"Come on, J.J. Abrams... Leave some cool movies for the rest of us!"
That's what we expect half the directors in Hollywood are saying today, after Abrams and Gabe Newell, the Managing Director of Valve, announced that they're working together on potential video games and, more importantly to the CraveOnline Film Channel, potential movie adaptations of Half-Life and Portal, two of the most popular, critically acclaimed video games ever made. Abrams and Newell took the stage at the DICE Summit and uttered the following (via Polygon):
Quoth the Abrams: "There's an idea we have for a game that we'd like to work with Valve on."
Quoth the Newell: "We're super excited about that, and we also want to talk about making movies, either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie... What we are actually doing here, we are recapitulating a series of conversations going on. We reached the point that we decided to do more than talk."
Also quoth the Abrams: "It's as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets, which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas."
While we don't know yet whether Abrams would direct these feature films or just produce them, or even if they'll get off the ground at all, it's the first big step Valve has made into the world of feature filmmaking. To gamers, Valve is not unlike Pixar in that every damned thing they do comes out awesome, with memorable characters and groundbreaking storytelling and game mechanics. Half-Life is arguably their flagship franchise, and tells the story of Gordon Freeman, a scientist drawn into an alien-invasion conflict when his laboratory accidentally opens a portal to another dimension. Portal is about Chell, a woman trapped in a science lab which has been overtaken by an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS, a passive-aggressive personality that wants to test a new "portal gun" - capable of creating instantaneous doorways between separate locations in space - and also kill her test subject just because.
Abrams added that he's "aware of the cautionary tales of movies that become games and vice-versa," and vowed to treat the potential adaptations "the respect [Valve treats] their games and their players with."
Portal is a tricky adaptation if ever there was one, since the entire film is just one person and a disembodied voice (or two, if they delve into the sequel's storyline). Half-Life presents its own series of challenges, not the least of which is casting one of the most iconic characters in video game history, and also giving him a voice for the very first time, since Gordon Freeman is one of the greatest silent protagonists.
Is Abrams playing fair, or has he simply conquered the world and reaping the benefits? We're trying to reserve judgment until we see some of these finished products, but if he gets attached to the Justice League movie too we're going to be very, very upset with him.