The Halo Movie : How To Make it Well

There needs to be a Halo movie. Just watch these two shorts (the first directed by Neill Blomkamp) and just agree with me on how awesome this could be.

There’s been speculation since the acclaimed release of Halo 2 that Microsoft would team up with a movie studio to make a film out of their blockbuster franchise. Numerous projects have started and stopped, with the names Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp attached, but nothing has ever gained any traction.  Although Halo 4 Forward Unto Dawn could be viewed as the Halo movie, and although it was in fact fantastically well done and about an hour and a half in total length, at a $10 million budget it comes to about 1/10th or 1/15th of what a large production would cost. With the upcoming release of the Xbox One and Steven Spielberg’s promise to release a Halo TV series along with it, there is much doubt about the creation of a Halo film happening at all. However, if it were to happen for real, here’s how it should happen.

1. The Plot

Although a first person shooter game, the overall plot to the Halo series is a rather good one, with scores of books and lore being spawned outside of the video game series. To me, it makes the most sense to tackle the series from the exact beginning, or to tell the story as mostly presented in Halo : Combat Evolved. Although criticized for its seemingly uncanonical approach, besides the game we can draw on the book Halo : The Flood amongst anything else in the Halo universe to help support the plot. I’m not going to rehash the plot of the entire game and novel for you, if you really want to know what happens just play the game or read the book.

The movie will begin with a prelude similar to a 007 movie or JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. In it, we’ll see Noble Six from Halo Reach delivering the package to Captain Keyes, who then boards the Pillar of Autumn and takes off in conjunction with Cortana’s coordinates under heavy enemy fire. As the Pillar heads into Slipspace and arrives at Halo Installation 04 with the enemy already present there, the movie really gets underway.

In order to punch the ticket for Blockbuster status, the Halo movie will need to follow the four main characters, Captain Keyes, Sgt. Avery Junior Johnson, Master Chief John 117, and Cortana. The audience will have a tough time identifying with the Spartan supersoldier Master Chief during the onset of the film, which is where Keyes and Johnson have to take over, by giving the mere humans the emotional roles. It will seem at first that MC is just a cold aloof soldier that is really good at fighting and does cool stuff, but once the credits roll the writers and directors will have to shift the audience’s identification from Johnson and Keyes to John and Cortana. Master Chief will partially evolve through the movie as his relationship with Cortana is brought to light, and he begins to reveal his human side other than what could be taken for as a cyborg in a metal suit. Given that Keyes is imprisoned and killed about 2/3 of the way through, the transitional period from him being the emotional center to Master Chief becoming the relatable crux will need to happen right at the instant of his passing. Keyes’ humanity can be shown through his commanding decisions and flashbacks to his daughter Miranda, and her mother Catherine Halsey. Johnson is more of the comic relief badass marine, who has seen more than his fair share of war (especially by being where the war started and being on Harvest) and is scarred by it, yet continues to trudge on despite his personal losses.

The risky section of this movie is there are times where the main characters will all be split up doing different things. Although not often, there will be occasions when Keyes will be at one place, Johnson another, Master Chief another, and the villains yet another. The writers may have to mess with canon a little bit to simplify things, as when in films such as Return of the Jedi, following three or four different character lines at once can be too much. They will need to take a page from The Return of the King and keep everything simple and coherent. Although you have what was happening in Mordor, Gondor, Rohan, Minas Morgul, and the Paths of the Dead all at once, everything came together seamlessly by not spending too much time apart and focusing on the most important parts of the film. You don’t switch scenes in the middle of battle or of a major plot point, instead you let it play out until such a time where everything coherently makes sense.

