Christopher Nolan Plays Half-Life

I’m pretty sure he does. Not many plotlines manage to share the intricacies had by films like Inception and video games like the Half Life series, and very few are able to weave together these tapestries bristling with color and detail as can Christopher Nolan and Valve software. Differences in their respective material notwithstanding, both of these two realms, in my opinion, share one obvious but very impressive feature: the premises of their respective plots are amazing enthralling, but it is the little details we usually miss that carry them forward and keep us coming back for more, and here are my two cents on the matter,

Let’s start with Inception. As we all know, the film discusses dreams and philosophical questions of reality and so on. (For those who still haven’t seen it, read no further.) In the movie, Dominic Cobb, the protagonist, has spent a good amount of time in the dreams of others, usually to lift information out of others’ heads all in the name of the noble cause of corporate espionage. One of his earliest trials into pushing the envelope of this was taking himself and his wife into a deep near-comatose sleep in which they “live” long enough to reach their golden years. When they awaken, the wife is unable to maintain a solid grasp on reality and, thinking she is still in the dream, kills herself to wake up, as is customary in dreamland. Now, fast-forward to the movie’s end, we see Cobb finally seeing his children for the first time in who-knows, only to have the camera pan to Cobb’s totem (you know how when you’re lucid dreaming and you look for cues to indicate that you’re dreaming? A totem serves that function in the film), which is a top, spinning and spinning until it breaks beat and appears to topple. This brings us to believe that all ~2.5 hours of that was nothing but a dream. Now here’s the twist to all this: the point of all that I just said was to point one of the few details that most (I’m sure) members of the audience managed to get a hold of to the end of the film. This isn’t to insult anyone’s intelligence-the plot of Inception is ladden with details that would easily throw off the average viewer, hence the amount of confusion and frustration I’ve seen surrounding its plot, with fan theory after fan theory mercilessly scoping out the details that each’s predecessor somehow missed. Somehow I managed to get the gist of it but that’s because I was somewhat familiar with lucid dreaming through my neuroscience class, and I was probably lucky. Let’s move on to Half Life.

I haven’t played this game in a very long time but for some reason it teased me from somewhere in the back of my head, so like an addict I just had to scratch that itch. Once again, I donned my Hazard Suit to pay a friendly little visit to City 17. One of the things that struck me on this foray was just how organic the place felt-for a game made back in 2004 it certainly was far ahead of its time and still feels a lot more alive than most titles (excluding GTA, Assassin’s Creed, The Elder Scrolls and other such titles) nowadays. For those who don’t know (and how could you possibly not?!), the protagonist of Half Life is Gordon Freeman, a (very) quite and clearly socially awkward and very unlucky theoretical physicist who just always happens to be the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Keep those in mind for what I’m about to tell you. You start out by disembarking from a train some time in the future, only wide open and expansive spaces don’t greet you once you exit the train station-it’s a very claustrophobic and bleak future before you. Moving on, you are then chased through a housing project that’s currently in the middle of a shakedown. Wrong place, wrong time. The G-Man’s introductory speech may not have made much sense at the beginning, but when you think back to it (usually after several play-throughs), you’ll notice that it’s a recurring theme: from the first installment in the series Gordon Freeman has found himself time and time again in the crappiest and seemingly most impossible of scenarios, only to emerge severely wounded but somehow alive. Also, another detail most people would’ve missed? Remember in Half-Life 2 when you’re still in the beginning of the game and you’re following the underground railroad? Remember when I said that Freeman’s usually clumsy and such? Do you also remember that large barrier you have to destroy in order to proceed? Well, destroying it made me feel like I’d just messed up the resistance effort and assisted the Combine in whatever sick endeavors they had in mind. Hence my earlier point about details carrying the story forward in the most interesting and unique ways.

So here’s my thesis once more, this time with the sufficient evidence to back it up: the devil is in the details, and it is there that stories are truly told and are able to stand out amongst their peers in an ever-greying world of recycled ideas and monotony, and gems such as Inception and Half Life prove that point beautifully. It is with this sentiment that I conclude this rather lengthy post: audience members should focus on details but not to the point where the story is ignored and confusion results, and story writers shouldn’t shy away from inserting as many details as the story requires (and their hearts’ desire, of course). 

Y’all take care now


About optimistthepessimist

Always in transit.
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