Pixel to Projector: Portal


My digging was not fruitful, but regardless — I would suggest that the writing team at Valve that put this game together most certainly be brought in under the watchful (but not dominating) eye of a seasoned feature film screenwriter. The dialogue for GLaDOS was top notch; these folks definitely knew what they wanted their game to be, and executed beautifully.

For my money, the best writer to oversee the Valve gang would also be my top selection as director.


Who better to handle the solitary feel, strange behavior/atmosphere of Portal than the guy who took a shot at (and I feel, succeeded) at bringing Solaris back to the big screen?

Steven Soderbergh has always taken odd projects and made them interesting and fun. I may be in a minority here, but I thought A Scanner Darkly was fun, inventive, and awesomely creepy. I brought up Solaris earlier because, simply by its nature, Portal is going to be brimming with quiet shots — panning through brightly lit, sterile hallways with turrets sitting silently, waiting for Chell to enter and end her life. Half of the atmosphere of Solaris came from the oppressive silence; the buildup to events and actions. That said, with the Ocean’s franchise on his resume, it’s clear he’s more than capable of presenting the audience with mile-a-minute action when it’s needed. I can forgive him nonsense like The Good German (which was still pretty, in all fairness) and The Girlfriend Experience for those abilities alone. As long as he sticks closely to the source material and brings his artistic eye to the film, Steven Soderbergh would be a fantastic fit.


Sorry Steven, but we’ve got nothing for George Clooney in this one.

Gong Li as Chell: Li is still young enough to pull off some of the physical shots, if not all if she were up to the challenge. Yes, I realize I said Chell should be kept is — a slightly older woman, plain; and Gong Li is far from plain. As stunning as she is, it wouldn’t take much in the way of movie magic to tone her down.After that, you’re left with the extremely expressive face of a supremely talented actress who has been in films where a look can say as much as a page worth of dialogue; Raise the Red Lantern being a powerful example of this in action. A silent character, perhaps even more than one that has many lines, needs an above average actor. I think she fits the bill nicely.

Ellen McLain as GLaDOS: If it ain’t broke…

Ellen is the original voice actor for GLaDOS, and there really is no reason to move beyond her. She’s intimately familiar with the character, and even the with distortion used to mask her voice, it’s clear her delivery is unique. Also, she’s already involved with Half-life, so win-win.

Will it be made?

I could see it, but only if the payoff for 2011’s Portal 2 is grand. The revelations and tying up of the story arc (or continuation of, if this is not the last we’ll see of Chell and her gun) will have to be hugely satisfying, and game sales as strong as the original. The key in this is whether or not Portal 2 can carry itself, as it was released in the Orange Box game pack along with Team Fortress and Half-life. If it has legs, and makes a lot of money — well, we already know Hollywood is sticking to what they know sells. It’s entirely possible, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. Still, as far as wishful thinking goes, I think it has a better chance than most longshots.

Chance of box office success

This is tricky, because your primary ticket holder will, of course, be fans of the game. It’s such a niche offering, that even the general gaming population might ignore it — and getting casual moviegoers interested may be an exercise in marketing genius. You have a female action lead that isn’t Angelina Jolie, and a game property that is loved mightily but still has a cult vibe to it.

I think this is a word-of-mouth movie, and if they handle the ending right in opening that doorway a crack into the overall Half-life Universe which would without question be big box office by itself — this could be a movie that dig strong numbers. Throw in DVD with tons of special features, and not only would it make some of its money back, but I believe it would end up being called a fairly significant financial success.

Next week, since I’ve all but beat you over the head with it, I’ll be tackling my biggest Pixel to Projector yet — Half-life, the movie. Valve hasn’t been giving us nearly enough Gordon Freeman these last few years, so I’m going to do it for them. Bring your orange crowbars, and fantasize along with me as I talk all things wasteland, Combine, and Headcrab!

Get your game on with more Pixel to Projector.

Dustin is a California transplant by way of West Texas, spending most of the last ten years anywhere between Oceanside and Santa Barbara. Dustin has been writing since adolescence, winning such illustrious honors as first grade teacher Ms. Wall's Creative Critter Writing Award.

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