This week's announcement that Spider-Man director Sam Raimi will direct the long-in-gestation Warcraft movie was greeted by near-universal praise. The reaction was quite different, though, in August 2006 when Microsoft announced that a virtual unknown had signed on to direct the big-screen version of Halo.
Though South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp had the full backing of Halo executive producer Peter Jackson (the Lord of the Rings films), skepticism was rampant elsewhere. The sci-fi shooter series' rabid fans worried that his advertising background might make him susceptible to Hollywood producers' demands. Conversely, the two studios bankrolling the Halo movie with Microsoft, Fox and Universal, were reportedly so concerned by Blomkamp's inexperience and the project's budget that they suspended production indefinitely.
For its part, Microsoft had enough faith in Blomkamp to commission him to direct a series of live-action shorts in the lead-up to Halo 3's launch (viewable below). The gritty segments' reception was largely positive, raising hopes that after the release of his forthcoming film District 9, executive-produced by Jackson, he might return to the mothballed Halo movie.
Now, any such hopes have been all but dashed--by Blomkamp himself. Speaking with cinema blog Slashfilm at Comic-Con 2009 in San Diego, the currently Vancouver-based filmmaker expressed both a love of the Halo universe and an intense bitterness over the multimillion-dollar unraveling.
"I probably wouldn't do [the] Halo [movie] if it was offered to me," he told Slashfilm. "But creatively, I would like to do it. It's kind of like I'd be sad to not work on it, but I would still say no. I worked on it for five months…I put a lot of sort of sweat and blood into Halo. Creatively, it's very compelling. I love it. But, when you work that long on something and you have it bottom out and collapse…I mean, I got District 9 out of it, I think I'm probably better off because it's more of a personal film. But yeah, I love the world of Halo. [But] I don't think I would go back there."
Based on Blomkamp's short "Alive in Joburg," District 9 tells the tale of a group of alien refugees who land outside Johannesburg. Stranded on Earth, they are ghettoized and persecuted by humanity, leading to a deadly showdown. Blomkamp's other works include several short films: the minithriller "Yellow," the Robocop-esque "Tetra Vaal," and the Futurama-meets-The Office-like satire "Tempbot."