Genre: Sci-Fi
Premise: Stranded on a strange planet, a group of marines must fight off an alien enemy while trying to discover the origin of giant artificially constructed halo orbiting the world.
About: Oh boy does this one have a backstory. The Halo movie was one of the surest things in Hollywood. This thing would’ve broken box office records everywhere. And with Peter Jackson taking point as the producer of the series, you might as well have started opening Halo Banks around the Jackson household that just spat out money. Jackson made a controversial choice to helm the the mega-movie, hiring little-known director (at the time), Neil Blomkamp, but that controversy subsided quickly when people saw his jaw-dropping sci-fi short films (one of which is included below). So as everyone eagerly awaited the next big Halo movie news, they were blindsided when the project was abruptly canceled. Why was it canceled? MONEY, of course. The studios are used to having a lot of leverage in these situations. But this time they were going up against a company bigger than they were, Microsoft. Microsoft just wasn’t going to give up all the profits the studios wanted. So they said, “Fuck you.” And that was that. The film was dead. Which is really too bad. It had a great producer, a great director, and a great writer (Alex Garland). All the pieces were in place. But I guess we’ll never get to see that place. What did we miss? Let’s find out.
Writer: Alex Garland
Details: 2/6/05 draft (127 pages)

halo 3

I remember playing the first Halo game. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before on the video game front. My favorite moment was weaving my way through a huge cave, coming out into a valley, and seeing this huge war going on in front of me, with each side lobbing missiles and grenades at each other – the kind of thing you were used to seeing in a cut-scene. I finally realized that it was my job to go INTO that battle. I was about to become a part of it. It all felt so seamless, so realistic, so organic. Video games just hadn’t done that before then. And on top of that, there was this really cool story going on the whole time about this “Halo” thing floating up in the sky. A big reason I kept charging through the levels was to find out more about that giant mysterious object. The combination of that seamless lifelike playability and the great story made Halo one of the best video games I’d ever played.

Naturally, like everyone else, I couldn’t wait for the sequel. And when it finally arrived, I was quietly devastated. Gone was the focus on story, replaced by a focus on multi-player. I’m not going to turn this into a debate about which is better. All I can say is what’s more important to me. Since you guys read this blog, you already know the answer to that. Story story story. I don’t remember anything about the Halo 2 story and checked out afterwards. I never even played Halo 3.

Which brings us to the Halo movie. It’s gotta be one of the most interesting video game adaptation challenges ever. The game itself is inherently cinematic, which should make it an easy base for a film. However, it’s also heavily influenced by past films, particularly Aliens, which essentially makes it a copy of a copy. How do you avoid, then, being derivative? Also, which story do you tell? Do you retell the story of the first game in cinema form? It’s got the best story in the series by far, but don’t you risk the “been there, done that,” reaction? Or do you try to come up with something completely new? And if you do come up with something new, how does that fit into the chronology of the other games? Oh, and how do you base an entire movie around a character who never takes off his mask? That’s going to be a challenge in itself.

I had all of these questions going on in my read in anticipation of reading Halo. Let’s see how they were answered…

halo_4_master_chief

The year is 2552. A species of nasty aliens known as The Covenant are waging an all-out war against the human race. A “holy” war they call it. “Holy” code for “turn every single human into red pulp.” In the midst of a large scale space battle, the largest of the human ships, the “Pillar of Autumn” is able to make a light speed jump out of the action.

They arrive outside a unique planet with an even unique(er) moon – A HALO (“You can be my Halo…halo halo!”). This artificial HALO moon thing is fascinating but before the humans can start snapping cell phone pictures of it, the Covenant zips out of lightspeed behind them and starts attacking their ship!

Captain Keyes senses that his ship is about to be shredded into a billion slivers of steel so he wakes up his secret weapon, and our hero, Master Chief. Master Chief is part of a supreme soldier project called the “Spartans” (apparently their creator was a Michigan State fan). He’s insanely tall, insanely strong, and is coated with some super-armor that could probably deflect a nuclear bomb.

Keyes tells Master Chief he needs him to take the ship’s AI, a witty little female thingy named Cortana, to the safety of the planet below. If the Covenant catch her, they’ll have access to all sorts of revealing stuff, including the location of Earth, which would allow them to deliver their final blow to mankind.

Master Chief obliges because that’s his job, to oblige. So Cortana is wired into Master Chief’s suit and down they head to the planet for safety. Once there, they encounter a couple of problems. The first is that the Covenant are coming down to the planet to blow their asses out of the jungle. The second is that there seems to be some long-since-left-behind alien structures all over the planet, tech that belonged to a previous species much more advanced than both the humans and the Covenant. And this tech looks to have been created for nefarious purposes.

Somehow, they realize, this all ties back to Halo, and it’s looking like the only way they’re going to get out of here AND save the universe from these spooky ancient aliens, is to blow Halo up, something that isn’t going to be easy with the oblivious Covenant trying to kill them at every turn.

00026609.Cortana.from.Halo

Uhhh, does this plot sound familiar to you? That’s because it is! It’s the exact same plot, beat for beat, as the video game. Sigh. Yup, Halo: The Movie was just a direct adaptation of Halo 1. I don’t know if I wasn’t into it because I always knew what was coming next or if the story didn’t translate well, but I often felt impatient and bored while reading Halo. Garland did a solid job visualizing the story for us. But I still felt empty afterwards.

A big part of that had to do with Master Chief. I was worried about him beforehand because in the video game, like a lot of video games, you don’t know much about your hero, mainly because the hero is you! You’re doing all the running around and the jumping and the shooting and the thinking, so regardless of whether the guy has any backstory or not, you feel a deep connection to him because you’re controlling him.

