The One Film to Rule Them All: Halo

While many write about the constantly regurgitated white elephant headline, few, with the exception of Vociferous, tackle the subject head on or with any seriousness in mind.

I often find in a variety of forums, B.net being the primary outlet, a plethora of movie-related statements. Most of these fan-created stabs in the dark usually consist of wild theories on the supposed forthcoming film, or how Denzel Washington would make a fantastic Master Chief. As a result, these threads usually gain little or no momentum and subsequently die a quiet death. But I’d like to take a more considered approach to the subject of a Halo movie. And the first thing that everyone must realise and accept is that the movie will not be aimed at the hardcore Halo fan.

Scenery and effects like this go hand in hand with a convincing storyline

The reason for this seemingly devious approach is simple; the majority of us are well-versed in the fiction of Halo. We know who and what the Gravemind is, and what usually happens to anyone who decides to stay up late partying with the Flood. You, of course, die a horrible, agonising death as you slowly become your worst nightmare. Unless you happen to be a Sweet William cigar-chomping Marine Sergeant with the surname of Johnson, that is.

The point I’m trying to make is that to create a truly successful movie you have to aim for the widest possible audience, everybody else. And most of them won’t know what a Brute Shot is or that a Pelican, as well as being a bird, is also a UNSC drop ship, or that the likely protagonist of the movie, the Chief, is unlikely to end up having sex with the glowy blue woman covered in strange symbols.

The wider audience will need to be educated – here and there – on how things work in the Halo universe and how everything fits together. If you doubt my reasoning then cast your mind back to the Batman films.

Despite the fact that most of us know what happened to Bruce Wayne’s parents, the circumstances surrounding their demise have to be demonstrated every time there is a new or alternative version of the franchise.

This means that when the movie starts it has to provide an insight into the history of the Halo universe, but it also has to be compelling enough to engage the non-Halo fan. So, long discussions on the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn are most definitely out, and striking, exciting scenes are in. The audience at large has to be captured within the first minute or so. Otherwise they may be compelled to wander out of the cinema. But let’s not forget the die-hard fan—the one that happens to know the serial number of every confirmed Spartan-II. You know what I’m talking about, right? The fan who picked up on the mention of Pegasi Delta in the Reach trailer– in other words, you.

You will be wanting something familiar, yet different. And new angles on the Halo universe have always been present in each release from Bungie, whether intentional or otherwise. Even ODST provided us all with something new—a valuable insight on what it means to face the Covenant when the Master Chief has long since buggered off to do his “Saving the universe” thing. But with this in mind, there will also be elements that we might want to see. The Spartan recruitment and training spring to mind as well as the death of Sam-034. Other elements included could consist of the “Keyes Loop” and John’s initial demonstration with Cortana on Reach, which Ackerson tried to sabotage. But despite our wishes of what we want to see in any Halo movie, the bigger question remains: what about John, the Master Chief?

It’s no secret that one of the main stumbling blocks behind a cinematic production of Halo is the man who wears the Mjolnir trousers and never reveals his face. So how do you make a movie with a central character with no face? “There have been others”, I hear you say. And you’re right. Darth Vader and V from ‘V for Vendetta’ played their parts to great effect in their respective movies, but the Chief is very different.

Unlike the aforementioned pair, the Chief’s helmet, though cool to look at, has no facial features, no eyes and no mouth, nothing. The Chief has a blank reflective visor. So in order to convey anything emotive in the trilogy we’re made to watch for slight changes in body language or for specific dialogue. This works extremely well in the games when we step out of his shoes for two or three minutes in a cut scene, but for a two-hour movie it could prove problematic, even disastrous. So I’m going to suggest something that I know none of you will like or approve of, remove the mask.

“Okay, you can stop screaming now.”

I’m not suggesting we see what the Chief looks like now. Instead we could see him develop as a person and as a character from his childhood and into adolescence, perhaps until Sam is killed. We would finally have the opportunity to see a more emotive John. I don’t mean for him to recite poetry or to try his luck with Kelly, but perhaps allow us to see a very different side of John–one briefly wracked with grief, guilt and anger. And anyone stupid enough to get in his way immediately afterwards ends up being folded inside out and stuffed inside a baked bean tin.

After that, the war takes over and we’re introduced to new battles, story lines and characters. I’m not a serious detraction from what we already know, but something different from the Fall of Reach novel. Taking that approach would allow the universe to expand further as it’s perfectly feasible to assume the Chief would have been involved in more missions than we are currently aware of.

Several paragraphs earlier I mentioned providing something familiar but also different for the audience. This is where the Flood come in.

Halo Spec script

This small example, written before any official reveal of G617g, provides a way in which the movie could be introduced to the audience. It immediately deviates from the usual norm of seeing the Chief blow things up or listening to Keyes and Cortana discuss whether or not they lost the Covenant. The introduction of something unusual at the very beginning, even if we know a lot about the Flood already as Halo fans, will keep many of us on our toes only for the movie to then lull us into a false sense of security until later on when the Chief personally encounters the Flood on Alpha Halo.

But with the introduction of the Flood we have to wonder what age range the movie would be aimed at. The majority, but not all, of Halo players appear to be teenagers, so would it be feasible to portray the Flood in all of their gruesome  horror? Or could we expect to see the movies develop in a similar manner to the Harry Potter films–becoming steadily darker and more serious?

I’ll have to stop, as I’m tempted to ramble like an old fool. The Halo movie is too vast a subject to cover in a single post. But I’ll leave you with this…

This I believe is the way forward–live action certainly works. Perhaps covering Noble Team in a series is a good way to start out. Or even a different Spartan team altogether. Either way, I think Frank O’Connor’s talk of a television series is a sound idea and a way to build a firm foundation for any future movie project.

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4 thoughts on “The One Film to Rule Them All: Halo

  1. That bit on “unmasking” Chief was pretty interesting.
    I think there is enough in Chief’s abduction and training that you could almost make a full movie.

  2. If I were the person writing the Halo movie script I would definitely invoke the use of flashbacks to portray key moments of the chief’s training and career before the discovery of halo. either start the film off with a brief look towards his childhood before abduction into the spartan II program (as seen in the fall of reach) or the final moments of the battle of reach with the autumn fleeing.

    It’s obvious that the film needs to revolve around the chief and flashbacks would give a glimpse into the history of the halo universe for people who have never played the games or read the EU

  3. Flashbacks can be a very horrible horrible crutch for writers, as well as cliched if their delivery matches the *SOUND EFFECT/WHITE FLASH* formula.

    I agree that the Halo film should be accessible, but it’s not to say you can’t get away with being impenetrable. The latest ‘Harry Potter’ film is a perfect example–my aunt and uncle watched all the previous movies but never read the books, and were entirely confused about what the hell is going on. Hopefully that kind of autopilot action would not be an issue with a dedicated team not riding on the coattails of past blockbusters.

    I disagree that you need flashbacks to make the Chief believable. In fact, I’d argue against the popular sentiment that came from Bungie’s camp about the movie–you definitely can keep the Chief the main character. “The Flood” contains tons of character moments for him. The fact that he’ll actually be speaking the entire film helps immensely. There’s no difference between him or Vader–sure, one has a mass that more resembles a human, but it’s still entirely static.

    While I think he could work faceless, the important thing would be for the filmmakers not to be indecisive on the issue. Either show his face or don’t–what would kill it is lots of cleverly-shot angles with his mask by his side. *That’s* what would kill audience empathy. The only reason Star Wars got away with it w/ Vader is that the teases were kept to a minimum, and there was eventual payoff.

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