Commentary

Bad Call For Fox And Universal

This week Microsoft's Bungie Studios and Peter Jackson's Wingnut Studios announced that the "Halo" movie, anticipated by millions of gamers, has been postponed indefinitely after studios Fox and Universal, who were financing the film as a joint venture, pulled out.

Predictions are a dime a dozen in opinion journalism, so here's another .83 cents for you: Fox and Universal's decision to pass on the "Halo" movie will join the Red Sox's trade of Babe Ruth, Napoleon's decision to invade Russia, and my failure to purchase Google stock when it was at 200 in the annals of bad-call history.

Rumor has it that Fox and Universal pulled out because the director Jackson and Bungie picked for the project, Neill Blomkamp, wasn't seen as experienced enough to be trusted with the film's rapidly skyrocketing budget.

"Halo" would be Blomkamp's first feature film, though he's directed several short films and advertisements, and won several awards in those categories. Moreover, Blomkamp is the man who has the backing of Bungie and Jackson--folks that know a thing or two about making fan-pleasing movies. The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy did over $1.1 billion in lifetime gross, and the more recent of the "Halo" games sold $125 million worth in just the first 24 hours of its release, more than any other video game in history. This week, Microsoft reported that over 4 billion multiplayer games of "Halo 2" have been played in the last two years.

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"Halo"'s rabid fanbase is the very definition of a built-in audience. The "Halo" oeuvre includes two games, two novels with two more on the way, and, importantly, a series of machinima called "Red vs. Blue," created by independent studio Rooster Teeth Productions. Under a non-disclosure agreement from Bungie, Rooster Teeth doesn't disclose its revenue, but it does claim an audience of a million viewers for the five minutes-weekly show, created with graphics from the "Halo" video game.

The market clearly exists for a "Halo" feature film, and with Jackson--the hero of Middle Earth--any project has out-of-the-gate geek cred to fill seats. If Microsoft and Bungie find new financiers to share in the wealth, Fox and Universal are going to find themselves crying in their cocktails when the opening night receipts are counted.

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