ATTN, Gamers: J.J. Abrams Intends on Making ‘Half-Life’ and ‘Portal’ Movies, Good Ones

J.J. Abrams

Some pretty big movie news came out of the 2013 DICE Summit today. Why did talk suddenly turned to film during an event that’s generally thought of as a summit for video game companies? Because Bad Robot head J.J. Abrams took the stage with game developer Valve’s co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell in order to lead a discussion about storytelling. This wasn’t just some casual discussion of video games and movies and how they sort of intersect because they both tell narratives though. Oh no, Abrams and Newell had announcements to make.

Not content just to revamp Star Trek and Star Wars for entirely new generations, Abrams and his Bad Robot company are now preparing to tackle the age-old question, “Why has nobody been able to pull off making a half-way decent video game movie?” The film discussion first started when Abrams announced that, “there’s an idea for a game that we’d really like to work with Valve on,” a remark to which Newell then added, “we’re super excited about that and we also want to talk about making movies, either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie.”

So, that’s it in a nutshell. Not only is Bad Robot talking with Valve about making some sort of video game in the future, but they’re also talking about developing movie versions of two of their biggest game franchises. Getting a big name, quality director who runs a production company with a good track record interested in a popular video game property sounds like the sort of news that video game fans have been waiting years to hear, but—especially on the heels of the news that Duncan Jones is doing a World of Warcraft movie—is it all too good to be true? Are “talks” the sort of thing that could be easily forgotten tomorrow? Not according to Abrams.

After the formal discussion was over, Polygon caught up with the director to ask him some follow-up questions, and he told their reporter, “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.” He continued, “And both a Portal and Half-Life movie are things I want to see. We’re also aware of the cautionary tales of movies that became games and vice versa. Our goal here to is to treat the world Valve has created in both these properties like anyone would a book or some great story that comes from a pitch or original script — just to treat it with the respect they treat their games and their players with.”

And what of that video game that his company is supposedly going to be helping out on? Abrams continued his line of thinking by explaining, “We’re not looking to make a movie in the gaming world, we’re not looking to impose what we do on that, we’re looking forward to taking some of our strengths and collaborating with some of these incredible minds that make some of my favorite games. Just as I think they’re looking forward to taking some of their stories and the universe for some of their games and applying it to movies. I think they need to both be approached very differently.”

Sounds like he actually gets it, doesn’t it? Could this be it? In the coming years, are we finally going to see a rash of video game movies hitting theaters that aren’t complete embarrassments? Might this trend get so big that video game movies become the next comic book movie? Okay, okay, you’re right, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before anything, let’s cross our fingers for that one big success that’s needed to get the ball rolling. A ball which seems to now be in your court, Bad Robot.

Weaned on the genre films of the 80s. Reared by the independent movement of the 90s. Earned a BA for writing stuff in the 00s. Reviews current releases at

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