To those hankering for a dose of live-action Master Chief, prepare to be sated. Yesterday, Variety revealed “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn,” a five-part web series releasing in anticipation of the upcoming shooter.
Each (approximately) 15 minute episode will air on popular YouTube gaming channel, Machinima, as well as the Xbox Live hub, Halo Waypoint, in the weeks leading up to Halo 4’s release on November 6. According to Microsoft, the web-series represents the company’s “largest investment” in live action to date. Previous efforts include fan-favorite shorts from Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) as well as other various shorts and commercials. Writer Marc Graser, who broke the story, refers to the shorts as “pricey,” which translates to a significant investment on the part of Microsoft.
Set during the years of conflict with series’ baddies, the Covenant, “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn” tells the story of Master Chief and a fresh UNSC cadet who eventually goes on to lead aboard the spacecraft UNSC Infinity. This new character and ship will presumably have significance in the upcoming game, as will the series’ plot, but details at this point are vague. Frank O’Connor, franchise development director at the 343 Industries, says that the series is “a way for people to get on board this universe without feeling intimidated” and it “teaches [viewers] about a lot of different facets of the (‘Halo’) universe.”
Beyond the marketing hype and fan-service, this project represents another effort to establish Master Chief on the big screen. After losing funding from both backing studios in 2006, the film from Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”) drifted into the depths of development limbo. Microsoft describes this project as “the next step” for the franchise and another push towards the great frontier of feature film. Graser cites the success of Warner Bros “Mortal Kombat,” which similarly used a web-series to launch a new movie.
75 minutes of Halo on a decent budget would be news enough, but positioning this project as reinvigoration for the film franchise likely lights up the eyes of diehard fans, myself included. Halo’s IP has already proven successful across various media—books, graphic novels, animated film—and a feature film is the next big step for the franchise.
Microsoft remains mum regarding the series’ director and cast, but the company intimated future announcements at this year’s San Diego Comic Con in July, so stay tuned throughout upcoming months.