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The 'Halo' movie: Game over?

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So it appears Master Chief will have to wait a bit longer for his close-up: Universal and 20th Century Fox just backed out of a deal with Microsoft to co-finance and distribute a feature film version of the blockbuster Xbox game Halo. It seems the studios finally decided Microsoft’s fee demands — $5 million up-front and a whopping ten percent of the movie’s gross — were a bit too pre-M:I-3 Tom Cruise for comfort, and they asked if the software giant wouldn’t mind cutting back.

That they made their request right up against an Oct. 15 deadline to pay Microsoft most of what it’s contractually owed may be business as usual in Hollywood, but it’s probably not the sort of tactics that The House That Bill Gates Built is used to. So far in this deal, Microsoft has been the one to do all the splashy, ham-fisted, completely ill-advised strong-arming around here, thank you very much.

But don’t worry, the break-up won’t kill the movie. Microsoft told tech site CNET that “the creative team are [still] dedicated to ensuring the Halo movie becomes a reality.” Given the fact that Halo 2 for Xbox grossed $125 million in one day, it almost goes without saying that other distributors and financiers already appear to be waiting in the wings.

Of course, all this just demonstrates how much Microsoft still hasto learn about Hollywood, and vice versa, and who but Peter Jackson isbetter equipped to bridge that gap? Already serving as an executiveproducer (with his wife and writing partner Fran Walsh) on the featurefilm version of Halo, he announced the formation of Wingnut Interactive last month, a partnership with Microsoft that will develop a new Halogame for the Xbox 360. So we’ll just have to trust that Jackson knowswhat he’s doing by hiring 27-year-old commercial director NeillBlomkamp to direct the Halo movie — the dude knows how to direct dancing French automobiles, certainly, but his feature filmmaking bona fides are still very much in question.

What do you think? Were the studios smart to get out before Halo becomes the next Super Mario Bros. movie? Or Double Dragon movie? Or Street Fighter movie? Or (shudder) the next House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, or BloodRayne? Or does Peter Jackson’s presence guarantee the film will be the first video-game movie to actually, you know, not suck?