A movie is different though. We need to have some sympathy or empathy for the hero, and a good portion of this is built on your main character’s life, what’s happened to him before he’s reached this point. There’s a recurring dream sequence where Master Chief is on some battlefield and gets saved by a marine that’s SUPPOSED to make us feel something for him, but I’m still unclear as to what that was. His haunting backstory is that someone had to save him on a battlefield? Not exactly the stuff that wins writers Oscars.

But what really hurts Halo is how damn reactive Master Chief is. He doesn’t do anything unless someone tells him to do it. “You have to bring Cortana down to the planet.” “You have to go back up and save Captain Keyes.” “You have to go find the map that will lead us to the Halo Control Room.” Again, that kind of stuff works in a game because IT’S NEEDED. If there wasn’t someone telling us what to do, we wouldn’t know where to move our character. We wouldn’t have any direction.

But in movies (ESPECIALLY action movies), we need a character who’s active, who makes his own decisions. Or at least we usually do. There was this overwhelming sense of passivity in Halo, like we’re being pulled along on a track, at the mercy of a conductor announcing, “We will be arriving at the midpoint in twelve minutes. Midpoint in twellll-ve minutes.” Why can’t we be in the cockpit of a plane, making our decisions on where the hell we want to go?

And so the story quickly brought on this predictable quality to it. Every section was perfectly compartmentalized. Here’s mission 1. Here’s mission 2. Here’s mission 3. There was no freedom to the story like there was in, say, a Star Wars, where something unpredictable would happen every once in awhile (the planet they spent the first 45 minutes preparing to get to is gone upon their arrival!).

I DID like the idea of adding a MacGuffin here (Cortana) but unlike other movies with strong Macguffins (Star Wars – R2-D2, Raiders – The Ark, Pirates – the gold coin) I never really got the sense that the Covenant wanted Cortana that badly. If everybody isn’t desperately trying to get the MacGuffin, then there’s no point in having one.

But I think whichever incarnation the Halo movie takes (assuming it gets made), they need to focus a lot harder on the character of Master Chief. Really get into who he is and what he is and how he got here and how he’s going to overcome whatever issues he’s dealing with.  That stuff matters in movies.  There was a hint in the script of Master Chief being this genetic anomaly, a non-human. Why not explore that? This feeling of not fitting in? It’s one of the most identifiable feelings there is and has worked for numerous other sci-fi franchises (Star Trek, X-Men). Not that any of this will affect box office receipts, of course. But if they want to actually make a GOOD MOVIE, something that lives beyond opening weekend and brings new fans to the game itself, more attention to character ain’t going to hurt.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: I think there are three kinds of characters. There’s the active character, the reactive character, and the passive character. The active character is almost always best (i.e. Indiana Jones) since it’ll mean your hero is driving the story. The Reactive character is the second best option (i.e. Master Chief). “Reactive” essentially means your character waits for others to tell them to do something, and then the character does it. I don’t prefer this character type but at least he’s doing things. He’s still pursuing goals and pushing the story forward. The passive character is the worst option. The passive character is usually doing little to nothing. They don’t initiate anything. They don’t react to anything. They’re often letting the world pass them by. The most recent example I can think of for a passive character is probably Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg” with Ben Stiller. Didn’t see it? Exactly, nobody did. Because who wants to watch a character sit around all day doing nothing?

  • Avishai

    A reactive action hero? That’s awkward. And surprising, considering Alex Garland’s pedigree. 28 Days Later had a great active hero. So did Dredd.

    Actually, Dredd himself sounds similar to Master Chief. A helmet covers his face the whole time. He doesn’t really develop. His backstory is murky.

    Why did that work? Probably because of two things: 1, his indistinctness made him distinct, in that it defined him rather than just describing him, and 2, he was active. Well, at first he was reactive- he was trapped and people were trying to kill him. But then he turned it around and waged his own war.

    I guess video games are just inherently difficult to adapt. Has anyone ever seen a genuinely good video game movie? I don’t think they can’t be done well, but why haven’t they so far? Probably because the writer overestimates the material. ‘The game was exciting, why not just throw it on screen?’ But then you need to make a real story out of it, something concrete, which is difficult when working off a plank page, and perhaps even moreso when dealing with something pre-existing.

    I wonder how the Assassin’s Creed movie with Michael Fassbender will turn out. An actor is developing it- think he’ll put work into character building?

    On a side note, I miss the newsletter. Does it still exist?

    • yeebarr

      Good question Avishai; I’m trying to rack my brain to think of one decent video game adaption….um Double Dragon? (But that may come down to my disturbing man-crush for Scott Wolf)

      I think video game adaptions are a no win proposition; stray too far from the game plot and the game geeks get angry. Stay too close and it’s just boring. But it might be worth exploring on the SS forums; see if we can’t think of a decent idea for a video game movie (Incidentally have you heard they’re making Zork into a movie? Cuh-razy!)

      Re: the newsletter – I’m still getting it. But that may because: (a) my comments on the forums are beyond awesome and/or (b) I bought Carson’s book (and reviewed it!).

      How’s your next draft of your zombie script going?

      • Avishai

        All I hope for is a decent Portal movie, for my little brother’s sake.

        I also comment frequently, and I bought and reviewed the book… wouldn’t it be funny if my being locked out right after my AF script was reviewed is actually intentional? “He wrote a sub par script! Banish him!” I’m sure it’s a problem with the mailing system. Carson’s not (that) evil.

        My next draft is going well. It’s not a page one rewrite, but I have reconsidered the structure of the first two acts. For one, the third act twist is now known to the audience from the first scene. I’m using it for dramatic irony. On top of that, it lets me deal more with Cora’s character goal.

        G: Cora must prove to Elaine that she’s overcome her trauma and mental blocks…
        U: … by the end of the week, when a nearby military base (previously unknown to the characters) will send out a helicopter with empty seats…
        S: …or she’ll miss the only opportunity she might ever have to leave the city, as Elaine won’t leave with her if there’s the slightest chance of her regressing back into her infected insanity. On top of that, the reason the helicopter is leaving so soon is that the area is about to be inundated with zombies, and they don’t want to be around for the storm.

