Halo Director Named... Or Not

Xbox.com yesterday put up an item apparently naming South African director of commercials and short films Neill Blomkamp as director of the Halo film. Several other sites, including HBO and GameDailyBiz, picked up on the item before Xbox.com pulled it. There is no mention of the item at all at Bungie.net.

If the item is accurate, but just pulled because it was announced prematurely, it would seem that the idea is to go with a young, energetic, creative and unspoiled director, much as directors of music videos Hammer and Tongs were chosen to create the Hitchhiker's Guide film. And we know how that turned out.

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If you look at his "Alive in Joburg" short you can see why Bungie picked him. And to be fair, Ridley Scott did alot of commercials and music videos too.

The point isn't that he's done commercials and videos. The point is, he hasn't done anything else.

If you hired Scott now, yes, sure, he's done those things, but he's also done successful feature-length action and science-fiction films.

So, on the upside, he knows what he's doing. He's not doing it for the first time.

On the downside, he knows what he's doing. Despite, perhaps, not knowing much about Halo (I'm speculating here) he does know filmmaking, and that might be a detriment.

Hiring a Hollywood action flick director to adapt Halo might get you a generic Hollywood action flick. That would be bad.

You can hire energetic young guys with a great portfolio in short media, like commercials and videos, and (by all accounts) a good script, and get a lackluster film from a beloved franchise, like the Hitchhiker feature film.

You can also hire people without much experience with games or with movies and get a load of dreck, like the Doom movie. So avoiding Hollywood names doesn't automatically get you an authentic and faithful film adaptation of a beloved property.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Okay, you've brought up the Hitchhiker film three times now - I think I get the point that you didn't like it.

I simply don't understand the argument that "he's never done a feature film before, so it's unlikely he'll be good at it" - yeah, I know, you never actually SAID he won't be good at it, but your argument has been leaning in that direction (it seems the more that you're argued with, the further in that direction you go).

Everyone has to have a first movie sometime. More than a few hit that first one out of the ballpark. Blomkamp has shown in his short works that he likes to focus on the emotional side of a story - he uses technology, but not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. He's made it clear in interviews (and indirectly through comments by Jackson and others) that he 'gets it', with respect to Halo; he's got the fans in mind, to some degree. (Whether he produces something that the fans will like is another matter entirely - but I consider it a HUGE step in the right direction that he even CONSIDERS us.) He's a fan of the game, which should be a given, but to be honest, it's something I worried about.

Are you so pessimistic because you really don't like the guy - or are you trying to play devil's advocate here, since the majority of fan opinion seems to be positive?

[quote=Claude Errera]Okay, you've brought up the Hitchhiker film three times now - I think I get the point that you didn't like it.[/quote]

I found it disappointing, yes. Also, not everyone reads all the threads everywhere like you do, so my mentions of it probably didn't seem quite so repetetive to most other people :)

[quote=Claude Errera]I simply don't understand the argument that "he's never done a feature film before, so it's unlikely he'll be good at it" - yeah, I know, you never actually SAID he won't be good at it, but your argument has been leaning in that direction (it seems the more that you're argued with, the further in that direction you go).[/quote]

You're right, I never actually said he's unlikely to be good at it. What am I saying is that there's very little to go on to make any sort of informed prediction about how well he'll do at it.

I keep bringing up Hitchhiker because people keep bringing up his commercials and shorts as evidence for how well Halo will turn out under his direction, and the Hitchhiker film is the best and most recent example I can think of for the idea that just because someone is good at one kind of thing, like short subjects, does not necessarily translate to other forms, like feature films. That this example also concerns new blood being brought in to adapt well-known and well-loved material is just a bonus, as this is also the case with Halo.

[quote=Claude Errera]Everyone has to have a first movie sometime. More than a few hit that first one out of the ballpark. Blomkamp has shown in his short works that he likes to focus on the emotional side of a story - he uses technology, but not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. He's made it clear in interviews (and indirectly through comments by Jackson and others) that he 'gets it', with respect to Halo; he's got the fans in mind, to some degree. (Whether he produces something that the fans will like is another matter entirely - but I consider it a HUGE step in the right direction that he even CONSIDERS us.) He's a fan of the game, which should be a given, but to be honest, it's something I worried about.[/quote]

Sure, there is a first time for everything.

