At some point in time, a Halo film was a big possibility, but a series of misunderstandings between all the parties involved ultimately killed the project. The sci-fi, first-person shooter video game Halo began its reign in 2001 and has since become one of the most successful video game franchises, so it’s not surprising that it has expanded to other media – or in some cases, attempted to.
Halo’s commercial success prompted the production of graphic novels and other licensed products, but there’s one realm it hasn’t fully explored yet: film. In 2006, a live-action Halo film was in development, but the project didn’t go beyond the pre-production phase. There were a number of factors that contributed to Master Chief’s debut on the big screen not happening, and they mostly had to do with Microsoft and their refusal to understand that the film industry operates very differently from the video game one.
Halo is Microsoft’s gold mine, and as such, the company expected a lot from a cinematic adaptation of it. Microsoft paid Alex Garland to write a script so it could pitch the project to the biggest studios in the film industry – but Microsoft wanted $10 million against 15% of the box office gross, and most studios passed. Microsoft had other demands as well, such as creative approval over the director and cast, it wasn’t going to put money into the production (except for what it paid Garland to write the script), and it wasn’t willing to sign over the merchandising rights. All these terms and many more made it difficult for it to find a studio willing to make Halo a reality, but Fox and Universal stepped up with a partnership, which Microsoft accepted after some hesitation.
Microsoft wanted Peter Jackson as director, but he signed on as producer instead. Guillermo del Toro was in talks to direct, but in the end, Neill Blomkamp was chosen – and Microsoft wasn’t pleased. Blomkamp ended up having a lot of problems with both Microsoft and Fox, as they had different ideas for the film. With Halo not moving forward due to all this, Fox threatened to pull out of the project, pushing Universal to demand that the producers’ deal be cut, but Jackson and company refused, and so the project was finally over.
Microsoft’s demands and their lack of understanding of the film industry are what killed the Halo film. In the end, Halo did get live-action adaptations, though not as it was initially intended: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was first released as a web series and later on Blu-Ray and DVD, Halo: Nightfall can now be enjoyed both on streaming and physical copies, and a Halo TV series is on its way. Even though it was a big loss, it wasn’t the end for Halo beyond the consoles, although it would have been interesting to see Blomkamp’s approach to it on the big screen.