Movie Talk

‘Half-Life’ the Movie? J.J. Abrams and game developer Valve join forces

Movie Talk

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Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Directing the new "Star Wars" movie ("Episode VII," not one of the now increasingly confusing supposed spin-off films) apparently isn't enough to keep J.J. Abrams busy, as he's now got his eye on expanding his Bad Robot empire to the world of video games.

Abrams and Gabe Newell, the head of game developer Valve, spoke at a panel at DICE Summit in Las Vegas on Wednesday, where they made the surprise announcement that their respective companies would be joining forces to produce games and movies, combining their strengths to learn from each other and, in theory, take their respective mediums to the next level.

"There's an idea we have for a game that we'd like to work with Valve on," said Abrams, with Newell countering with "We're going to figure out if we can make a 'Portal' movie or 'Half-Life' movie together."

The announcement came as the closing flourish of a brief joint keynote by Abrams and Newell titled "Storytelling Across Platforms: Who Benefits Most, the Audience or the Player?" Abrams and Newell spoke candidly about the strengths and weaknesses of both film and video games, with the Abrams-produced "Cloverfield" being used as an example of an experience in which the viewer perhaps wished he or she could more actively participate (or at least ask Hud why he doesn't just drop the camera and run away from the danger), whereas Newell's "Half-Life" was used as an example of a game where, according to Abrams, "players are often asked to imprint themselves or relate to insanely mute empty vessels," referring to the cipher-like protagonist, Gordon Freeman.

"Portal" would certainly lend itself to Abrams' brand of crisis-structure (and conspiratorial) science fiction as the game features the player-protagonist, Chell, being challenged to solve an increasingly difficult series of puzzles arranged by an artificial intelligence called GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), resulting in a sort of thinking-man's "TRON." "Portal" is actually a spin-off of the "Half-Life" series of games, which are sci-fi first person shooters set in and around a top secret research facility and, later, a dystopian Earth.

No word yet on whether the "Half-Life" movies will also have spin-off movies that focus on individual characters like Isaac Kleiner, Barney Calhoun, Eli Vance and Alyx Vance, but if Disney gets involved you can pretty much count on it.

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