Microsoft’s Halo video game franchise has been on a wildly successful ride, with five popular titles spanning two consoles over nine years. It was so successful in fact, that when a script was developed in late 2005, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were almost immediately onboard to executive produce. With 20th Century Fox and Microsoft working in tandem, and the ridiculously talented Neill Blomkamp handling directing duties, a Halo film seemed inevitable.
Fast forward to 2010, however, and the landscape has changed drastically. 20th Century Fox pulled out, and the rights have since reverted back to Microsoft and remains in stasis. Jackson and Blomkamp have called any future involvement in a Halo film questionable, having both poured five months into what appeared to be a troubled production environment. Together they went on to executive produce and direct District 9, a painful what-could-have-been for Halo fans.
According to Frank O’Connor, former content editor for Bungie Studios and current creative director for Microsoft’s 343 Industries, a Halo film is still only a matter of the time being right. In a recent interview with Coming Soon, O’Connor says, “We own the IP. If we want to make a movie, the scale of all the other stuff that we do changes dramatically. We make tens and tens of millions of dollars on ancillary stuff, toys, apparel, music and publishing. If we do a movie all of that will grow exponentially. We have some numbers if we do a movie, but it changes everything. It also changes our target and age demographic.”
As a fan of the game franchise, my biggest concern remains timing, and the direction the game itself has taken since a film seemed most likely to be realized. It’s no surprise that this period fell in line with the 2007 release of Bungie’s most popular and financially rewarding Halo title to date, Halo 3. Studio politics snuffed the film, and today Microsoft has taken the series in a new direction. The iconic Master Chief of the original three games has been MIA from the last two games released by Microsoft, and will remain so in the next offering in the series coming later this year. Gamers are a notoriously finicky crowd, and their attention is generally being drawn in ten directions at once. A Halo film’s box office impact is decided by this demographic, and the results can easily go one of two ways. The fanbase will either welcome Master Chief back with open arms, or will have moved on to more current fare. That seems like a risky gamble in my own estimation; I can only imagine the same concerns exist in the mind of studio executives who may look at the property in the future.
Perhaps Master Chief is better left on permanent leave from the big screen.