The other key part of this movie will be the main villain. Although the parasitic flood will turn out to be the main enemy, the film needs to craft Thel ‘Vadam (the Arbiter) as the antagonist. As shown in the beginning cutscenes from Halo 2, he is the Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice that follows the Pillar of Autumn to Halo. A lot of movies nowadays are make or break when it comes to the villain. Iron Man 3 was rubbish because of an awful villain, whereas The Dark Knight was amazing because of a fantastic one. The directors and writers will need to draw from other films that have alien species as antagonists (I’m mostly looking at Star Trek and perhaps parts of District 9 in this case) and create a humanistic/modern feel to them, such as juxtaposing the religion of the Covenant to overzealous terrorism, and the Covenant corruption and caste system to present day examples of government scandals and class separation. The thing we learn about Thel throughout the movie is that although he’s the villain, he isn’t exactly in the wrong as he is merely following the orders of the Prophets. Even though The (future) Arbiter the primary antagonist, he is more of a sympathetic one guarded by codes of honor and loyalty.

Finally, the movie will have to run in a non-linear style, similar to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. We’ll need flashbacks explaining the origins of the Master Chief and the Spartan program, along with some explanations on the Covenant side of how the war came to be. Starting off with the destruction of Reach is a good introduction for the characters and action, but as the film progresses there will need to be seamless explanations for those that are not familiar with the Halo universe.

2. The Cast

The problem with casting for a Halo movie is that your main character, The Master Chief John 117, is encased in his high-powered suit, the Mjolnir Mark V body armor the entire time. And in order to stay true to Halo lore so far, you can’t reveal his face as it sits under the suit. Which means, in order to better connect with your audience, Master Chief needs to be one of the films main characters, if not the main one. The good thing about this is that the iconic voice of the MC for the past 12 years, Steve Downes, can remain in his role, and we can save some room on the budget as far as casting goes. But in order for a more humanistic feel, who do we cast in other roles?

First and foremost, Captain Jacob Keyes. George Clooney or Bruce Greenwood. Greenwood already fits the bill as being Captain Christopher Pike and Star Trek, but Clooney has the acting chops to pull it off very well, creating an emotional and identifiable character.

Secondly, Sgt. Avery Junior Johnson. Either Idris Elba or Denzel Washington. Again, same scenario as above. Elba played a fantastic Marshal Pentecost in Pacific Rim, but Washington is the superior actor and has a better feel for an ironic comic relief role. Plus, as Man on Fire, American Gangster, and The Book of Eli have proved, he’s already got the badass part down.

Third, Catherine Halsey needs to be Bonnie Hunt. Because, who else in Hollywood can you picture playing Halsey well in a minor role?

Cortana can still be voiced by Jen Taylor and Thel ‘Vadam as Keith David as dictated in the video game.

Casting Miranda Keyes as an adult is something I would choose not to do for this movie, simply because if there’s a sequel made she needs to be a main character, and actress continuity for a small part in this installment to a starring role in the next might be tough to find.

3. The Director

I would love for any of the following directors to be in charge of this movie. Those being JJ Abrams, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, or Zack Snyder. Unfortunately, Cameron and Nolan only deal in their pet projects, and Abrams is tied up in Star Wars and Star Trek just as Snyder is tied up in the DC Justice League universe.

Which leaves three names out there, two that we’ve already visited in Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson. After seeing what Guillermo del Toro did with Pacific Rim, and his ties with Ron Perlman (who is Lord Hood in Halo 2 and 3), his name should be submitted for candidacy as well.

And in all honesty, I’d be okay with any of those men directing in conjunction with production from Steven Spielberg. I like Blomkamp’s sci-fi flicks in District 9 and Elysium, but I don’t know how well he would do creating a PG-13 movie, as he does like to attend the Peter Jackson school of gore at times. Under tutelage from Spielberg I think he could flourish and create a spellbinding sci-fi epic, but that is all up to him.

Should the Halo movie be made as I spell it out? If you have any ideas that shine brighter than mine, let me know in the comments. There’s nothing that I love more than speculation on something that will never happen.

