If you ask the most ardent fans of Valve products what they are most looking forward to besides the release of the third part of Half-Life, they hesitate, they still answer: “A film … based on Half-Life!”.
The opportunity to dream about the long-awaited, although rather unexpected film adaptation fell to fans a few years ago after the officially announced collaboration between Valve father Gabe Newell and the head of the Bad Robot Productions film company, director JJ Abrams.
Abrams became especially popular after sitting in the director’s chair on the set of two Star Trek and the seventh episode of Star Wars. However, it is worth noting that in the portfolio of the filmmaker, or rather, in the portfolio of his company BRP, there are several less mainstream, entertaining projects.
Especially Abrams, who considers himself «a sad minority of movie geeks», stands out for his passion for laying out all kinds of Easter eggs in his movies.
One way or another, since the ill-fated conference at DICE Summit 2013, a crowd of fans regularly storms any brainchild of both Valve and BRP in search of any clues, hints and references. After all, everyone understands that if they really cook something, they cook it right. But, in any case, at this point, aside from speculation and all sorts of theories, which will be discussed below, the only thing in the hands of eager fans is a twenty-minute conversation between Abrams and Newell at that very conference.
D.I.C.E. Summit 2013
The discussion was mainly about storytelling methods on different platforms, about how it is customary to tell a story in movies and games.
Abrams, as you might guess, represented film and television, and talked about what the two industries could learn from each other.
In his opinion, modern games are much stronger than films in some ways, including due to immersion in characters and the possibility of additional endings. At the same time, he believes that it is cinema that has the ability to completely focus the viewer’s attention on a particular element.
One of the problems in games that Abrams sees is that the player often leads the scene in the wrong direction. To demonstrate, the director used a clip from Half-Life 2, in which Gordon, many years later, meets Professor Kleiner for the first time and, nevertheless, instead of concentrating on the dialogue, the player wanders around the level, throwing things in different directions, not paying attention attention to the words of the professor.
“Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but sometimes we just need to focus 100% on the story,” notes Abrams.
Gabe sees things differently. According to him, the players act as the architects of their entertainment, because it is they who decide what to pay attention to and what not. Another thing is that their actions are in any case under the control of the game scene.
Also, Gabe cited Abrams’ «Monstro» as an example:
“If I watch this movie with the mind of a gamer, then I immediately want to shout: “Damn it, drop your camera and run from here.” But you do not give me such an opportunity for the development of events.
Abrams agreed that cinema is often not friendly with logic: “It is unlikely that in real life people go out into the dark with strange sounds after all their friends were killed by a maniac. However, in the cinema, we often meet with a similar development of events.
Recalling such shortcomings in games, he complained about the limited dialogue on the part of the protagonist, which Valve games are especially famous for.
“Players are often required to match themselves with characters who behave completely differently than you would like. I think it can be just as frustrating and annoying as stupid movie characters.»
Gabe, in turn, said: “If you and I play Left 4 Dead, and we have to save each other, then this will no longer be the behavior given by the nature of the characters. It will be us and our personal story.”
Touching on the ins and outs of screenwriting, Abrams said that in a good film or series, there is always a scenario mechanism hidden inside that is not visible at first glance. The director recalled a case of how many years ago he was sitting in a hotel after a tiring flight and suffered from jet lag. He had a scene from Die Hard at the time in which John McClain is advised to rub his feet on the carpet to cheer himself up.
«I sat and rubbed my feet on the carpet like a fool, slowly realizing that the only reason the writers put this moment in the film was so that McClane would later end up without shoes and get into a scene with broken glass on the floor.»
According to Abrams, it is precisely these small moments, whether technical or emotional, that bring a certain inevitability to the characters, while in games, most often everything is much more straightforward.
The director said that it is very important not to let go of control over what is happening, whether it is a film or a game.
“It is imperative to make the audience empathize with the characters. If they can’t do that, whatever happens in the film, they’ll lose interest anyway.»
As an example, Abrams once again turned to Die Hard, namely the scene of a conversation between McClain and his wife.
“They spent 23 minutes investing in these characters, which is a lot for an action game. Likewise, in Back to the Future, it takes a full 32 minutes before Marty McFly travels back in time for the first time.»
At first glance, these points may not seem significant. In fact, they are very important, and without them the climax will not produce the desired effect.
By the way, Valve has already used a similar technique when creating the first Half-Life. At the beginning of the game, there are no explosions or gunfights. The player is simply living a typical Gordon Freeman day.
Similarly, we are immersed in the story in the second part, in the scene where you get the Gravity Gun. By itself, the new weapon will certainly delight the player, but at the same time, the scene reveals Alex’s inner world to us, telling us the details of her childhood and relationship with her father.
At the end of the conference, Gabe said that they were ready not just to talk about the prospects, but, finally, to try to implement them in the form of films based on Half-Life and Portal.
Games from Bad Robot Productions
No less interesting is the fact that Abrams mentioned plans for, so to speak, reverse cooperation in the form of developing a game based on the idea of Bad Robot Productions.
And it seems that we will soon be able to evaluate the game, only it was made without the participation of Valve. For unknown reasons, Abrams chose Chair Entertainment (Shadow Complex, Infinity Blade) as a companion, and Unreal Engine 4 became the engine. The release is planned for 2016.
