Adapting a video game into a film or television series is always a difficult task. Even when you’re working with well-written source material that has a pre-established, dedicated fan base, converting a story from one medium to another comes with a huge number of challenges.
Some video-games-turned-movies have worked out well enough. The Tomb Raider movies (both from 2001, starring Angelina Jolie, and 2018, starring Alicia Vikander) gave fans a little more about Lara Croft without trampling over established motifs. The first Mortal Kombat film was fantastic because it gave fans of the series more of the over-the-top action they wanted. Even Warcraft was a hit because of the ravenous legions (sorry, we had to) of existing fans — but none of these films were released without meeting a bevy of criticism.
Other video game adaptations, however, like Bloodrayne (and basically anything else directed by Uwe Boll), dragged once-beloved characters through the mud, flopped hard, and left a permanent stain on the source material.
The recently announced Halo series that’s to air on Showtime has fans filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Despite the overwhelming belief that it will never meet audiences’ expectations, we firmly believe it isn’t an impossible task to make this show great.
First and foremost, the biggest pitfall the creators of the show must avoid is going too deep into the psyche and history of series’ primary protagonist, Master Chief.
Master Chief, in the games, is an anomaly. We’ve followed him since 2001 and yet we know nothing about his past — or even what his face even looks like. That mystique will be thrown out the window if he’s the main character of upcoming series. If the show does feature him, he must be treated as if he’s the stand-in for the audience, just as he was in the short film Neil Blomkamp made a while back.
Instead, the series must be filled with countless other characters that the audience has never played. The Halo universe is rich with unique personalities, environments, political struggles, and futuristic weaponry. We’ve rarely been given a glimpse of what it’s like to not be the guy who’s single-handedly winning the war. We want to see the side stories of the other Spartans. We want to see battles from the perspective of the regular ODST guys.
It doesn’t need to be a flashback or so far removed from the plot of the original games — if the series takes us to a world built on lore and story lines we, as the audience, already know from fighting as Master Chief, things could get interesting.
Halo 3: ODST was beloved by fans because they took this approach — pitting the player in a secondary yet crucial battle. If that’s the basis of the show, we’re ready and waiting.