Released in 2001 alongside the launch of Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, the original Halo video game was a financial and critical smash, selling over a million copies in its first few months on game store shelves. The sci-fi first-person shooter centering on soldier Master Chief and his battle against the alien race called the Covenant proved an engrossing experience to fans, spawning sequels, comic book adaptations, paperback novelizations, toys, and other merchandise. Of course, Hollywood came calling.
In 2005, Microsoft reportedly wrote a $1 million check to 28 Days Later screenwriter and Ex Machina director Alex Garland in exchange for a spec script they could shop around to studios via costumed actors. Eventually, Fox and Universal reached an agreement to release the film together, with Peter Jackson exec-producing and Guillermo del Toro directing. When del Toro backed out to make Hellboy II instead, Jackson hired District 9 director Neill Blomkamp to direct. When the project stalled, Blomkamp made a gritty short film based on the game, which didn't exactly align with the slicker, more expensive creative vision execs had imagined. In 2006, tensions between Fox and Universal exploded and the project was scrapped.
While the film may be dead for now, Microsoft is developing a TV series based on the game with Steven Spielberg producing. However with Spielberg's video game-friendly Ready Player One getting ready to drop this year, it looks like he has his hands full—and Master Chief's screen ambitions could be on life support.