However, would you buy a car from a company that had never made a car before? Maybe, maybe not. In the 70s, that might've been Honda. In the 80s, it might have been Yugo. Big difference there.

As for being a fan of the game, I hope he is and I agree it really should be a prerequisite. However, if saying one likes Halo 1's story better than Halo 2 is all that's necessary to establish cred as a Halo fan... :)

I also seem to recall the phrase "A-list" being mentioned in a Bungie Update some time back, and I find it difficult to imagine the idea of an A-list director who has never made a film. That doesn't mean he won't be after Halo is made, should it be successful, but unless the community is getting paid to do Blomkamp's PR for him I see no reason to be so sure he belongs there without seeing how things turn out.

[quote=Claude Errera]Are you so pessimistic because you really don't like the guy - or are you trying to play devil's advocate here, since the majority of fan opinion seems to be positive?[/quote]

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. Through a combination of fawning over Blomkamp's shorts and what seems like a lot of desperately wishful thinking, the community as a whole seems to be rushing to the conclusion that it is a positive thing that the named Halo director has not one feature length film to his credit, where in the annals of filmmaking I am almost certain that there are many more first-time flops than there are first-time masterpieces.

That certainly may not be the case here. I certainly hope that is not the case here. However, chanting over and over again that at least it's not Uwe Boll and that any proven director would certainly have ruined the film with their preconceived notions (also called "experience" sometimes) is not going to make it necessarily true.

I can see why Jackson didn't elect to direct. Publically he was very clear that he'd been on a treadmill for over a decade between the Rings films and Kong.

I can see why Del Toro, who was apparently considered and interested, was unable to swing it because of his other project (Hellboy 2).

I can see why knowing and loving the game might have been given slightly more weight than filmmaking track record.

On the other hand, let's not get carried away. Halo, while perhaps a ground-breaking console game in its execution if not its concept, is itself very derivative of some good, but rather conventional, Hollywood films (Aliens, I'm looking at you). So to that extent I don't buy the argument that Halo is really something "special" that must be handled by a complete outsider in order to be true to the material, and that vibe is also going through the community. That I ascribe mostly to delusions of grandeur.

Somehow, if we were talking about the idea of making a silver screen version of Marathon, choosing an aspiring director or even a film student would have seemed more appropriate. Halo, however, is not really the same kind of story, despite the superficial similarities. If Ridley Scott was good enough to make Aliens, he's at least good enough to make Halo. If he didn't want to make it, that's fine too-- but I guess I find it hard to believe that the list of available directors with successful science fiction, fantasy, and/or action films under their belt doesn't include one person who knew or liked Halo and was willing to take the project, such that it ends up falling to someone who has done some excellent shorts but has no feature track record at all. Beyond that, now the community is trying to spin that lack of track record as a positive thing.

More than anything else, that's what I'm harping on. I'm not trying to spin the lack of a track record into a negative thing; but I'm pointing out that it represents a risk where everyone else seems to be absolutely bent on making it out to be a boon.

If I really wanted to be pessimistic, I'd have brought up the idea that choosing an unknown director may be an indication of a severe lack of faith in the entire project on the side of the studio-- that they are trying to minimize costs and so reduce their eventual losses. Most films do, in fact, lose money, and most films cost more to make than they used to, but films that are effects-heavy tend to cost more than average.

In summary, I guess I'm saying that taking everything that's known so far into consideration, naming Blomkamp as director has neither improved nor worsened my attitude towards the Halo film, whereas a large number of other people seem to have raised their expectations; I just don't think it's justified yet.

No track record means no track record; nothing else. It is neither a guaranteor nor a proscriptor for talent. Yes there are differences between the short and long forms of cinema just as there are in other forms of fiction. So what? Authours make the leap all the time. So do directors.

Blomkamp has shown great talent in short works, and has shown a willingness to listen to advice from more experienced directors. I find both promising, but am keeping my expectations well under control.

Let's judge the film by the film's own merits and demerits, shall we?

-- Steve