It should be noted that it was not without gaming cooperation with Valve. On July 7, 2016, a modification for Team Fortress 2 called PASS Time officially went out of beta. The mod was developed by BRP in collaboration with Valve and Escalation Studios and is a kind of American football simulation with TF2 characters. Whether this is the last such collaboration between Valve and Abrams is unknown.
In 2011, one of Abrams’ best films, Super 8, was released. It would seem how this fact is connected with Valve, because it happened two years before the announcement of the collaboration. The fact is that two months earlier, the notorious Portal 2 was released, in which players found a game level called “Super 8” in extra materials.
Having started the level, you find yourself in a moving train, which soon crashes. Doesn’t it remind you of anything? After wandering among the ruins, we become witnesses of how something breaks the overturned car and starts … the trailer for the movie «Super 8».
One of the latest films from Bad Robot Productions was Cloverfield 10, the ideological successor to Monstro (originally Clovierfield), and it is he who is the main testing ground for fan speculation.
According to the conclusions of inquisitive players, much in the film, one way or another, refers us to Portal. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the most popular theories discussed in various forums. Which of the following is the fruit of the insatiable fantasy of hardcore players, and which is a simple tribute to filmmakers to their favorite games, is difficult to say.
First of all, any fan speculation is fueled by the fact that the director of the film is none other than Dan Trachtenberg, who once directed the short film Portal: No Escape. And although the short film is weakly impressive in its atmosphere, in it Trachtenberg properly portrayed the whole concept of portals. Nevertheless, according to the director himself, Bad Robot Productions, of course, saw the short film, but he did not get the opportunity to work on Cloverfield 10 thanks to it.
The main character of Cloverfield 10 is Michelle. What is the name of the girl from Portal? That’s right, Chell. Enough for fans to immediately draw the necessary parallels. In addition, in the story, Michelle injures her leg, and this can be interpreted as a reference to the «jump boots» in Portal.
Compare the synopsis for the movie and Portal: No Escape.
10 Cloverfield Street: «Waking up after a car accident, a young girl finds herself in the basement of a man who claims he saved her life and that a chemical attack outside has wiped out everything.»
Portal: No Escape: «A woman named Chell wakes up in a testing room with no memory of how she got there. She needs to get outside.»
A young girl who is being held in detention is trying to get out of an underground bunker. All this fits perfectly with the theme of Portal.
The aliens planned to exterminate humanity by unleashing a chemical attack on it. GLaDOS did the same for Aperture Laboratories staff.
At the end of Portal 2, after you defeat Wheatley, GLaDOS decides to free you and sends you outside. The place in the final scene is vaguely reminiscent of the exit from the bunker at 10 Cloverfield.
Left 4 Dead
Despite all the conjectures, the most obvious reference found in the film does not send us to Portal at all. In the final minutes of the film, we see Michelle driving aimlessly down the freeway when suddenly she hears a call for help on the radio, almost word for word repeating the radio message from the first Left 4 Dead game. Whether this is a hint that the film shares the same universe with the shooter, or is it just a harmless Easter egg from a Valve fan, is still unknown.
Spirit of the game
There is almost no scene in 10 Cloverfield where Michelle is present. Similarly, when playing the same Half-Life, you personify the hero and are always with him. You only see what your hero sees. Judging by the interview, this is not at all a coincidence, but a deliberate move by the director.
We should also mention the final action scene. It contained just that spirit and courage, characteristic only of games, where one little hero unexpectedly alone copes with a huge monster.
In numerous interviews, journalists asked Trachtenberg if 10 Cloverfield was connected to Monstro. Do the events of the films take place in the same universe, or was the name passed on simply as a publicity stunt. Judging by the comments of Trachtenberg and Abrams, Bad Robot Productions decided to make Cloverfield a kind of brand, under whose wing it is possible to sell films in a certain genre, with a certain atmosphere and mood. And it does not matter whether they intersect with each other or not, and whether the films will have sequels.
It immediately comes to mind that such a concept would be the best suited for the implementation of films based on Valve games.
Perhaps another great option would be a series format. Now everyone knows about the «Game of Thrones», but not everyone is aware that a film adaptation based on Martin’s creations could have been made much earlier in the form of a full-length film. The writer flatly refused any proposals, because no one offered to shoot a trilogy at once, and any other option seemed to him inappropriate and unable to convey the spirit of A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe Half-Life will be the same story.
The funny thing is, while the internet is going through the bones of every Cloverfield scene, Newell and Abrams may not have even started working on projects. Not so long ago, the director, of course, confirmed that the Portal and Half-Life films are in the early stages of development, but this does not guarantee anything.
(Author: Sean Keenan)
Who knows, maybe everything will work out with a bang, and movies based on games will reach a completely different level. It is very pleasing that the developers are ready to approach the matter “with feeling, with sense, with the arrangement” and combine the best of the two paths. Another thing is that all their conclusions sound rather abstract when you think about how they will be applied in practice. Rising fan speculation only clouds the picture. Despite the already considerable experience of the film industry, when filming the next game adaptation, filmmakers make a mistake and use the game as any other base for the script, and not as a separate unique platform with its own nuances. Perhaps Bad Robot Productions and Valve will put an end to this.