resorting to even trying to kill the Master Chief during his armour training.

The other aspect I thought was handled well was the way the author managed to create the whole Halo universe - when watching the first cutscene in Halo: Combat Evolved and Cortana talked about the main gun being out it left me wondering, what was the main gun? What shielding technology did the ship use, how did its faster than light drive compared to enemy ships? While I'm a bit sad in this regard the Fall of Reach answered all of this - the UNSC ships were all using Magnetic Accelerator Cannons with close range cannons, missiles and nuclear warheads.

I do agree that the Master Chief shouldn't be overly emotional or talk that much although I think as in the books he does need to be more human than in the games where obviously you're meant to feel like you are the chief. In the book set during the first Xbox game as the Masterchief is fighting through the Pillar of Autumn to detonate its reactors he's close to a complete breakdown which almost kills him when a flood form gets under his armour requiring Cortana to save him. It's understandable as he's been fighting non-stop for a long time and he knows that there's a good chance he's the last of the Spartans having left half his team at Reach. Of course he does have his professionalism and he does still fight on letting nothing stop him - it would be good to see more of his human side so the Spartans aren't just seen as machines.

I tend to be pessimistic with any film from a book and I'd be concerned they'd just simplify it all and go for a more predictable human vs aliens film. Although at least if they did take that approach we'd hopefully see some of the huge naval battles from Fall of Reach on the big screen which would be worth the admission price.

Looking at the trailers for Halo 3 and Halo Wars where they produced both live action and fully CGI clips I think the computer versions look better. Although the live action clips were filmed well the human actors and the covenant enemies and vehicles didn't seem to go that well together. The fully CG trailers on the other hand looked fantastic specifically John and Kelly under the stars for Halo 3 and the Warthogs rushing along to meet their scout team for Halo Wars.


Mike Hock (Of Bitter Wallet fame)  Aug. 20, 2009 at 07:42

Have any of the other game to movie conversions been any good? No? Oh right OK...

Emma Kelly  Aug. 20, 2009 at 09:43

@ Mike - I think they did a pretty good job of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

John  Aug. 20, 2009 at 10:27

I thought Silent Hill made a pretty good transition to film although many don't like the way they muddled up the storyline I did think they did a good job capturing the atmosphere of the game.

Mike Hock (Of Bitter Wallet fame)  Aug. 20, 2009 at 12:15

I'll whisper this one as I don't want to offend anyone *streetfighter*

Mike Hock (Of Bitter Wallet fame)  Aug. 20, 2009 at 12:23

What's even worse, (with the exception of Goldeneye) are the movie to game conversions!

John  Aug. 20, 2009 at 14:45

The Streetfighter anime worked well although the less said about the live action version the better

K-an  Aug. 23, 2009 at 02:35

Gushing: "I think, having not read the comments above... but i will afterwards. that a film is possible and even easy... but i do think it would detract from the scope of the genre and muddy the water of the already blurred item that is video game and film... i personally believe that it would leave many people lost as to the birthing of the two premises in kind... conceptionally they match otherwise i believe they are seperate entitys eg QuAk3 is is akin to StarSHIP tr0opers but nefa twinz."

K-an  Aug. 23, 2009 at 02:39

The above comment was written from minor geek with lazy attitude... jus so we av POV Sortd.


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