        All this, and she must keep her condition a secret from the brothers who would kill her if they knew she had been a zombie.

        I’m on page 50 of my rough draft of my new draft. So, I’m about a one thousandth done.

        • yeebarr

          Re: the mailing list. Heh. I thought it would be the other way around. “Man…this guy talks and talks and talks…but where the hell is his script?? Banish him!!”

          I thought at least getting reviewed on AF would allow you to move on to the next level – the inner sanctum of writers Carson is trying to start up (but maybe you need a” worth the read” to get into that – small list! :) )

          Re: your script – it sounds pretty good. As I said before I thought you had an interesting take of the zombie genre so I hope you’re able to amp up the GSU to make a kick-ass next draft. I’ve been throwing around (out) a few ideas, trying to see if I can write a zombie script which is more a straight out adventure than horror. But early days yet (and a big shout out to my day job for sucking every ounce of energy I have to work on it)…so I can only envy the one thousandth you’ve done.

          All the best Avishai; keep the zombie fans on the forums posted on your progress!

  • carsonreeves1

    lol, I take no offense at all. And I’m more than happy to post it. :)

  • ripleyy

    I remember reading this (or at least a version of it) a while ago and I agree that it’s quite passive. But the thing is, is I never played Halo so for me I enjoyed the story, I loved where it got me.

    If you’re not into Halo, you’ll love it. You’ll feel the story but if you’ve played it, apparently it’s not as original as I thought. Still, if they got this made it would be incredible because so many people want it. But does it work? I may have liked the story but in the end, it just felt quite…I don’t know, reactive is definitely something it needs to overcome.

    Though, to me, DOOM is still a great movie. Such a guilty pleasure.

    • garrett_h

      DOOM was terrible for me. They completely butchered the game. It was atmospheric, action packed and terrifying. The movie is a soulless and ridiculous action flick and an adaptation in name only. Even the monsters were different. So disappointed…

  • darren

    Sometimes you gotta through the script rule book out the window.

    For me, the Character of Master Chief doesn’t need to be explored at all. Maybe a clear goal at best. What would I do?

    Watch a little Paul Verhoeven.

    Get down and dirty with the visuals. Get edgy.

    I read this a few months ago and re-read it recently. It’s a very professional script and I think Alex was working within a very regulated plot and beat list from Microsoft. His job was to get it down visually and from a movie going experience. Which I think he accomplished with gusto.

    All parties have the audience in mind. And this audience won’t necessarily care if MC lost his wife when her shopping bags got caught in the escape pod door 10 years ago, or his pet “Liger” got a few dozen darts from a needler while he was washing his facemask.

    If you can deliver a real life Halo experience, I’m in.

    Was Starship Troopers a masterpiece? Nope.
    Do you re-watch it on a semi regular basis and still get a kick? yes you bloody well do.

    • carsonreeves1

      The way I see it, the hardcore fans show up no matter what, whether it’s a light or deep treatment of the subject matter, but it’s kind of like the difference between the way Michael Bay treated the Transformer franchise and JJ Abrams treated the Star Trek franchise. I’d rather someone look a little deeper.

      • MelanieWyvern

        I would agree that the Michael Bay Transformers movies are awful, but I don’t think any extra character “depth” woven into Shia LeBoeuf’s useless character would benefit the film. If anything, the problem with his character is that he’s too ordinary and insufficiently awesome.

      • JakeBarnes12

        What’s incredible is that the same WRITERS were responsible for both Transformers and the new Star Trek.

        Yet Transformers is garbage for morons and Star Trek is a good mainstream movie.

        The difference? GREAT CHARACTERS.

        You give decent writers like Orci & Kurtzman great characters, they can produce something good.

        You give them plastic toys…

    • MelanieWyvern

      Sometimes you gotta through the script rule book out the window.

      For me, the Character of Master Chief doesn’t need to be explored at all. Maybe a clear goal at best. What would I do?

      All parties have the audience in mind. And this audience won’t necessarily care if MC lost his wife when her shopping bags got caught in the escape pod door 10 years ago, or his pet “Liger” got a few dozen darts from a needler while he was washing his facemask.

      If you can deliver a real life Halo experience, I’m in.

      Was Starship Troopers a masterpiece? Nope.
      Do you re-watch it on a semi regular basis and still get a kick? yes you bloody well do.

      Absolutely.

      It’s that audience-identification factor, the vicarious thrill that a viewer gets when watching a character who’s awesome being awesome and doing awesome things. A trite “flaw” arc, badly handled, can undermine that experience.

      But a goal, yes, and being more active rather than reactive, sure.

    • Montana Gillis

      Of course i watch Starship Troopers on a regular basis! However, I always lament the fact that Denise Richards wasn’t featured in the “Shower Scene”.

  • FD

    I guess that makes me a terrible reader, ‘cos I actually quite enjoy the style – even if Carson’s use of “awhile” annoys me sometimes. Rock on, Carson.

  • carsonreeves1

    I don’t think they do. It’s a little vaguely written in one of the dream scenes that we see his face. Then there’s another scene where he takes off his helmet and the writer makes it VERY CLEAR that we do not see his face, making me question whether we really did see his face in that earlier scene.

    • garrett_h

      Yeah, that scene was pretty weird. It confused me too. We see his face, then later they say “This is a shot over his shoulder. We will NEVER see his face.” Or whatever. Very confusing for me.

      • Citizen M

        You see his face once in a dream. Later he removes his helmet and allows someone else to see his face, but we don’t. Then near the end we see an extreme close up of details of his face, but too close to see his face as a whole. The text says “what we can see is that the face we saw in his dreams is NO LONGER the face he has.”

        • garrett_h

          Yeah, I forgot about that part. Skipped it during my skim re-read.

