Microsoft's harsh contract terms killed Halo movie

Ever wonder what happened to that Halo movie we used to hear about? Apparently Microsoft asked a little (read: way) too much from the studios, and it might have been a good thing that they did, according to an excerpt from Jamie Russell's Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood over at Wired.

After sifting through the long article so that you don't have to test your attention span, we learned some pretty interesting stuff. For instance, the script for the movie was apparently delivered to several studios by actors wearing full Spartan armor. With that script was a terms sheet, which would cause a lot of grief.

Basically, the excerpt says that Microsoft wanted full control over how the movie was going to be made and they wanted it to be made to some very specific terms. Considering how important the Halo property is to them, that's not really all that surprising. The problem, according to the excerpt, was that Microsoft's terms approached film making the same way they would approach a software product: in absolutes.

What sort of demands did they have? Well, for starters, they wanted $10 million against 15% of the film's gross, fast production, creative approval over the director, regular flights from Microsoft HQ to LA to check up on production, and lots and lots of tickets to the premiere. Oh, and 60 first class plane tickets to get to the premiere. As Larry Shapiro of the talent agency CAA put it, “not even Harry Potter, was getting [what we were asking for].” They also wanted to keep all the merchandising rights.

Long story short, Fox and Universal ended up teaming up on the project, and brought in Peter Jackson (Microsoft's first choice for director) as producer, and tapped Neill Blomkamp to direct. Unfortunately, Blomkamp wanted to make a movie that was not “just a generic, boring film – something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.” It turned out that that was exactly the kind of movie that the folks at Fox wanted to make. Then the whole thing fell apart because of Microsoft's refusal to budge on money issues.

Still, Blomkamp did manage to get a little bit of work done, and some of the early footage got recycled into a live action promo for Halo 3, which you can check out below. Hopefully a fully finished movie would've looked a whole lot better, but we think it's better to have no movie than to have a “some crap like... Hollywood produces.” On the other hand, Shapiro says that it "could've been Avatar."

The excerpt has a lot of other interesting tidbits in it, too, like the fact that Microsoft didn't approach Columbia, since it's owned by rival Sony. If you've got the time, it's probably worth the read.

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29 Comments

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Regardless of the reasoning, good on them. Video games need to stop becoming films. The only remotely decent game adaptation I can recall in the last 20 years was that Advent Children thing, which probably managed to become what it did *because* it didn't have Hollywood behind it.

Then again, the same company brought us Spirits Within, which was pure ass, so not much consistency there.

deadonthefloor said,
The last thing you could call me is a halo fan, however, I do think the fans deserve something that adds to canon, not breaking from it.

Indeed. I'm not a fan either, but it would be a waste of licensing an IP to not follow close to the Halo story and universe... Though there are certainly places there where Microsoft could have been much more reasonable. lol

LaP said,
The Halo movie has been made. It's called District 9.

A lot of the R&D towards HALO made it into DISTRICT 9. There's a lot of gear/computer interfaces/etc that are very HALO-ish.

Hopefully the success of that film will make MS reconsider.

Kinda like Doom lol. Not sure how it would have turned out, but if the movie tanked I wonder if that would have had an adverse effect on the games.

Good on Microsoft actually, better no movie then bad one that negatively impacted the brand with MS not getting compensated in the way in which they wanted for the risk.

If only someone had've stopped that abomination adaption of Max Payne from being made. That was an absolute travesty to the story that the game had. It completely ignored most things about it and became another crappy "action" flick.

Sounds like Fox wanted to do another "Max Payne" style adaption, but for Halo.

I remember seeing this clip a few years ago and if done right, with the proper script/narrative, a Halo movie could have been up there with Aliens as far as action was concerned and right up there with District 9 when it came to story.
Although the footage reminds me more of Starship Troopers (mindless fun, not the smartest movie though).

Dot Matrix said,
A prospective Halo movie needs to lay low for a bit. Could you imagine Michael Bay or JJ Abrhams doing this?

All Michael Bay movies are the same... Pass

Dot Matrix said,
A prospective Halo movie needs to lay low for a bit. Could you imagine Michael Bay or JJ Abrhams doing this?
JJ Abrams would have/could still do magic things with this IP. Would be an excellent choice.

Dot Matrix said,
A prospective Halo movie needs to lay low for a bit. Could you imagine Michael Bay or JJ Abrhams doing this?

Michael Bay needs to quit making movies.
He's killed my childhood.

deadonthefloor said,

Michael Bay needs to quit making movies.
He's killed my childhood.

If your childhood was defined by a poorly animated long commercial for toys it deserves it. Think of it as a mercy killing.

The footage doesnt look interesting.

But it is only footage.

I could see a well developed, and worthwhile watching, halo movie.

So according to this

"Unfortunately, Blomkamp wanted to make a movie that was not “just a generic, boring film - something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.” It turned out that that was exactly the kind of movie that the folks at Fox wanted to make. Then the whole thing fell apart because of Microsoft's refusal to budge on money issues."

Microsoft was fine with letting Fox turn it to to generic boring thing but the issue with them was the money issues only?

Jason Stillion said,
So according to this

"Unfortunately, Blomkamp wanted to make a movie that was not “just a generic, boring film - something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.” It turned out that that was exactly the kind of movie that the folks at Fox wanted to make. Then the whole thing fell apart because of Microsoft's refusal to budge on money issues."

Microsoft was fine with letting Fox turn it to to generic boring thing but the issue with them was the money issues only?

You know, he doesn't really go too much into that. But it does mention that Microsoft's original script was 'steeped in the lore of the setting,' or something along those lines. It sounds like they couldn't get together on anything with the studios.

xiphi said,
Good thing it was cancelled. That video was horrible.

Agreed, all that 7 minute clip was was useless action with no story! I thought that's what the director did NOT want!

andrewbares said,
Agreed, all that 7 minute clip was was useless action with no story! I thought that's what the director did NOT want!

It's obviously incomplete. It would be intercut with the whatever plot the actual film had. It's just like watching the beginning of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN without any Tom Hanks scenes in it.

Not hugely over the top; Halo being Microsoft's IP and given how completely $hithouse movie adoptations of games can be (and usually are). Still I think a bad Halo would have to be better than Battleship!

trip21 said,
Not hugely over the top; Halo being Microsoft's IP and given how completely $hithouse movie adoptations of games can be (and usually are). Still I think a bad Halo would have to be better than Battleship!

That's not a good thing, Battleship is proof that Hollywood has literally run out of ideas and is now looking over boxes of ****ing board games for inspiration. -_-

This video shows some of the most intense combat footage ever done ... Kudos to the director and everyone else involved. The game was let down after I saw this ...

KomaWeiss said,
How did we know that Microsoft was going to screw it up for us.

Sounds like they prevented the same generic Hollywood crap being spewed out. Fair play to them - chances are if this was given the go ahead under new terms your quote would read "How did we know that Fox was going to screw it up for us."