Last weeks release of Halo 4 by Microsoft’s 343 Industries was a huge deal for videogame fans. A trailer released for the game a few weeks earlier was an equally huge deal for completely different reasons. The two-minute and twenty-one second launch trailer, titled “Scanned,” made its debut on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on October 18th. What film fans should note is that the spot was produced by David Fincher and directed by Fincher VFX collaborator Tim Miller, known for his title sequence work in Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The trailer is absolutely stunning, and got me to thinking; Fincher would make a killer Halo film.
Sure, Fincher didn’t direct the spot, but as producer I’m sure he had complete oversight. Miller doesn’t have much, if anything to his credit as a director, so it’s a safe bet to speculate that Fincher aided in the live action shots with Miller focusing most of his work on the stellar photorealistic CGI. For a two-minute trailer it tells a compelling back-story that leaves you wanting more. By more, I don’t necessarily mean it leaves you wanting to simply play Halo 4; it leaves you wanting to learn more about Halo’s leading character, Master Chief. Judging by the eerily dystopian trailer, Halo is primed and ready for its eventual move from console to multiplex. Watch the spot and judge it for yourself…
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A film adaptation of the Halo series has been in the works since 2005. Halo’s journey to the big-screen has been a storied shuffle that’s seen the film rights and attached writers and directors perpetually shift for nearly eight years. Of all the potentially great projects stuck in Hollywood’s development hell, Halo stands at the top, with the most to either gain or lose.
Screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd) penned the first Halo script for producer Peter Schlessel (Looper) in 2005. Schlessel unsuccessfully shopped the script around Hollywood, with studios weary about Microsoft’s requirement of $10 million against a 15% gross. In Hollywood terms, that’s a huge potential profit without any risk from Microsoft, something studios tend to avoid for a movie with a $120 million plus production price tag.
20th Century Fox and Universal were able to back Microsoft’s demands down to $5 million against a 10% gross. The two companies partnered to produce the film with Peter Jackson attached as Executive Producer and hopes of Guillermo del Toro coming onboard to direct. It seems like Jackson and del Toro are attracted to a lot of the same projects (see The Hobbit). Eventually the del Toro talks broke down and Neil Blomkamp was signed on to direct. 20th Century and Universal hired new writers, D.B. Weiss (“Game of Thrones”) and Josh Olsen (A History of Violence) to rewrite Garland’s script. Production on Halo again broke down, adding another film to Weiss’ already impressive list of undeveloped blockbuster scripts, a list that includes unused screenplays for Enders Game and a prequel to I Am Legend. Blomkamp and Jackson went on to make District 9 together, and Halo’s turnaround rights once again fell back into the hands of Microsoft. To date everyone from Jackson and Blomkamp to del Toro and even Steven Spielberg have shown interest in a Halo movie without moving past pre-production.
So what’s next? What better time than now, with Halo back on everyone’s mind and Halo 4 earning some of the highest videogame reviews of 2012, to rethink creating what is sure to be a massive tent pole hit for any studio involved?
Who better than Fincher to lead the charge? It’s known that Fincher excels at compelling and tense storytelling with films like Fight Club, Se7en and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s also known that he can handle CGI/live-action hybridization like a pro (see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). At this point in his career it would be nice to see Fincher take on a film of blockbuster scope, bringing the dark and human emotion he is known for to a project built around action, effects and epic set-pieces. The Halo franchise, one far darker below the surface than most video games, would benefit greatly from Fincher’s style. What Nolan did for the Batman franchise, Fincher could do for Halo. Mature themes backed by meticulous design and top-notch acting would be a game changer for the so far mediocre world of videogame to film adaptations. If Fincher’s Halo were to be anything like his and Miller’s trailer for Halo 4, sci-fi fans would be wringing their hands in anticipation.
– Tony Nunes