Thursday, August 25, 2005
Gamers will understand the excitement: the smash hit Halo is coming to movie theaters.
The company’s “Halo” video-game franchise and its hero, Master Chief, will provide the basis for a major movie under a deal between Microsoft and movie studios Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.
Microsoft confirmed the agreement Wednesday after months of speculation in Hollywood and the video-game world. The company declined to disclose the financial terms, but Daily Variety reported that Microsoft will receive 10 percent of the box-office receipts, including a guaranteed $5 million in advance.
There’s a hazard in bringing a video game to the big screen. At best, the typical video game is a little shallow on plot, and they don’t easily translate from a fun, fast-paced button masher to an engaging, semi-intelligent film. I’m actually heartened by the fact that Microsoft is involved; I can’t believe that they would let their franchise be trashed by some idiot filmmaker.
For that matter, that Alex Garland, writer of The Beach and 28 Days Later, will be handling the script seems like a good sign. He might not be the best scriptwriter, but he’s no geeky neophyte. Ultimately, I would like to see a good movie, not just a good game movie. Pirates of the Caribbean was brilliant fun because, although it took its basis from a tiny Disney World amusement ride, it only took that as the germ of a good movie concept. Halo needs to do the same if it wants to succeed as something more than a monument for the kids that played the game.
Of course, they also need to hire the right actor to play Master Chief, the tough and gruff hero of the game. It needs to be someone with physical presence, the ability to play out credible action sequences, and a little bit of age (since Master Chief most certainly isn’t a youngster). Pretty boys need not apply: this guy is a little rough around the edges, battle-scarred, and rugged.
My top five to play the role:
- Denzel Washington. I never really thought of Denzel as an action hero until I saw Man on Fire. This man has the physical presence, the star power, the acting abilities, and that intangible something that lets you know that he is a serious bad ass. The only question that I have is would he take the job?
- Jason Statham. Just watch Snatch or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and realize that this guy could play the brutally violent, rugged role to perfection. What he lacks in bulk, he more than makes up for in harsh delivery.
- Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel really can’t act. I mean, he can act tough, intimidating, and mean, but that’s really just a function of his huge body, bullet-shaped bald head, rumbling voice, and powerful glare. Vin Diesel could be a brilliant Master Chief if he never has to show an emotion other than crankiness.
- Russell Crowe. He doesn’t have the same physical presence of others on the list, but he does have the look of an honest-to-God military man. Instead of the unrealistic bulk of a Vin Diesel, Crowe looks like a guy who you might run into at the PX--but you avoid because of his habit of drinking and being a mean bastard.
- The Rock. Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, proved in Be Cool that he has just enough in the way of acting talent to be both a funny and intimidating presence on screen. A surprising role for him, but one that makes me think that he might be able to hold the center of a movie like Halo.
And my bottom five:
- Nicholas Cage. I like Nicholas Cage and I could see some misguided soul trying to shoehorn him into this role--and what a huge mistake it would be. He would be woefully unconvincing and far too small.
- Ice Cube. What the hell were the producers of XXX: State of the Union thinking? Ice Cube is funny and charismatic, but he makes a crappy action hero.
- Matt Damon. The Bourne movies convinced me that Matt Damon can actually be an action star, but more in the realm of an American counterpart to James Bond than as a hardened, brutal military man.
- Viggo Mortensen. Please, his role as Aragorn was a fluke. The reality is that this guy isn’t really manly enough to pull off being Master Chief.
- The Rock. And here I look at the other side of The Rock. Here is my problem with him in the role: he’s just finished playing a character in Doom, which would make a starring role in Halo a bit odd. On top of that, he comes across as very studied and polished--not exactly a pretty boy, but not really rough around the edges, either.
I hope they get it right. Signing the right person to the lead role will be almost as important as making sure that the script stays true to the store without being self-destructively slavish to the games.