Some people, PC FPS players especially, despise the Halo franchise. Say what you will about the games themselves, no one can doubt that the games have been a phenomenal success for Bungie and Microsoft and have been instrumental in launching the Xbox 360 to its current position.
Worldwide the franchise has moved nearly 40 million units. That number doesn’t take into account the bundled units for the original Xbox, Xbox 360 or second-hand sales. According to Microsoft’s Major Nelson, Halo 3 grossed $170 million in its first 24 hours of sales. ‘Avatar’ grossed a little more than $30 million. Think about that. We’re still waiting on Halo: Reach numbers.
So the question is why haven’t we seen more Halo? If we were to, what would be the ideal vehicle for such a pop-culture Trojan Horse? More books? A massive big-budget summer blockbuster? A TV series? MORE video games?
We’ve seen books, comics, an “energy drink,” live-action promotional films and even a DVD of Halo-inspired animation (which is a great series of vignettes) but we still don’t have anything that really makes the franchise grow outside of the original fan base.
What about the books? Well we can’t really count those. The only people reading them are fans of the series. The same goes for the graphic novel. There’s so much potential in the universe, created by these supplemental materials that not creating a ‘Star Wars’ for the 21st Century is simply a waste of material.
Anyone who’s seen the live action shorts/commercials for any of the Halo games can’t really deny that the franchise is something that fits with today’s tone and aesthetic of movies and TV shows.
If you have any doubt that in the right hands the material can be moving and inspired, check out the following before reading further:
Halo 2 – Official TV Spot – In 2004, when this trailer appeared on TV an ex-girlfriend called me and asked when the “Halo movie” was coming out because she was interested. I told her it’s only a game and she then asked why, since they made such an awesome looking trailer for a game, why was it only on the Xbox?
Halo 3 – Landfall – Directed by Niell Blomkamp (of ‘District 9’ fame). This takes place minutes before the opening of Halo 3. The related videos from the “Believe” campaign done in a mock-documentary style are also great, great stuff.
Halo 3: ODST – We are ODST – Bleak. Melancholy. Prideful. This resonates on a number of different levels. This was responsible for raising the eye of many a non-fan to the idea of the franchise, unfortunately it didn’t help ODST be any less of a letdown.
Halo: Reach – Deliver Hope – Before watching this, ask yourself why the big studios keep letting a Halo movie get mired in bureaucratic nonsense and stuck in development Hell. After watching it the only answer in your head should be “blind idiocy.”
The Halo universe is gritty and bleak. Say what you will about how movies today are too much of either and you won’t find a disagreement here but it sells well and when done well it’s astoundingly good and great to watch. Example? ‘Black Hawk Down.’
So where’s our Halo movie? The easiest way to get Halo to the non-gamers?
Well, thanks to Microsoft and various studios disagreeing on how much money each one makes it’s nowhere. The original, Niell Blomkamp/Peter Jackson juggernaught died and its talent created ‘District 9,’ one of the best movies of 2009. Think about that for a second – the remnants of the Halo movie created an outstanding movie. What could the Halo feature been?
Movies have lasting appeal if they’re good, but they are always going to be relatively limited in scope compared to a well-written and produced television show. ‘Lost,’ ‘Stargate SG-1,’ ‘Fringe’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica’ all prove that the modern TV audience can lap up good Sci-Fi only if the Sci-Fi is secondary to the plot overall.
Audiences also like extended narratives much more than they did ten years ago. Cliffhangers are parts of life that add challenge to the story and provoke discussion, rather than annoying things that just stop the story mid-way. Television audiences have matured that way it seems.
Given the production values of the above commercials, a TV series is a definite possibility and for me, I think this is where Halo could be most successful. Given the proper budget, network, cast and writers (so perfection, really) the show could capture a disillusioned television audience of everyone from gamers to fans of shows like ‘The Wire,’ ‘Prisonbreak’ and the like.
TV shows are generally cheaper to produce, advertise themselves and can be bankrolled by a number of different sources. Multi-network (broadcast and cable) and international deals are much easier. ‘Battlestar Galactica’ was a cooperative deal between SKY Satellite in the UK and NBC, who owns the former Sci-Fi channel, now called SyFy.
What’s the ideal situation?
Well Halo: Reach gives us a good idea of the tone a series could take. Reach is the next logical step in storytelling from ODST but it could be taken so much further. The Human-Covenant war went on for years prior to the events of Reach and the core Halo Trilogy this material is rife for gritty, edge-of-your-sear rearguard warfare action.
Sound familiar? Ronald D. Moore has led two series with a similar tone, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica (if you hadn’t noticed, I really like BSG) and he would be the perfect man to helm such a show.
In a perfect world, we’d have it all. In a realistic one, NBC puts up the money for a pilot and airs it on a Wednesday night about 9 PM EST. The props and production materiel are there waiting to be taken advantage of, not to mention source material.
Someone just needs to take a risk and Microsoft needs to let them.
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