  • Brandon

    I totally agree with the assessment. I did get sucked into the story but it was more because of my love for the game than for the script itself. I did like the way Garland handled the “faceless hero” aspect of the Master Chief though, hinting at a larger backstory to be explored later.

    My only problem with the article Carson was the glossing over of the backstory behind the movie falling apart. I get this was about the script itself, but the much better story was behind the curtain. It’s a good look into the way Hollywood works. There was an awesome in depth article chronicling the saga, and it was a saga. And Carson it wasn’t money (though that played a part) it was CONTROL. Two studios split the project between themselves and Microsoft also had veto power in decisions as well. They spent more time disagreeing than doing anything else.

    For anyone interested in reading it here’s a link to the excellent Wired article
    http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2012/04/halo-movie-generation-xbox/

  • carsonreeves1

    sorry, been sick with flu all week and my e-mail has suffered (this goes for anyone who’s sent me e-mail — sorry!). send again and I’ll try to get to it. :)

    • Pointbreak

      sent you another email a few minutes ago

  • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

    I recalled D.B. Weiss (of ‘Game of Thrones’) being involved in the Halo project. According to Wilipedia he and Josh Olsen were hired to do a re-write of the Garland script.

    Would be interesting to see how that re-write changed things up…although it does seem that the project is pretty much on ice.

  • gazrow

    Don’t remember Jimithy Christmas posting a comment on Scriptshadow either before or after he listed his Top 10. You sure this isn’t all a cunning ploy just to get your script out there?! Either way, I’m intrigued enough to want to give URINAL VINYL a read.

    • Pointbreak

      This was his post from Dec 31 — the script is under Craig Zahler

      Jimithy_Christmas • a month ago

      The best scripts I read in 2012:
      1. Straight Edge (Rich Wilkes)
      2. John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli)
      3. Hidden (Matt & Ross Duffer)

      and in no particular order:
      Noah (Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel)
      The Equalizer (Richard Wenk)
      Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)
      The Counselor (Cormac McCarthy)
      Viral (Dustin T. Benson)
      Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper)
      The Driver (Zach Luna & Spenser Cohen)
      Bone Tomahawk (Craig Zahler)
      Urinal Vinyl (Jay Eden)
      The Wheelman (Frank Mugavero)
      Pompeii (Lee Batchler & Janet Scott Batchler)

      Most interesting learning experience from studying two
      drafts:
      Ten AKA Breacher (Skip Woods) (117 pgs) (Ayer revisions
      8.2012)
      Ten AKA Breacher (Skip Woods) (129 pgs)

      Biggest letdown for all the buzz:
      The Disciple Program (Tyler Marceca)

      Worst Waste of Paper Award:
      Bermuda (Nathan Brookes & Bobby Lee Darby)

      email me urinalvinyl@gmail.com for the script

    • garrett_h

      Good point, gazrow…

      Definitely makes you go, “Hmmmmm…”

      • Pointbreak

        The post is up there, just take a look

  • Poe_Serling

    To parrot Carson…

    HALO, HALO, HALO.

    What a bunch of fond memories. I used to play the original game like crazy. It just seems like yesterday when I was racing my warthog out of the ticking time bomb known as the Pillar of Autumn.

    And the true beauty of the game for me?

    I always felt it was my one chance to be the star of my own Aliens film… and how cool is
    that.

  • garrett_h

    “Midpoint in twellllllve minutes…” LMFAO

  • ThomasBrownen

    I started playing HALO, but then never made it past the first battle scene, so I was pretty excited to read this. I liked it.

    There was an edge of mystery to it that kept the story interesting, and I like the idea of Cortana and how she developed as the story went along. I was hoping that Cortana would turn out to be more than just a MacGuffin, and for a few pages, I thought she might even get a character arc, but alas, that was not to be.

    So then I finished this and realized it was just the plot of the first game. I’d be kind of bored of the movie if I had played the game, I think. Some character development / background would have been good too. But I’m not sure how much of this is the writer’s fault — it sounds like he was just writing what everyone else told him to, and that was pretty much just to follow the game.

  • garrett_h

    I’ve played all the Halo’s, sans the recently released Halo 4. I’m a huge fan of the series. And I was pretty pumped to see this onscreen. Alas, it doesn’t appear meant to be.

    I remember reading this script a couple years ago, and noticing it was a pretty faithful adaptation. I just skimmed it and Carson is right, it’s pretty much the game, beat for beat. I even recognize the different “levels” like the Stealth Mission, the Rescue Mission, etc.

    Is that good? Is that bad? I dunno. But it’s always a major point when it comes to adapting video games to movies. The most successful videogame-to-movie series is Resident Evil, and it bears ZERO resemblance to the game(s). That might be telling. Fans of the game have basically eschewed it. But the casual moviegoer seems to enjoy it.

    I don’t know what a straight adaptation of Halo will bring to fans of the game. They’ve seen it all before, just at home. They might think it looks cool, but methinks a lot of them would be bored to tears. The casual action movie fan would probably eat this up though. In the end, the fanboys can’t complain that it was butchered because they stayed true to the story, and that’s always a positive. Maybe a faithful adaptation wasn’t a bad idea.

    IMO, movie-to-videogame adaptations have fared much better. And usually what they do is take a side quest story, or a prequel story, or a prologue story that didn’t happen on screen and use that as the basis for the game. You have the Riddick game, Butcher Bay, which had a better story than Chronicles of Riddick. You have the Matrix and LOTR games which expand on the lore and create new characters and missions.

    Maybe that’s the way Hollywood needs to go with these video game adaptations? Either they go fully faithful (Halo) or completely different (Resident Evil). Why not take one of the minor characters (or even the main character), expand their story, and take them on a completely different journey within the universe of the game?

    That way, the studio gets to write an original film instead of copy-pasting the plot from the game booklet. And the game company gets to expand on the universe of their game, and possibly attract more players to the game.

