Unknown directing delayed <i>Halo</i>

[UPDATE] Xbox.com announces that South African special-effects tech and acclaimed short-maker Neill Blomkamp will helm the eagerly anticipated blockbuster film now due in 2008.

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Ever since it was announced that antipodean auteur Peter Jackson would not be directing the movie adaptation of the Halo games--he's executive-producing instead--speculation has run rampant as to who would.

For a while, Guillermo Del Toro (Blade II) was linked with the project, with the director saying publicly that he was in talks with Universal and Fox, the codistributors of the film. However, after he stated he'd rather make a sequel to his comic-book adaptation Hellboy, the rumors surrounding the Mexico-born filmmaker died down.

Today, a news flash on Xbox.com announced that Halo finally has a director--a director most people have never heard of. "The Halo motion picture will be helmed by Neill Blomkamp, making his feature film debut," read the announcement on Xbox.com.

Who is Neill Blomkamp? The announcement describes him "as one of the most innovative and original artists currently working in short films and commercial advertising." The South African native has won three Clio Awards for his ad work, as well as a Visual Effects Society Award for a TV spot showing a dancing Citroen car. He was also named as featured artist at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase at the 2004 Cannes International Film Festival.

Blomkamp has also done some television and film work, mostly as a special effects animator. According to Internet Movie Database, he was nominated for an Emmy in 2000 for an episode of Dark Angel, and he has worked on Smallville, Mercy Point, First Wave, and Stargate SG-1.

[UPDATE] Within filmmaking circles, Blomkamp has earned some distinction for his 2005 short film Alive in Joburg. The opening scene of the six-minute short, which is viewable on YouTube, looks much like the New Mombassa maps in Halo 2: As gigantic alien ships hover over a dilapidated metropolis (in this case, Johannesburg), human troops in full combat gear confront a towering alien in power armor.

Alive in Joburg then shifts into a grim, cinema-verite portrait on the impact of the aliens' arrival, who are refugees that require water and electricity. When the authorities refuse, the aliens begin to take it for themselves via giant cables descending from their starships--which resemble the huge saucers from Independence Day--causing riots by the city's unnerved inhabitants.

The short also shows the aliens outside of their power armor scouring for resources in Johannesburg's slums. Their tentacled faces appear to be re-created with physical, rubbery makeup effects. Those effects bear an eerie resemblance to those used by Jackson in his early low-budget horror film Bad Taste, which also concerned an alien invasion (albeit a much more comic one).

Another of Blomkamp's shorts, Tetra Vaal, also has a Halo-esque--as well as a Robocop-esque--feel. Viewable on the Web site Analogik.com, it poses as a commercial for a robotics company. The visually impressive 90-second short follows a robotic policeman as he patrols an impoverished suburb of a nameless African city, at one point shooting an assault rifle.

A third short from the director, Yellow, was made to help hype Adidas' Adicolor line of athletic shoes. It has a more cyberpunk feel and follows several color-coded android agents who are released into society as part of an 18-month experiment. However, they soon go rogue and embark on a series of globe-trotting covert missions to subvert human civilization. [END UPDATE]

Today's announcement also confirmed, as many had suspected, that Halo will not hit theaters in summer 2007, as was originally planned. "The film is currently targeted for a Summer 2008 worldwide release," read the announcement. The film will be shot in New Zealand, taking advantage of that country's dramatic landscapes and favorable exchange rates. Jackson's Weta Digital and Weta Workshop will handle the effects and costumes, respectively.

Curiously, when asked about today's Halo revelations, Microsoft reps declined to answer. "We're not commenting on the announcement on Xbox.com," said a rep.

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