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Can Showtime's "Halo" Series Beat The Video Game-to-Screen Adapation Curse?

Written by Kevin Donaldson. Published: July 02 2018


Video game adaptations are a roller coaster, ain’t they? Maybe not so much in the final product but just everything surrounding them getting made and released. It’s been mostly stinkers over the years, but one series that had a lot of hype to get made by a lot of companies, who all wanted to cast Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, was Halo. Now it seems Showtime wants to take up the challenge in bringing the multiple game series to life on screen for viewers.


While we don’t know much about it at this time, the main question that looms is, is it worth it or not? While video games don’t have the best console-to-film record, there has been praise recently for the animated "Castelvania" series on Netflix, hailing it as one of the, if not the only, good video game adaptations. Video games are a tough one to put out there as a vessel for audiences to watch and enjoy (minus the culture of “Let’s Play” watchers who tend to lean on the younger side, as opposed to Showtime’s older demographics). But if you think about it, they really aren’t much different from book adaptations.


Some recent examples of how book adaptations can and can’t work with audiences due to shelf life is evident by how “Game of Thrones” has been doing gangbusters for HBO since it came out. It was a much-loved property in a smaller niche sub-culture than it is hitting right now. There are a plethora of reasons for that, but it mainly has to do with HBO exposing it to more people than the books ever could on their own, despite author George R.R. Martin getting approached by misguided production companies to make a standalone movie or a trilogy. The books were being written somewhere between one to two decades before the TV series was made. There books were being thought about and outlined even before that. It’s apparent, however, that it’s a timeless tale that has intrigued audiences new and old for some time.


Then take the phenomenon of the dubbed “mom porn” book series Fifty Shades of Grey and how the books swept a lot of American audiences off their feet. By the time the film franchise was being made, a whooping four years after the first book was released, the buzz died down a lot. By no means, though, did any of the films in this trilogy lose money. Quite the opposite, in fact, but after the first film, which as I understand didn’t quite live up to Universal’s expectations, there was a sharp decline in box office earnings for the following two.


Now, in the world of video games, it’s a toss up as to whether or not if these movie and television companies are making adaptations at the right time. Something like Doom in 2005, which starred Karl Urban and co-starred The Rock and Rosamund Pike, arguably came out at the right time, as the popular Doom 3 video game had just come out the previous year and got the first of many updated versions of itself released in 2005… and the movie bombed badly. Then you take a game like Gears of War in 2006, which was also one of the first big games of the Xbox 360 and became a game cultural phenomenon in its own right. The fourth installment of the series was released in 2016, and while it was the third most selling game that year in America, it’s still a series that has definitely died down. If a show or movie were to come out surrounding it, there’s no telling how it would do, which is pretty much how this Halo series seems to hang in my mind. As a fan of the Halo games since I was a kid, and thinking Master Chief is one of the coolest faceless characters anywhere, I just don’t know.


On the flipside, that is exactly what Halo has to help its success: a recognizable character that people have been on the front lines with for years. Something like Legend of Zelda would do really well monetarily as a movie or even a true TV series (for at least the first season), but there would be issues fans have, and that is the main character of Link. His problem and genius as a character is that he isn’t really one. He’s a personality-less vessel for players to insert themselves into and ascribe a personality to (usually our own)… that is if you can overlook all of his emoting when he’s overly shocked at nearly every turn by everything that comes his way. Master Chief isn’t exactly like that. Through various cut scenes, you get a sense of his personality, which is that he’s a pretty gruff but compassionate dude, so basically Jason Statham but without the accent and showing more remorse for death in general.


Ranting aside on video game adaptations, this Halo series for Showtime has no release date or any inside details whatsoever to speak of. If it will be cursed to fall victim to the Developmental Hell that befell many other unmade Halo film properties remains to be seen, but I am interested to see, if Showtime can get to filming, what they’ll do. It could be kind of brilliant for all we know.




(Image via HALO)


- Kevin Donaldson, YH Contributing Writer