    That would also be the most satisfying route to go for fans of the game and moviegoers alike. They’d each get something fresh, something new, something special out of the experience. The way it is now, one of the groups gets alienated, and that’s no fun.

  • Poe_Serling

    Since we discussed The Thing yesterday and today is about a super solider, I was just
    curious if anybody recalls the film Soldier with Kurt Russell in the lead role.

    The ’98 film was written by David “Blade Runner” Peoples and directed by
    Paul W. S. Anderson.

    I kinda remember digging the action scenes and Russell’s stoic, muscular performance.

    • The Mulberry Tree

      “Soldiers deserve other soldiers, sir”

      I loved that movie. Especially since the villain was Bruce Lee…well not the real Bruce Lee but it had the actor from “Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story”.

      • Poe_Serling

        You’re right…

        Jason Scott Lee did have a few showy parts there for a short time – Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Jungle Book, Soldier, and Rapa Nui – talk about a crazy action/adventure movie set on Easter Island

    • Montana Gillis

      Loved “Soldier”. Talk about “Show don’t tell”, I don’t think Kurt had more than 12 word of dialog! “Soldiers deserve soldiers, Sir!”

      • Poe_Serling

        A few years back, I heard Russell on a radio talk show saying that he did Stargate, Soldier, and a few others for just the paycheck… in this case – 12 million if you can believe the salary quotes on a few film websites.

        I would’ve loved to see Charles Bronson in a role like this in his early ’70s Death Wish prime… though I’ve read that he was considered for the Snake Pliskin role in Carpenter’s Escape From New York.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaAldin Lisa Aldin

    This is tricky, I imagine, because the game was such a hit. When you have loved material to work from, you could piss a lot of people off by changing it too much. At the same time, film is a different medium and things have to change for it to work. They should change, actually, to allow another way into the story.

  • garrett_h

    Oh, I guess I should comment on the script, huh?

    As a fan of the series, I liked it. It brought back memories of playing the original in my dorm room. Still, I’d like a fresher story (see my other post).

    From a screenwriting perspective, I don’t mind that we don’t get a whole lot of backstory on Master Chief. I think the Reach flashbacks are good enough. And I find Carson’s criticism odd because Master Chief is basically the same as Denzel’s character in Equalizer. We don’t get an extensive backstory on either one. Yet he loved Equalizer and disliked this.

    I’d actually prefer a Reach prologue and get rid of the flashbacks. Start the film at Reach, show Master Chief desperately trying to defend it, only to fail. Then they hop on the ship and the rest of the movie plays out. Since he failed on Reach, we WANT Master Chief to succeed on Halo.

    We don’t need to make him cry about something. We don’t need to give him a dead wife. We don’t need to have him whine to Cortana about not fitting in. Just show him failing vs. the Covenant on Reach FROM THE BEGINNING, and now getting a chance at redemption. Kind of like Stallone in Cliffhanger.

    As it is now, we have to sit through 5 or 6 flashbacks throughout the movie. Flashbacks where we already know the ending. And it drags the film down.

    In regards to Master Chief, I don’t think him not taking off his helmet is a problem. Darth Vader didn’t take off his helmet until he died. Hell, Denzel and Tom Cruise NEVER take off their helmets. Neither do Stallone or Arnold. They are basically the same guy in every action movie they do. Make Master Chief the badass that he is, give him a cool voice (the one in the game is kinda bland, on purpose), some nice quips, a little more activeness, and I think most people would go along with it.

    If I were writing a Halo movie, I’d actually start with the game Halo: Reach. Of course Reach wasn’t out yet when this script was developed, but IMO, it had the best story of the game series. Just do an entire film of what happens on Reach. Take Noble Team, flesh out their characters. Make Noble Six your lead. He was “you” in the game, so just put a real actor there and get rid of the helmet. He’s the “newbie” in the game so you get to drop exposition about the Halo universe to moviegoers not in the know without seeming obvious.

    (HALO: REACH SPOILERS) The only problem is, Noble Six dies in the end of the game. And since they clearly want this to be a series, I’m not sure what name actor would sign on to play Noble Six when he dies at the end of the first movie in the series. I suppose you could have him somehow be saved in the end, but then you’d enrage the fans. And it’d feel like a cheat. Plus, it would take away from the emotional ending of Reach.

    In conclusion, I enjoyed the script. It had clear GSU throughout, and those mini-goals Carson talks about. The writing is clean and professional. I think Alex Garland did a terrific job, given the situation he was in. And I think it’d make for a pretty darn good action movie.

    • MelanieWyvern

      From a screenwriting perspective, I don’t mind that we don’t get a whole lot of backstory on Master Chief. I think the Reach flashbacks are good enough.

      We don’t need to make him cry about something. We don’t need to give him a dead wife. We don’t need to have him whine to Cortana about not fitting in. Just show him failing vs. the Covenant on Reach FROM THE BEGINNING, and now getting a chance at redemption. Kind of like Stallone in Cliffhanger.

      In regards to Master Chief, I don’t think him not taking off his helmet is a problem. Darth Vader didn’t take off his helmet until he died. Hell, Denzel and Tom Cruise NEVER take off their helmets. Neither do Stallone or Arnold. They are basically the same guy in every action movie they do. Make Master Chief the badass that he is, give him a cool voice (the one in the game is kinda bland, on purpose), some nice quips, a little more activeness, and I think most people would go along with it.

      Yes, I definitely agree.

      It’s a character paradigm that works very well in films such as these. In fact, I’d say that sometimes, the less emotional baggage that is revealed about the character, the more the audience is able to live vicariously through him and immerse themselves in the character and thus the film.

      Often, while a character “flaw” arc might create empathy for a character (unless it makes him seem like a whiner — which can definitely also happen), it also particularizes that character and makes the viewer feel like they’re watching someone else on screen — a character study. A more “helmeted” performance, so to speak, can invite audience identification and vicarious involvement, which is what you want in certain kinds of action films.

