Way back in early 2013, J.J. Abrams and Valve co-founder Gabe Newell announced their partnership to produce big-screen adaptations of the game studio’s wildly popular Portal and Half-Life series. The announcement, which was made during that year’s Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain (D.I.C.E.) Summit for game industry creators and executives, generated quite a bit of positive buzz at the time, but there hasn’t been much in the way of updates since that initial declaration.
The two projects are far from dead, however, according to Abrams.
Asked whether he had an update on the collaboration between Valve and Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, the filmmaker indicated that the Portal and Half-Life movies are still in active development.
“Not yet, but they’re in development,” Abrams told IGN during an interview to promote the recently released 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was produced by Bad Robot. “We’ve got writers, and we’re working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update.”
While it’s true that it’s not the most “exciting” update on the projects, it’s a good sign that the projects have writers and are in some stage of actual development rather than sitting idle. Given that studios will often go through multiple scripts and writing teams before production shifts in high gear — and there could be any number of delays during the casting process — it’s probably best to be cautiously optimistic at this point and not read too much into Abrams’ comments.
One thing that should make Portal fans happy is knowing that Bad Robot already has a working relationship with one filmmaker well-acquainted with the game franchise. 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg earned the attention of gamers and filmmakers alike for his 2011 short film Portal: No Escape, a live-action short based on the game series that showcased his grasp of the game’s mechanics and tone, as well as the visual effects necessary to bring a film about the series to life. The film (embedded below) currently has more than 17.3 million views on YouTube.
First released back in 2007, the first Portal game follows a test subject in a research facility who must navigate the laboratory using a device that creates portals connecting one surface to another. During her adventure, she’s tormented by the facility’s artificial intelligence, which grows more persistent and deadly as the story progresses. A sequel to the game was released in 2011.
The first Half-Life was released in 1998, and had players take control of a character named Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist in a New Mexico facility where a rift has been opened up between our world and a terrifying dimension filled with various, deadly creatures. The game won a long list of awards and was followed by a sequel and several episodic spinoff games. Both the Portal and Half-Life games are set in the same universe.