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Why The Halo Movie Didn't Happen

sjohnson
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Posted April 19, 2012 - By Stephen Johnson

Halo 3: ODST Available For Preorder

Way back in 2005, Microsoft made a serious play to create a blockbuster, tentpole Halo movie. The author of 28 Days Later was paid a million bucks to write a script. Fox and Universal were working with Microsoft to put it together. Denzel Washington was rumored to be interested in starring as Master Chief. Everyone was predicting huge things... Seven years later, the Halo flick is dead and buried. What happened?

While we've covered the surface of the various vicious Hollywood politics and infighting that doomed the project, the deep-dirt on the Halo movie story has never been told, until now. Wired has published a lengthy excerpt from a fascinating book, Gernation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood, that tells the story of the fouled up Halo deal. The real culprit, according to the book, was a clash of cultures. The games industry and Hollywood just don't work the same way.

Basically, Microsoft plays very hard hardball, and brought the Halo movie to Hollywood with unprecedented baggage, demanding a deal that Hollywood ultimately could not seem to support. They were rigid, and eventually, the whole thing fell apart.

Another sticking point was director Neil Blomkamp's unique style. At the time, he was unproven in the feature space (although he later directed excellent sci-fi flick District 19). According to Blomkamp, all the players -- Microsoft, Fox and Universal -- were skittish about his gritty style.  

“I told Tom Rothman [co-Chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment] that I was genetically created to direct Halo," Blomkamp said. Although he realised that the studio didn’t share his artistic vision, described by Wired as a "gritty, post-cyberpunk aesthetic — all blurry video feeds and radio chatter." 

The gritty style that made District 9 so amazing was not suited for a summer blockbuster, according to the studio.

“Rothman hated me, I think he would have gotten rid of me if he could have,” says the Blomkamp. “The suits weren’t happy with the direction I was going. Thing was, though, I’d played Halo and I play video games. I’m that generation more than they are and I know that my version of Halo would have been insanely cool. It was more fresh and potentially could have made more money than just a generic, boring film — something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.”

The sad thing is, Blomkamp was probably right. The test footage he shot for the Halo movie was edited into Halo 3: Landfall, an amazing short film that gives a tiny glimpse into what might have been.

Generally, I think Hollywood shouldn't make video game movies. The two things don't really tend to go together that well in terms of straight adaptations (for evidence, look at every single video game movie that has ever been produced) but the involvement of Blomkamp and producer Guillermo Del Toro had me nearly convinced... oh, well. Best not to dwell on what might have been.

Definitely read the the Wired excerpt; it reads like a great novel, with set-pieces including an invasion of Master Chiefs into Hollywood offices and the kind of politicking and hard-nosed businessman stuff that we all too rarely hear about.

All of the best people are following Stephen Johnson's twitter feed. Also, email me if you wanna.

Why The Halo Movie Didn't Happen
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