      • JakeMLB

        While I strongly agree that a traditional character “flaw” arc isn’t necessary for these kind of films, there is something to be said for giving your protagonist at least some defining trait(s).

        In EQUALIZER, we still get a sense of who Denzel’s character is, what he believes in and how he might react in certain situations. There’s even that bit about him reading books to reveal the backstory about his deceased wife. The point is, as an audience we’re given something to latch onto — no matter how bare — but something to get us into the head of our character.

        Here we’re given nothing. Master Chief is as generic and reactive as they come. I certainly don’t fault the writer here given what he had to work with. But even in Garland’s script for DREDD, I had a stronger sense of Dredd’s character in about 1/10 the dialogue. Hell, Garland accomplishes that much in the first 10 pages. (I’m a big fan of Gardland.)

        HALO just felt bare. On the whole, it was missing something. A good story for one, but a strong hero as well.

        Taking just one example, there’s a scene where Major Silva tells MC that he should stay at camp and guard Cortana. I was immediately expecting MC to disobey that order or at best push against it, but no, he quietly grimaces and stands down. Huh? If he isn’t even willing to stand up and fight for the one thing he’s been bred to do (i.e., combat), what is he willing to fight for?

        So sure, give us a “helmeted” performance but at least put someone behind the helmet.

        • Citizen M

          We know from flashbacks that Master Chief was involved in a debacle on a planet with two suns that led to the slaughter of the people he was sworn to protect, and he feels he needs to atone for his failure. That’s all you need to know about the past for his type of character.

          • JakeMLB

            Well, there’s more to character than backstory. There’s action and dialogue. Choices that the character makes to reflect who they are.

            Beyond that, atonement for failure to protect is the single most overused, cliched militaristic character motifs. I mean honestly, it’s the runaway #1 on the list of the most cliched militaristic character motifs of all time so you’re not gonna win any points on that one.

            I love Garland as a writer. Dredd was badass. But this was a bore. It was an honest-to-goodness snoozefest and I love the game. Even the set pieces were boring. Not a single original or memorable sequence. It would certainly play better on the big screen. Throw in some 3D. A gritty vibe and yeah, you’ll probably make some cash. But it’ll be right up there next to BATTLESHIP in terms of memorability.

    • Jarrett_H

      You basically stole my comment. The whole time reading Carson’s take(I didn’t read the script) I’m thinking, “They should’ve started this with Reach.”

      I now have a serious itch to play Halo. I should probably do something more productive though.

      • garrett_h

        LMAO yeah, like finishing that script!

  • garrett_h

    IMO, Cortana doesn’t offer much to latch onto. She’s mostly just a voice. They only show her hologram form a few times. If identifying with a mask is hard for the audience, they’d have no chance of identifying with an invisible protag.

    • ripleyy

      But doesn’t Masterchief fall in love with Cortana in the games? I’m pretty sure he does, and if that’s the case, it would have been nice if they wrote that into the film.

      • garrett_h

        They have bits of that in the script, but it’s more a question of would the audience accept Cortana as a protagonist, and having an arc, etc. Especially since we barely see her. I dunno…

  • garrett_h

    The “Mentor” route would have been the best way to go with this IMO. Just make him a secondary character. And make your main character a member of “the team” or whoever. Kind of like Dredd, or Terminator 2 or Pitch Black. That way, you get a major actor in the lead protagonist role, you don’t dumb down Master Chief or take off his mask, and he remains this iconic badass figure, both in the audience’s eyes and the main character’s eyes.

  • TGivens

    I’m not surprised. Have you ever seen a good movie based on a video game?

    • Alexc

      Silent Hill

      • Poe_Serling

        Agree. Genuinely creepy with a stifling atmosphere that is hard to shake after watching it.

        Silent Hill is loosely inspired on the real-life ghost town of Centralia in
        Pennsylvania. Due to a mine fire burning under the town since ’62, most of
        the residents were forced to abandon their homes and relocate over the years.

        • Alexc

          Exactly, Poe: The atmosphere struck deep in this flick.

      • TGivens

        Yes, Silent Hill was pretty decent.

      • NajlaAnn

        Agreed. Good movie. Held my interest thru-out.

      • AstralAmerican

        Loved Silent Hill.

  • ripleyy

    Pinky was the name, played by Dexter Fletcher. And for what it was, it was fun. You didn’t need to think, you just had to sit and relax a little.

  • Montana Gillis

    Never played Halo so the story felt fresh and interesting. I had the same problem as Carson on the “reactive” character Master Chief. To much of the time he was more like a robot but then I thought that might have been by design “He was built or trained to follow orders”. A couple of the later sequences of the script seemed redundant in that Master Chief goes into a new room and faces the worst enemy yet – then he goes into a new room and faces an even more powerful enemy than before – then he goes into a new room and well, I got the picture. If this script is going to be cut down to bite size… some of those scenes could be removed because they did little for the “story” and were overkill on the constant action. Overall, I like the narrative and was rooting for Master Chief. Now I might have to dig up a PC and go buy the first game (right after I sell a screenplay and can quit my all consuming day job)…

  • TGivens

    Max Payne…Just no. No! They completely ruined the story. And Mark Wahlberg was a total miscast.

  • JakeBarnes12

    Wow. The writing here was so muscular, I grew some extra balls just reading this script.

    So my hat’s off to Alex Garland for his lean, mean, action lines. I learned from them. Seriously. And if mean, lean, action made a good script, this guy would be god.

    But it doesn’t. And I’ll tell you why.

    I knew NOTHING about Master Chief. I knew NOTHING about Captain Keyes. I knew NOTHING about anyone in this script.

    So, cool shoot-outs, man. But I didn’t give a sh*t.

    Because I don’t know these people. People. That’s a laugh. They’re cyphers. Empty spaces. Which is great in a video game because all you really want to do is take over your avatar and solve tactical challenges; how do I enter the room and take out five guys before they blow my brains out?

