When you're as big and powerful as Microsoft is, you don't need to compromise and you don't have to say please. At least, that's what the men behind the Xbox brand thought when they took one of the crown jewel franchises of videogames to Tinseltown with dollar signs in their eyes.
One might think that green-lighting a film based on a franchise that grossed upwards of $600 million in just four years would be a no-brainer, but for the Halo movie it just wasn't meant to be. Even in a world where games continue to look more and more like summer blockbusters, the entire ordeal illustrated the dissimilarities between Hollywood and the games industry.
In his new book Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood, Jamie Russell paints a picture of two camps, unable to truly "understand understand each other’s culture, needs and language."
Demanding unprecedented control over the IP, Microsoft's terms included $10 million against 15% of the box office gross, a budget upwards of $75 million, and fast tracked production. Additionally they sought creative approval over the director, cast, and post-production. To do so they required whichever studio that picked up the script to front the bill for regular flights from Seattle to Los Angeles as well as an addition 60 first-class tickets for Microsoft employees and guests to attend the premiere.
If that sounds unreasonable, you aren't the only one who thought so. Director Neill Blomkamp asserts that "One of the complicating factors with Halo was that Microsoft wasn’t the normal party that you’d go off and option the IP from and make your product. Because Microsoft is such an omnipresent, powerful corporation, they weren’t just going to sit back and not take a massive cut of the profits.
"When you have a corporation that potent and that large taking a percentage of the profits, then you’ve got Peter Jackson taking a percentage of the profits and you start adding all of that stuff up, mixed with the fact that you have two studios sharing the profits, suddenly the return on the investment starts to decline so that it becomes not worth making. Ultimately, that’s essentially what killed the film.”
In the end we're left with Blomkamp's test footage, (also seen above) a collection of shorts made with Universal's $12 million of preliminary budget that would eventually be used in promotion of Halo 3. Barring Microsoft and movie studios actually learning how to communicate, I'm afraid that's as close as Master Chief will be getting to the silver screen any time soon.