Bringing Halo's action to live-action

Master Chief himself will be making an appearance in the web serial Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
Master Chief himself will be making an appearance in the web serial Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.

The film adaptation of Halo has had a long and ultimately disappointing history. Fans were thrilled when Lord of the Rings visionary Peter Jackson was named as director, and everything seemed to be moving ahead. Sadly, the project petered out due to a variety of problems, and Jackson moved on to his King Kong remake.

As the old saying goes, however, sometimes if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself.

On Friday last week, Microsoft and Halo 4 developer 343 Industries released a trailer for a five-part live action serial, titled Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. The five episodes, together making up a feature-length presentation, will take viewers back to the origin of the Halo story: the arrival of the terrifying Covenant.

The focal character is a UNSC cadet named Thomas Lasky, played by young Australian actor Tom Green. "Thomas is at the academy, learning how to fight human insurgents," Green said in an interview with Screen Play. "He's having mixed feelings about it."

Last week's trailer shows Lasky learning military tactics, forming rivalries with other students, and falling in love. All of the high school drama comes to a sudden end, however, when the cadets are attacked by an overwhelming alien force. "The Covenant attacks, and the cadets are forced to use the knowledge they've learned to survive," Green said.

I asked Green how a young actor with only a few jobs under his belt landed such a major role, starring alongside an ensemble cast that features some familiar Hollywood faces, including Chronicles of Narnia star Anna Popplewell.

"I was in Los Angeles already," Green explained. "My agent told me to go and read for a web series codenamed The Sleeper. There was a lot of secrecy, and I was only given minimal material to read over." Clearly he made an impression, as he was called back to read several more times, and was finally offered the role.

Of course, I had to ask if Green is a gamer and a Halo fan. "I'm a gamer, but I wasn't a Halo player before this," Green admitted. "I'm a big fan of gaming culture, though." In preparing for the role, Green was given a lot of background information to read, and he was amazed by the depth of the Halo universe. "Honestly, I'm glad I didn't have to know all of it," he joked.

Once the cast was selected, the production kicked immediately into high gear. The young cast was put through a week of extremely tough military boot-camp training, and then shooting began in Canada. After a week on location, the production moved to a sound stage in Vancouver, where several futuristic sets had been built.

Green told me how much he enjoyed getting hands on with the detailed sets and the high quality hardware. Of course, the main piece of hardware that fans are waiting to see is a suit of armour, specifically the Spartan armour worn by iconic character Master Chief. Yes, the famous genetically engineered super-soldier John-117 will be making an appearance, and he will have his proper voice, thanks to the casting of long-time Master Chief voice actor Steve Downes.

Also featuring will be an army of computer-generated aliens. "There was a lot of green screen work, and in one scene I had to be terrified of a tennis ball on a stick," Green said with a laugh. "I was told that the tennis ball had to be the scariest thing I had ever seen!"

Whatever that tennis ball turns out to be, Halo fans will find out as the episodes are released in the weeks leading up to Halo 4's release on 6 November. Microsoft and 343 promise that the series will offer new insight into the Halo universe, and there will be story links with Halo 4. If the quality of the finished product lives up to the promise shown in the trailer, Halo fans will be in for a rare treat.

- James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

This story Bringing Halo's action to live-action first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.