    And that can be fun.

    But it’s not the fun of stories.

    When we read or listen to or watch stories, we’re invited to go on a journey WITH the character. And in good stories we often identify WITH the character so that we feel bad when they suffer setbacks and we rejoice in their ultimate triumphs over the assh*les of the world.

    But we do not take over the character. We do not fill in for them. So to believe audiences interact with video game characters and movie characters in the same way is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature (and the pleasure) of drama.

    For us to sympathize, or at least empathize, with a script character, there must be character traits there to sympathize with. Master Chief has no relatable traits. No failings. No doubts. No fear. No emotions.

    Beyond sociopaths and geeks, nobody can relate to such a figure because there is literally nothing there to relate to.

    Just empty space.

    • Ken

      Do you really know anything about the backstories of Indiana Jones (in his first two movies) or James Bond (in most of his movies)?

  • garrett_h

    Yeah, TECHNICALLY that creature was from the game.

    In the video game, the creatures are demons from hell. In the movie, they are like, genetically mutated zombies or something. I don’t even think it took place on Mars. It was like the moon, or some space station or something. I can’t remember. I’ve tried to forget that movie lol.

    And yeah, Karl Urban is awesome in just about everything!

    • ripleyy

      Even Pathfinder.

      • New_E

        And that says a lot, given that PATHFINDER was… eh. Interesting.

        I’m not a big Laeta Kalogridis fan, esp. her dialogue (haven’t seen SHUTTER ISLAND yet though.) She sure is making the big bucks though, seeing that she’s working on James Cameron’s BATTLE ANGEL and TERMINATOR 5.

        Best thing PATHFINDER had going for it IMHO was the visuals and the armor design. Best armor design since… well, John Boorman’s EXCALIBUR.

        Them Vikings were something to behold!

        E

        • ripleyy

          I think the idea of Pathfinder was fun. I’m a little hazy on it, but I remember the scene where they’re shimmying across this narrow cliff path and they’re all tied to rope. Though now that I know Laeta done it, that’s pretty cool.

          I always thought Pathfinder was sort-of the Viking equivalent of “Apocalyptica”

          • New_E

            *SPOILERS* Yes, that’s toward the end. And it works. It’s a fun film. No doubt.
            Surely you mean APOCALYPTO – that’s a good way to sum it up.

            E

          • ripleyy

            Whoops, I edited it, you’re right.

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey G-

      Speaking of Karl Urban, did you ever catch his performance in the film Out of the Blue – a fact-based crime drama that took place in New Zealand.

    • 8thDeadlySin

      Karl was pretty much the only good thing about Priest, too.

  • MWire

    Why is it, when you adapt a book you need to stay pretty close to the source material. But when you adapt a game you’re supposed to come up with something new? Fans of both know the whole story but why the difference? What am I missing?

  • Citizen M

    I went into this script cold. Never played Halo, had no idea what it was about.

    And I LOVED this script. For 80 pages. Graphically described action scenes, mounting obstacles, heroes in jeopardy. An excellent example of the sci-fi action story.

    But then I noticed there were still 48 pages to go, and that is too long. The mysteries of Halo and the battle with the Flood left me cold. They didn’t capture my imagination. If you cut out the Flood entirely and ended on p. 110 with a final showdown between Master Chief and Covenanters on Pillar of Autumn it would be much better. And Foehammer should escape with MS and Cortana to provide a bit of sexual rivalry.

    I didn’t have a problem with knowing nothing about Master Chief. He’s a classic type of hero like Shane or The Man With No Name. A catalyst of change who doesn’t himself change.

    • Citizen M

      I forgot to mention something. There were a couple of places where Master Chief was in a real tight situation and you wonder how he’s going to dig himself out of it, and the next scene you find him unscathed and the writer has skipped the fight altogether.

      Example: MC has just landed on Halo and been chased by three Covenant ghost ships. He fights off two of them and turns for the showdown with the third. Next scene he’s somehow taken over the ghost ship and uses its guns against the Covenant troops. No idea how he did it.

      Example: Their only hope of escape is to capture a Covenant drop ship. Only problem, thirty Covenant troops stand between them and the ship. Next scene MC is piloting the ship to a bumpy landing on Halo. No idea how he did it.

      It’s a useful technique because it moves the story along faster, and it spares the writer from thinking up some fresh and original fight choreography, but I can’t help thinking it’s cheating.

  • Keith Popely

    What’s “hand embarrassment?” And why did you feel it for the second time? I believe you meant “secondhand embarrassment.” Regardless, “secondhand” is more commonly understood to mean re-used or handed down from another person. “Vicarious” would have been a better word choice.

    “So” is not a synonym for “very” and should not be used as a standalone intensifier.

    In addition, you need commas after “is” and “times” and “suspect.”

    Lastly, “god-awful” is hyphenated and not capitalized.

    Quite a few errors for such a short paragraph. You can find all this stuff with a few Internet searches or by reading books on English grammar. Or, of course, you could go get an education.

  • wlubake

    Master Chief – isn’t that a reality show? No? Great googly moogly. (2 random references for y’all there)

    I remember hearing that District 9 was the offshoot of the Halo movie. Can’t imagine that this turned into D9 beyond transferring financing or something. But, if this failed movie led to the production of District 9, I consider its failure a great success.

  • DrMatt

    One of the things that really bums me out sometimes is when the studios have a surefire hit, like built-in fan-base stuff, and the movie ends up sucking. Like they knew it would make a ton of money so they didn’t even really try.

    If anything, knowing that people will definitely show up opening weekend is a reason to be riskier than normal and take chances. Hey, it’s going to make a lot of money, right? So let’s do something CRAZY AWESOME instead of INOFFENSIVELY BLAND.

  • Nick Savvides

    The problem I had was that it basically read like a computer game. Master Chief going from one set piece to the next. I was watching a game without all the fun of playing it. Disappointing, especially from Garland.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, that’s how I saw it as well.

