Halo Movie Dos And Don'ts, Part I

In the wake of rumors that the Halo movie will be pushed back from its rumored 2007 release date due to its rumored lack of a director and rumored delay of the rumored principal photography that was rumored to have taken place somewhere in New Zealand about now, but allegedly hasn't, several readers suggested I write something on how I thought the Halo movie ought to be done.

To a certain extent, to do so is a little unfair and perhaps counterproductive. Any idea for the film, if expressed in enough detail, would be indistinguishable from an unsolicited script thrown into a studio slush pile. Either it'll just be ignored (as most probably deserve to be) or it would be read. Having been read, if any ideas actually got into the movie, it could form the basis for complaints on the part of the author that the studio used them without compensation.

Or, worse still, a random coincidence between any idea in such a script and the film itself might be used as a basis for such a complaint. So, in a way, writing too much about cool things you'd like to see in the movie almost guarantees those things won't be, especially if it's something new and unique and interesting, rather than just something you've already seen in the games or read in the books.

Besides, the only fair way to do that would be to pen a complete script; and if I was capable of writing a good Halo movie script that would be a critical and commercial success I think there'd have been more of an indication of it before now.

However, what I will do is take some cues from the games, the books, the rumored script by Alex Garland, which I have previously spent time dissecting, and do something that's not allowed at the Movie Cynics Database at HBO. I'll write a simple list of things I think the Halo movie Should or Should Not do and explain why.

Click "read more" from the front page for the entire article.

Should: Keep the existing primary voice talent.

The relationship between the Master Chief and Cortana is the very core of the Halo story. While a lot of what goes on seems to be shooting things and huge cosmic events involving ancient artifacts, huge spaceships and terrifying weaponry, the story is really about an eternal hero and his muse.

Because of the nature of the video game as a medium, these two characters are primarily recognized by their voices. Since you spend the majority of the game playing and not watching cutscenes, most of the time you're not looking at the Master Chief and his big green suit. When you are looking at him, his visor always obscures his face. This makes it perhaps easier for the players to identify with him, as they can all manage to imagine themselves within the suit, despite the Chief being over forty, which is probably higher than the average age of most Halo players. It's also a tip of the hat to fans of the Marathon series of games. Those works held far more information back regarding the central character; not only did we not see his face, but we were never sure of his name or if he was even human or not.

Cortana is certainly no less ephemeral than the Chief, appearing from time to time as a hologram, but existing mostly as a disembodied voice in the players' ears.

Regardless of how the film chooses to deal with portraying these two characters visually, the actors who provide the voices for the Master Chief and Cortana in the game, Steve Downes and Jen Taylor, respectively, should be retained for the film. While the movie will almost certainly want and need to appeal to a wider audience than just fans of the games, and will very likely not presume prior knowledge of either the novels or the game, I don't think it will be possible for the film to be successfull without positive word of mouth from the franchise's core fans.

For the average moviegoer who isn't really interested in video games but doesn't mind a decent space opera once in awhile, the game's fans will be the canaries in the mineshaft: if the movie is based on their favorite game, and even they don't like it, how good can it be?

Downes' voice is perfect for the reticent, battle-hardened, no-nonsense soldier that the Master Chief is. What's more, it's nice to hear a voice portrayal of an action hero that isn't solely based on being a non-native speaker of English or having a heavy accent or speech impediment; yet his voice is as distinctive and recognizable as those action heroes who are.

Likewise Taylor's characterization of Cortana has brought depth and grain to a role that could easily have degenerated into wisecracking-sidekick cliché.

Some fans will certainly be unhappy if Taylor and Downes aren't kept. Moreover, if the visual portrayal of the two characters doesn't require it, it would seem unnecessary to do so. Even those willing to accept other voices might be unforgiving of the new performers if the film doesn't live up to expectations, or if the two central characters seem 'off' somehow.

Should Not: Show the Master Chief's face or use a live-action Cortana.

This mainly serves as a corollary for the above. As mentioned, there are good reasons in the game for not showing the Chief's face. If for no other reason, this helps maintain the mystique of the eternal hero. While the novels have given him a background and a name to humanize him, I think the film would be best off achieving this in other ways. Limits often spark creativity; I think this is one limit the filmmakers should accept and work around. The result could be a truly unique character.

As an artificial intelligence from a computer game that is represented only as a hologram, it would seem almost sacriligous not to use computer graphics to create Cortana for the silver screen. If the game can produce a character fans can love using nothing but an Xbox, then Jackson and his WETA studios should be able to do at least that with the resources available to them. Sure, perhaps if they're using her voice there'd be no real reason not to use Taylor for some motion capture work, but it seems only fair that if we don't ever see Downes' face behind the visor that Taylor's visage continue to be translated through the machinery as well. Given that Gollum, as a collaboration between Jackson, WETA, and Andy Serkis, was certainly the most lifelike and convincing CG film character to date, if anyone can bring Cortana to life, it's them. Since the real-life Cortana is herself an artificial construct, realism isn't even an issue.

