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What Happened To The Halo Movie?

What happened to the Halo movie? The guys over at The Movie Blog have an article claiming that the Halo movie is stalled out. After all, we haven’t heard anything about it right? But an absence of recent news on a pending project doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in development hell. It could just mean that Fox hasn’t made any announcements about what’s going on.

So instead of prematurely dancing on Halo’s grave, I thought we’d take a minute look at where the Halo project is really at. First, let’s consider the history of the Halo movie’s development. Where have we been? Here’s the timeline as near as I can figure it:

February 2005 - Alex Garland hired to write a script for the movie version of Halo.

June 2005 - Alex Garland finishes his first draft of the Halo movie script.

June 2005 - Universal & Fox buy Microsoft’s Halo script and agree to co-finance the production.

August 2005 - Screenwriter Alex Garland called back to do rewrites, 2007 release targeted.

October 2005 - Peter Jackson boards the project as an Executive Producer, WETA hired to handle effects work

November 2005 - First Halo script review (it’s positive!).

December 2005 - Fox starts talking to directors. Del Toro rumored.

December 2005 - Del Toro passes to do a non-existent sequel to Hellboy.

December 2005 - Bungie visits WETA workshop to go over designs for the film with Peter Jackson.

By the above timeline, it’s really only been about a year since Fox & Universal first agreed to make the film. It’s been about six months since we’ve heard anything of real substance on the project, but with something this big it’s not surprising that it might take awhile to mobilize it. It has barely been a year since the film first really started moving forward. This isn’t outside the norm for a major, blockbuster release like this. Just remember how long it took Transformers to get going. You’d like them to have a director attached by now, but from the beginning Halo creators Bungie and parent company Microsoft have made it extremely clear that they weren’t going to rush their film, and they were going to take their time to find the right director for the project. They won’t settle. With that in mind, it’s entirely possible they could be waiting for someone like Del Toro to clear out his schedule and get the Hellboy out of his system before deciding on a director.

So where does Halo stand now? Peter Jackson and co-exec producer Fran Walsh have assembled a full producing team, and if IMDB is to be believed, the movie is no longer being targeted for a 2007 release date. Instead, they’re looking at summer 2008. Whoa, don’t panic. It’s pretty normal for release dates on a movie like this to shift a year or two. It happens. The 2007 release date probably wasn’t realistic anyway, since when they announced it Peter Jackson hadn’t yet boarded the project. His involvement was bound to change a few things.

Since the last official word on the movie back at the end of 2005, a number of different directors and actors have been rumored to be considering involvement. Alex Proyas has been heavily rumored as a possible director, and Denzel Washington’s name has been thrown around as a possible Master Chief. None of those rumors have yet panned out.

Joseph Stanten, a Bungie head honcho and the guy credited with the story used in Garland’s screenplay, spoke at a April 22nd seminar about the movie, and let drop that they weren’t focusing the movie on adapting the game as much as they were working on adapting one of the Halo novels written after the first game debuted. The Halo novels basically retell the story of the game, but with more back story on Master Chief, and might not be a bad starting point for a script, since it offers even more back story to build a screenplay from.

That’s where Halo really stands. It’s not dead, Microsoft and Bungie simply aren’t in any rush to get it done. They’re not going to settle for a Paul W.S. Anderson production just to get it made. They’re quite content to move along slowly until they get exactly what they want. They’ve been clear about that from the beginning, and the lack of big news in the past few months seems only to confirm that. But it’s coming. They’ve already invested the money (Garland was paid a massive fee for his script), the game is as popular as ever (and may become even more so with Halo 3 on the way), and there’s simply no reason to assume the project might be stalled or dead.

Just give it time, and take heart that they’re determined to get it right. This is the first time any studio has taken any videogame even remotely seriously. Until a decent videogame movie actually happens, I think we’re all justified in being pretty skeptical, but if there’s hope for any videogame movie to ever be any good, then Halo is still it.