Last week I tackled Portal; and the response was interesting. While I’d love to see Portal as a movie — that was really an intro-session into the Valve universe, and a step toward discussing my next Pixel to Projector nominee — Half-life.
Almost anyone that is a fan of first person shooters has a soft Spot for Valve Software’s launch title — and with good reason. The ever silent Dr. Gordon Freeman is iconic in the gaming community, as are many of the characters that fill his world. From Vortigaunts, The Combine, Alyx Vance, the ever present Headcrabs, and of course — the mysterious G-Man — Half-life is rich with characters and situations ripe for transition to the big screen.
While any fan knows that the Half-life saga has been told over multiple games and expansions, I’ll be keeping this article firmly in the original story.
Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist working at the Black Mesa Research Facility in New Mexico. While assisting in an experiment in the Anomalous Materials Lab, he inadvertently participates in creating a “resonance cascade” after pushing a non-standard specimen into the scanning beam of an anti-mass spectrometer — causing a rift in space/time that opens a portal between Earth and the dimension Xen. From said portal pours the unsavory residents on the other side, with a proclivity to kill everything in sight. Gordon survives the initial dimensional fracture, and finds himself the only human left capable of navigating the destroyed facility, seeking help, and eventually closing the rift — all while battling not only the alien lifeforms, but the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit sent to wipe the laboratory and everything inside of it, humans included, off the map.
How is this not perfect movie fodder? After the buggery that was Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Doom, we could use an alien shooter with class — and anyone that is a fan knows that Valve pulled no punches on character development and atmosphere in this game.
What it would take to make it a movie
Not a thing more than what it already is — a well written story, with engaging characters, and a hell of a lot of gross aliens looking to eat you or stuff their ovipositor down your throat and lay eggs in your stomach. So far as complete packages are concerned in a clean and easy transition from your console to the big screen — Half-life is an easy sell.
Still, I have one thought…
Valve has a thing for silent protagonists, as like Chell from Portal, Dr. Freeman never speaks during any of the games — to the amusement of his peers, which is sort of fun. I like that it’s acknowledge during the game that Freeman isn’t big on words, preferring to do his talking via orange crowbar. Still, unlike my previous assertion that Chell need not speak for the entirety of the film based around her, I think it imperative that Freeman communicate in a Half-life movie — though I submit that it should be infrequently, well timed, and meaningful when he does. I always pictured Freeman as a sort of savant; many of the über-intelligent in the scientific community being fairly withdrawn; sort of in their own world. Dr. Temple Grandin, a high functioning autistic, describes my view of Freeman better than I could in describing herself.
She calls herself a primarily visual thinker, and that language — is her second language. Dr. Freeman is a brilliant theoretical physicist, and spends much of the game solving physics based puzzles — I like to think his silence has more to do with his having a touch of Asperger’s Syndrome. Really. It’s a great way to explain away his being the complete opposite of a social butterfly, and why his friends and colleagues in the game take his silence with a lot of humor and gentle teasing. Yeah, this is a movie about killing a giant-headed, floating, portal controlling baby alien (no…seriously), but that would be a fun and informative spin on Freeman’s strong, silent type persona.