  • rosemary

    I never played the game so I didnt know what to expect. around 14 or so pages in I stop reading. Im sure the fans would enjoy it? idk

  • Spitgag

    Interesting to hear this lack of character dev because Garland’s a NOVELIST, a really really kickass one too. I mean The Beach” was full of awesome characters. Then again he didn’t write that screenplay just the book. If you haven’t seen that gem, it’s one of Danny Boyle best. I think I’ll give Alex the befit of the doubt and blame the studio people here.

    Carson, can you add me back on your mailing list. thx.

  • Spitgag

    I think you mean Carson writes like a screenwriter. Shocking isn’t it?

  • MrTibbsLive

    As one of the few who has never played the video game and had no knowledge of the HALO entity except for the commercials I see advertised on TV each November, I must confess the 128 page script kept my interest.

    The first 40 pages were pretty much Action-Action-Action and didn’t leave a lot of time to catch one’s breath. The hardcore HALO fans might frown at this, but me, someone who had low expectations for a video game adaptation, the high-speed pace is what got me intrigued. It made it easy for a non-follower to pick up the story: Alien species hell-bent on finding and destroying Earth + Mankind fighting for survival = simple equation. I don’t want to do calculus to find the core of HALO’s story.

    Which brings me to my next point, so I’ll just say it… I don’t need to develop a deep connection with characters in this particular genre. Someone’s trying to kill them, I can connect with that. That’s deep enough. When I watch an action movie I’m looking forward to the next chase scene or explosion, not Forrest telling me about chocolates.

    Now I did have some issues with Master Chief as well, he was basically a big lug nut waiting for his next orders. I still don’t understand what he was fighting for. He’s not even human, is he? He was asked this in the script and never gave an answer. And why are the Helljumpers introduced as being the baddest, toughest, combat killers in existence then getting their asses kicked 20 pages later? WTF? I hate that. This happens too often in the action genre.

    Now even though I’m giving HALO a {X} Worth the Read, if, more likely when, it gets made into a movie I probably won’t watch it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Sarnecki/514088205 David Sarnecki

    This script reads sooooo barren to me. The interesting things like Chiefs relationship with Cortana, or fun little touches like Chief patching himself up and forgetting to apply morphine are buried in between mountains and mountains of action that just never stops. I feel like Halo could have added a lot of human element to Chief by kind of merging this concept with the SOLDIER script, and exploring his inhumanity and how he fights to maintain it. I can practically see a District 9 action packed experience WITH THE BENEFIT of the emotional stuff in that movie in Halo.

  • gj_d

    Don’t mean to hijack this thread, but just read script to ZERO DARK THIRTY (haven’t seen the movie yet). I’d give the script an “impressive.” I couldn’t put it down. There’s nary a moment of wasted action as every beat propels the story. The real surprise is the character and portrayal of Maya. Interestingly, the trailers I’ve seen highlight the band of cowboy SEALs who are secondary to Maya, an unmovable force of nature.

    • OfCourseItIsn’t!

      The movie was amazing and Maya was awesome. If Jessica Chastain wins the Oscar I’ll be happy. Jennifer Lawrence was great in Silver Linings Playbook though also. I’d be happy if either wins, lol. But Zero Dark Thirty was badass, I liked it way more than The Hurt Locker. I want to read that script now.

  • freddy_moon

    How does one get their hands on the scripts reviewed here? There aren’t any links or download options. I’m an apireing screen writor and I’ve been a long time reader but I want to get involved.

  • Pointbreak

    Thanks Scribbler for taking the time to read URINAL VINYL. Glad you liked it so much.

    So far, so good. A recommendation from Scribbler and the script made the TOP 10 OF 2012 list from Jimithy_Christmas.

    Anyone else in the scriptshadow community like films in the vein of HIGH FIDELITY and 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, please email urinalvinyl@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy.

    If anyone has read it, sees the potential, please email Carson. let him know

    Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to read URINAL VINYL

  • srdiction

    I haven’t read a script. So does he take the helmet off or not?

    • carsonreeves1

      He does, but we never see his face.

      • RafaelSilvaeSouza

        In the version that I have, he takes off his helmet in a dream sequence:

        “… and REMOVES his helmet.

        As implied when we saw him tending his wounds, his skin is bleached white. His hair is shaved to the scalp.

        (…)

        Then – on MASTER CHIEF’s face. A slight confusion. An awareness of another presence.”

        I thought it was odd, because everyone who played the game told me he should never take off his helmet. Kind like Dredd (which is a cool movie, btw).

  • srdiction

    Thanks for your answer. Can I get a copy of Halo, please?

  • RafaelSilvaeSouza

    I never played Halo. I’m a PlayStation guy. So I don’t have any idea of what the game is about, but I have to say… this is a very cool script. I don’t need to know more about Master Chief. This is a pure Action Movie. With capital A and all. And still I understood the kind of guy he is. And I liked the iteractions with the other characters. Specially loved how Cortana and Master Chief share the suit, thoughts, dreams. It sets the movie apart from other action movies. Unfortunately, Action Movies don’t fare well here on Scriptshadow.

    I would give this a Worth the Read. I’m not giving anything higher just because the action is so bland. I mean, you have this amazing place, Halo, plus aliens and giant soldiers, and the action is just pure Pew-pew-pew? Every friend of mine who played Halo gushes about the Beach Attack, and when I finally get to see what it is… it’s nothing to write home about? In the game, it must have been fun to play, but in a movie… we’ve seen this a million times.

  • jridge32

    “But if they want to actually make a GOOD MOVIE, something that lives beyond opening weekend and brings new fans to the game itself, more attention to character ain’t going to hurt.”
    .. beautifully said.

  • DD

    Seems like the ship has sailed on a Halo movie. No one really cares about the game that much anymore either.

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