The cake may be a lie, but here’s the truth: JJ Abrams’ long-rumored adaptation of Valve’s hit game Portal is in active development at Warner Bros.
During a press day for the home release of Super 8’s 4K Blu-ray, Abrams confirmed the Portal movie’s status to IGN. “We actually do have a script that’s being written for the Portal movie now at [Warner Bros.]. We’re really excited about the take and the pitch, so it feels like that thing’s finally on the rails.” Abrams’ suggestion towards Portal’s long development may remind you that it’s been eight years since he and Valve founder Gabe Newell first announced that Bad Robot and Valve were looking to work together at DICE 2013.
Abrams didn’t reveal the writer(s) behind the Portal script, or whether any directors have been approached about the project yet, but he is excited to expand on the fertile storytelling ground of the games. “It’s got enormous potential for a lot of reasons, one of which is because of the limited narrative of the game, as ingeniously told as it is, the potential of it is so huge. It’s gonna be super fun.” That makes it sound like the film may hew closer to the first Portal, which followed silent protagonist Chell, a test subject at Aperture Science who has to escape the (mostly) decommissioned facility using only (only) a gun that creates portals. The story progressed mostly through the dialogue of Aperture Science’s insane AI, GlaDOS. Portal 2 did expand a lot on Aperture Science’s history, and featured an iconic performance from J.K. Simmons as Aperture Science’s founder, Cave Johnson.
And yes, Abrams acknowledged that there’s likely to be fan outcry for Simmons to return to the role in live-action (hey, Marvel fans got their way in Spider-Man: Far From Home.)
While the relative freedom that a Portal adaptation allows for is clearly a boon for what Abrams and Bad Robot have planned, it seems like the adaptation of the lore-rich Half-Life has been harder to crack. When asked about the status of the Half-Life movie, which Bad Robot was developing as of September 2016, Abrams said “the Half-Life thing, we’re not actively involved with at the moment.” While Portal and Half-Life are part of a shared gaming universe, it sounds like there’s no pressure to establish that world in a live-action Half-Life project first. And so the debate about whether the silent Gordon Freeman should talk in a movie adaptation can be laid to rest. For now.
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This is just one of a number of high-profile projects Abrams has in development at Warner Bros. right now. Since signing a $500 million contract with WarnerMedia in 2019, Abrams has been attached to several projects at the studio, most notably a number of their upcoming DC films and streaming shows. Warner Bros.’s success with video game movies — both Detective Pikachu and Mortal Kombat performed well — make it clear that they’re ready to leverage their budding relationship with Abrams (and by extension, Valve) to continue being a major player in that space.
Super 8, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, releases on 4K Blu-ray in stores and online on Tuesday, May 25th.