There will be those who say these two things are impossible; that to expand beyond the fanbase, the Halo movie will need marquee names and star power. To that I say: bollocks. The movie property is hot because Halo and Halo 2 were smash sellers, and I think the majority of those fans who care would like to hear Downes and Taylor in the theater. The other reason Halo is hot is because of the world and the story Bungie has created. While Bungie was a well-known game developer for the Mac, prior to the Xbox they were not the powerhouse they are now. If a good story, knockout visuals, and solid performances by memorable characters were enough for Halo 2 to smash single-day sales records on launch, including eclipsing Hollywood movies in the process, then the Halo movie itself can do without a so-called "A-list" movie star as well.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Dos and Donts, #1

Right on. Consider that some of the best, most impactful fantasies/adventure films did not necesarrily have star power; the original Star Wars, the Matrix, even the LOR trilogy used notable, but not super, stars.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Jen Taylor as Cortana - Dr Hasley?

It makes sense... And she is after all, an actor.

In TFoR, it states that Cortana is based off of, and even has the thought pattern of Dr Hasley. It would make sense to cast Jen as the Good Doctor, and then to also see and hear her voice as Cortana.

-Sparky

narcogen's picture
narcogen
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Joined: 05/26/1999
Will she even appear?

You're making a big assumption-- that Halsey even appears in the movie. She neither appears, nor is mentioned, in either of the games so far. You'd have to spend at least some screen time explaining who she is and why she's important. (Or perhaps just a quick flashback to show that Cortana is modeled after the scientist who created her.)

In either case, it'd make sense if the movie was from the novels, but there's no indication of that at all yet. The Garland script follows Halo 1 pretty closely-- there's only a single FoR flashback.

For better or worse, I think the vast majority of the material in the novels is destined to stay there, as I doubt Bungie or anyone else wants them to be required reading for following the games or the film.


Rampant for over se7en years.

UrsusArctos's picture
UrsusArctos
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Joined: 05/24/2006
Utter and absolute pointlessness

If the Halo movie was based directly off the game, it would probably turn out to be like Halo:The Flood. It would either be too much like the game or too dissimilar(The taxi driver scene, Ghosts replacing Banshees), and perhaps too cheesy as well. And what's the point of watching the movie? We all know the events of the game far too well, but there are many hardcore Halo fans who don't know about the novels or have just heard them in passing.

As much as the game is the center of the whole Franchise, the novels give very important background information and details that truly flesh out the Halo story; the story would be nothing worth talking about without the novels to give it the requisite depth.

If they were to make the movie based on Fall of Reach(Something that was removed), it would make perfect sense. Instead of seeing the same junk that happens in the game, minus player interaction(which is asking for a flop), we get to see the origins of the Master Chief and the basis of the Human-Covenant war, stuff that most gamers don't know about. Frankly, I'm not going to watch the movie if it's based directly off the game, because, like the case of the Da Vinci Code, the experience of the game will spoil everything, leaving nothing new. A movie based off a Nylund novel won't have the same setback.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
From one thinker to another...

You're hittin' the nail on the head. It'll be interesting to see if anyone with actual authority over the filming process will give credence to these observations. Or come to them on their own.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
cg in halo the movie

cg worked for final fantasy, they could do the halo movie in cg to make sure no one gets angry about crappy actors.

narcogen's picture
narcogen
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CG and actors

A few ideas occur to me in response:

The CG in Final Fantasy didn't really work at all. It fell straight down into the Uncanny Valley (as did the later film Polar Express) by looking eerily realistic, but not quite realistic enough. Entirely the wrong approach.

CG doesn't stop people worrying about crappy actors, because you still have to have voices. Obviously, if they made the movie in CG (which they are not) they could use the game's voice talents. Most fans of the game I think would approve of that, but a general audience might not. I, for one, think that James Woods, normally quite a good actor, delivered a pretty subpar performance in Final Fantasy.


Rampant for over se7en years.

dustin sharpensteen's picture
dustin sharpensteen
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Joined: 05/23/2005
halo movie dooos and doonnot's

I dont think they should show his face or use and actor to do it because i dont want to picture the actor when im playing the game! Just computer animate him.

I personaly think they should include some of the easter eggs from the 1st halo like the posters just as you exit the bridge of the ship. just to put a little humor in it

and let sgt johnson be sgt johnson...meaning let him say whatever he wants.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Why dont they just do it all in CGI?

Well, they could just do the Master Chief and Cortana in pure CGI. Only ever put their voices in. Also, not showing his face would be a good idea, but showing the battle scene over Reach at the beginning with the Spartans fighting, then showing the aftermath of Halo (First Strike) would be cool. They could make all of the other characters with real people, like sgt Johnson and Captain Keyes. As for the covenant-pure CGI, with the possible exception of some of the elites, and the flood could really not be done with actors, they would have to do all CGI.

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