 
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My Favorite Lazy Saturday Video Game Missions

Have you ever had a wide open Saturday afternoon, where there was nothing to do outside because of the weather, and all that was on TV is garbage college football and re-runs of early 90’s movies? I can’t really say that I have, at least not for several years, but there was a time in my life where I would stare at my video game shelf and all my completed games and ponder what to play. Nowadays, I have an adult life and so many games to play (just on Xbox 360 I need to finish The Walking Dead Episodes 2-4, Dead Space 3, Batman Arkham City, Forza Horizon, Alan Wake : American Nightmare all the while needing to start Call of Duty Black Ops 2 while my attention now is wholly diverted to Grand Theft Auto V. And this isn’t even mentioning the 20 or so titles on original Xbox that I would love to get around to) that I don’t have time to go through some of my favorite games and their nostalgic replay value. But, if in such a fantasy land this were possible, here are the five missions I would choose to replay.

5. Star Wars Battlefront II – A Line in the Sand           

As a kid, this was the game that got me in the most trouble with my parents, and that I played the most. Back when I was 15 or so, on summer nights I would often steal my parents 20-year-old JC Penny television and put it in my room. Because they never used it, and it was usually sitting unplugged in their room, it would take a couple of days for them to realize that it went missing. By that time, I had already logged a good 10-15 hours playing Battlefront II, staying up late in the warm summer air blitzing my way through missions, and getting to the point where I was untouchable in this game. As far as the campaign goes, although not quite as solid an overall game as the original Battlefront, the storyline was far superior. In order to get the full realization of this mission, you have to play it on the hardest difficulty. Taking place on the planet of Kashyyyk, the most difficult parts originate from having to defend the oil fields (which have a finite amount of health) from a non-stop Separatist onslaught for about three minutes or so. While on lower difficulties you can just get in a tank and run a train, you’re dead in the water if you try this on hard, as the droid tanks will tear you a new one, while their buddies on foot will massacre the oil fields. It’s best to take out some rockets, lay mines, and get into the thick of things and just get messy to beat this mission. Once you defend the fields, you have to take the fight to the droid army using Yoda, who was in my experience the hardest Jedi to use thanks to the absence of saber throw and his small stature. And on hard difficulty, if you die as Yoda when the enemies focus their fire on you, you might as well give up because at that point the reinforcement count is so small that a comeback is next to impossible.

4. Mass Effect 2 – Suicide Mission

Mass Effect 2 wasn’t the best playing experience for me. I was massively disappointed with how it started following the masterpiece that was the original Mass Effect. The new ammunition, removal of the inventory system, and overall hijacking that EA did of the game didn’t make me too happy. There were plenty of bright spots in the game, but despite improved graphics and gameplay, it felt a lot clunkier to me. Still, some of the missions in the game were very well done, such as boarding the Collector ship or the derelict reaper. This includes the final mission, which if you played your cards right, not only did you get to have, um, “relations” with the mega-babe Miranda, but you got to save the galaxy afterward. Being able to choose who would go accomplish what task, such as scouting through the vents (always use Legion) and who creates the biotic shield (Samara or Jack if you desire victory), and seeing how exactly your actions and choices panned out were only part of what made this mission awesome. You also got to rescue your crew, shred Collectors with (if you chose it on the Collector Ship) the Widow sniper rifle, and lay waste to a human reaper with a nuke launcher. Plus, at the end you get to stick it to Martin Sheen, (I mean, The Illusive Man) and get yourself amped up for what was supposed to be an awesome third title.

3. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare : All Ghillied Up

This has to be the best mission in any Call of Duty game made. One of the first ones I have personally ever played, this mission is just completely nail-biting. Crawling under trucks, through wasteland, under brush with a silenced pistol and sniper rifle, trying to remain completely off the grid by placing your shots and timing them perfectly, is just part of the experience that this mission offers. Plus, it’s one of the few missions where you get to play as series protagonist John Price, and it’s a good flashback that offers insight into the story. Having to make the shot that blows off Imran Zakhev’s arm by adjusting for wind and distance is one of the most difficult aspects of the game at first. After that shot, upon being discovered you have to escape to an extraction point while supporting the injured Captain Macmillian, all the while running and gunning with one free arm. It’s the perfect mid Saturday morning mission, right after pancakes and hot chocolate. I really need to be waking up earlier so that I can enjoy some of these things.

