Yesterday we brought you the news that SHOWTIME is making a 10-episode TV series based on the Halo franchise. It’s a move that has been on the cards ever since the reveal of the Xbox One in 2013. Back then, Microsoft’s new console was being touted as a multimedia hub as much as a games machine. Steven Spielberg was involved with the planned show and, after the failure to get the Halo movie in front of the cameras, hopes were high that this was going to be the thing that brought the franchise to a whole new audience. How involved Spielberg will be with this endeavour we don’t know but it is being produced by Amblin, the company he created with Kathleen Kennedy (now in charge of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars movies) and Frank Marshall (who produced the Back to the Future series, Indiana Jones movies, Jason Bourne franchise, and the Jurassic World films). With the general public consensus being that video games don’t translate well to the big screen, here are our hopes and fears for the Halo TV show.
It might seem a little crass but there is a lot that depends on the budget of this show. While I would never suggest that a huge budget makes a great show, it can be argued that if something is made on a shoestring budget it’s going to struggle. With SHOWTIME being behind this project, you would have to hope that the level of investment will be substantial. They may not be HBO, who throw millions of dollars around at nearly everything they do, but they are still known for producing quality content like Dexter, Ray Donovan, and Homeland. Microsoft has already dabbled with smaller budgeted episodic Halo shows with Halo: The Fall of Reach, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, and Halo: Nightfall. This seems like a prestige project, though, and that’s exactly what Halo needs and deserves.
You can throw as much money as you want at a show but if there isn’t quality talent in front of and behind the camera then it will just be a waste. There are signs that this endeavour is on the right foot with the people involved. On board as executive producers are Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey from Amblin Television. While you may not have heard of them, their work includes The Borgias, Falling Skies, Extant, Under The Dome, and the brilliant The Americans. This shows a track record of shows with significant budgets, an understanding of science-fiction, and great storytelling. Producers are obviously important but arguably the most important parts of any project are the writer and the director. On script duties is Kyle Killen who will also be the showrunner. Killen has a bit of a mixed filmography as he created the shows Lone Star (cancelled after the second episode), Mind Games (cancelled after one season), and Awake (cancelled after one season despite great critical reviews). He also wrote the movie The Beaver which starred Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster (who also directed). What is a bit more exciting is the director that SHOWTIME has lined up to direct the pilot and several episodes. Rupert Wyatt is best known for rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but he also directed the Mark Wahlberg movie The Gambler, the brilliant prison escape movie The Escapist, and the intriguing Captive State that is due to release next year.
We may know the talent behind the camera and can guess that it will receive a decent budget from the channel behind the show but we have no idea about the story or setting that will be used. I think the first thing that has to be confirmed is that Master Chief is involved. Out of the thirteen games that have borne the Halo name only 5 have featured Master Chief. Despite this, Master Chief is so synonymous with Halo that the idea of doing a big budget TV show without him seems crazy. The budget will also determine what kind of setting the game will have. At its core, Halo is a shooter franchise so it needs to be action-packed and bordering on a war movie/show. The games feature huge action set-pieces with hundreds of marines battling grunts, elites, and more. With this being what fans are used to, it would seem strange for the show to tell a small intimate story with only the occasional small-scale gun-fight. What we want is an engrossing story, focussed on Master Chief, that occurs over the backdrop of the epic battle against the covenant.
How to handle Master Chief
Of course, one of the most important factors in a Halo show is how they handle Master Chief. Like I said earlier, he really has to be prominent in the show and I would love it to be focused around him. The most important thing about the way they handle him is that they never show his face. While this may suck for the actor who gets to play him it is essential to the mythos and mystique of the character. If we never see the face of Master Chief it does mean that they can do the other thing that would help to sell a TV version of Master Chief and that is to bring Steve Downes on to voice the character. Downes has been the voice of Master Chief through all of the games and the idea of hearing someone else’s voice coming from beneath that iconic helmet is just wrong. One thing they should avoid is providing us with a comprehensive history and background of the character. Master Chief is a genetically engineered soldier. He doesn’t need a reason to be the heroic superstar he is because he was created to be that way. We don’t need to know his deep motivations because he is following orders and doing what is right for the entire human race.
We have all wanted a quality Halo TV show or movie for years. With SHOWTIME and Amblin Entertainment behind this project, the omens certainly look good. Here’s hoping that they pull it off and bring a great Halo story that fans old and new alike will enjoy. What do you want to see in the Halo TV show and what should they avoid, sound off in the comments section below.