Back in 2013, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams revealed that he was joining forces with Valve co-founder and video game guru Gabe Newell to make movies and explore new forms of storytelling.
What caught gamers' attention was Abrams' and Newell's promise to try their best to make the film adaptations of the landmark games Half-Life and Portal a reality, and after almost three years of silence, Abrams finally gave some updates.
Abrams' Promise And Valve Time
At the premiere of HBO's Westworld, IGN asked executive producer J.J. Abrams for an update regarding the Valve feature films. Abrams promised that both the Half-Life and Portal movies were "still very much in development," but fans can expect a more concrete announcement "fairly soon."
We are having some really interesting discussions with writers, many of whom...once you said you’re doing a movie or show about a specific thing that is a known quantity you start to find people who are rabid about these things. As someone who loves playing Half Life and Portal, what’s the movie of this, it’s incredible when you talk to someone who just ‘gets’ it, it’s like, oh my god, it’s really the seed for this incredible tree you’re growing.
These movies have been in development for a long time, but it's safe to assume that they're getting the dedication they require. Valve, a company notorious for decades-long development cycles and refusing to acknowledge the number three, is also involved in the development of each movie. This makes the protracted creative processes not too surprising for gamers and Valve loyalists who are all too familiar with "Valve Time."
It's also good to know that the man responsible for bringing two major sci-fi franchises back to relevance (Star Trek and Star Wars) is helping Valve. If his most recent movies are anything to go by, Abrams has mastered how to balance blockbuster filmmaking and appeasing a dedicated fanbase. This should give Valve fans less cause for concern, since the movies will be coming from creators who know what they're doing.
Breaking Ground And Memes
Half-Life follows physicist-turned-badass Gordon Freeman, who unknowingly becomes the deciding factor in an alien invasion of Earth. Armed with a multitude of weapons and his trusty crowbar, Freeman becomes the unlikely hero of the human resistance and their fight to take back Earth.
Half-Life was highly praised, and it spawned several expansions and an acclaimed sequel broken into three chapters. Freeman's adventures helped redefine the first-person shooters through the incorporation of a realistic physics engine, the use of interactive environments, and a strong narrative. The third and supposedly final Half-Life has been in development for almost a decade, prompting the gaming community to deem it an urban legend.
In Portal, a woman named Chell finds herself stuck in an experiment being conducted by GLaDOS, a murderous artificial intelligence that took control of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Portal spawned one sequel, and both games complete Chell's escape from GLaDOS' clutches by using the prototype Portal Gun to outsmart the traps set up by the rogue AI.
The Portal games were critically acclaimed and revitalized the oftentimes underestimated puzzle game, but Portal is most remembered for its witty and self-aware storytelling, which is tangentially related to the Half-Life series. Portal is also responsible for spawning multiple memes, chief among them a lying cake.
Video games would not be where they are right now if not for Valve's games, and the possibility of seeing the groundbreaking styles and stories of Half-Life and Portal hit the big screen in the near future is exciting for fans of the games and video game movies in general.
Valve And Video Game Movies
As exciting as a collaboration between Abrams and Valve may be, it's no secret that video game film adaptations don't have the best track record. This alone is enough to make fans worry, and they're not at any fault for doing so. Recent examples have shown that the genre is slowly improving, but that isn't saying much.
The first Silent Hill and Street Fighter movies are considered to be some of the better video game movies, even if most critics dismissed them as glorified B-movies and guilty pleasures. Warcraft may have looked impressive, but it felt more like an overlong cut-scene than an engaging film. 2016 will see another video game adaptation, Assassins' Creed starring Michael Fassbender, and only time will tell if Ubisoft's time-travelling assassins will succeed.
Valve may be looking to break the curse, but the lackluster streak of past video game movies makes Valve's caution understandable. The last thing the genre defying company wants to do is to be like its competition, and taking things slowly is the only way for Half-Life and Portal to be given justice on the big screen.
Valve has a good reputation of taking their time to make some of the most groundbreaking games ever played, guaranteeing that their long creative processes are always worth the wait. The company has good storytelling skills outside of video games, as seen in the short animated films created for Team Fortress 2 and the stories of Left 4 Dead that were expanded in comics. Combining this with Abrams' skills as a filmmaker gives the potential Valve movies an edge that shouldn't be squandered, and thankfully, the creators seem to know this as well.
Given the legacies of the games at hand, it's better not to rush the production of the Half-Life and Portal movies all in the name of making a quick buck. Video games are rich in some of the most unique forms of storytelling, and it's a shame that the same can't be said for their film counterparts. The genre has been long overdue for a movie that can impress both gamers and casual moviegoers, and maybe two of the most iconic games ever made can help change the genre's course.