2. Halo 4 : Arrival

Although this is the most recent game by far, once this mission hit me I was immediately wowed, making it an instant classic in my mind. The second half of this game and storyline is simply brilliant, and starting a mission where I’m gunning through a Star Wars-esque trench run in a ship as the Master Chief, attempting to stop the Didact from reaching Earth is just so great. Then, I’m tasked with slaying my way through the Forerunner ship, picking up Gravity Hammers, Incineration Cannons and Binary Rifles along the way, while facing down hordes of Knights and Elite Battlewagons. To cap it off, Cortana is completely losing her mind, and decides to go crazy in the general direction of the Didact, who is busy assimilating the members of Earth to achieve his master plan. You inject Cortana into the system to digitally fight the Didact, and then burn your way through masses of Knights with a complete sense of urgency while the best score of any video game yet plays in the background. You come to the last terminal, and face down at least eight or nine Knights, one or two of which is always wielding an Incineration Cannon, and fight desperately for your life. The first time I played this on merely Heroic difficulty, I may have gotten slaughtered ten or eleven times in a row, before finally defeating the Knight Chieftain. Then with a sense of final victory, you get to blow the Didact to kingdom come, but are immediately captivated by the death of Cortana, who heroically takes one for the team to save the Chief. The gameplay, graphics, storyline, and cut scenes make this my favorite Halo mission yet.

1. Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King – Minas Tirith Top of the Wall

Along with Star Wars Battlefront II, this was my favorite game of my teenage years, aside from Halo. Based on, but released before New Line’s feature film, it’s amazing to play this game and remember that 10 years ago that these were cutting edge graphics. At its release, I didn’t yet own a new generation gaming console (being stuck playing NBA Shootout 2000 on PlayStation) so I could only play it in small amounts at the house of my friends or family. In fact, when I first actually bought this game around the age of 14 (about a year and a half after release), my parents forced me to sell it because they deemed it too violent for me, even though it was rated T for Teen. I played an excessive amount of it at my cousin’s house, who they at first didn’t have a memory card for their PS2. Which meant, in Sony’s nickel-and-dime-you-for-all-your-money plot, we could not save the game at any point whatsoever. So unless they kept the console on and paused at the game, we had to start over every single time. The furthest we had ever gotten was to this level, which on the Gandalf track of levels follows Helm’s Deep and The Road to Isengard. It involves playing as Gandalf on the top of the walls in Minas Tirith (as the level title would suggest), knocking down ladders and holding off being overrun by the forces of Mordor. The mini-map was at first rather difficult to decipher, but once you figured out where ladders were dropping and on what side the siege towers were advancing, the game got significantly easier. Apparently there’s a catapult somewhere on the map as well, which can be used to take down siege towers, but to this day I can’t recall how to get there, as instead I would use Gandalf’s ranged lightning attack to destroy them. It’s also possible to take down the flying Nazgul that terrorize the walls, but usually I would be so frantic to prevent being overrun that I paid them no mind. I take pride in the fact that I was the first one to beat this level on the memory card-less Playstation 2, advancing to the next level being Minas Tirith : Courtyard, before getting smashed to bits by trolls.

There are so many other games I could easily add, such as anything from Halo : Combat Evolved, Halo 3, Alan Wake, Mass Effect, Math Blaster, Commander Keen, KoTOR, or any GTA/Red Dead title, but these are the ones that happen to stick out in my mind. As the Pennsylvania weather gets colder, and if I possibly get bored with the massive amounts of titles that I currently have on my to-do list, maybe, just maybe, I will have to make some pancakes and hot chocolate, and play through a casual favorite flashback on a chilly Saturday morning.