"There's an uprising starting - we should get out of here real fast!"
August 25, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Escape from City 17, Part 2 is a live action fan film set in the Half-Life universe (previously, related?).
posted by OverlappingElvis (20 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Nice to see the G-Man at 4:18 keeping an eye on things.
posted by chambers at 12:50 PM on August 25, 2011

I was honestly surprised by that. It seemed a little obvious for the G-Man.

He's usually a little more...subtle (say this last sentence in a G-Man voice. DO IT)
posted by to sir with millipedes at 1:40 PM on August 25, 2011

In the past, when I hear the words 'fan film,' I have this wave of sympathetic pre-embarassment hit me. These eager, motivated fans who are inspired to create their own stories, but tragically have not the talent or skill to make an enjoyable film, but they gave it their best. And, well, it sucks. Bad writing, acting, camerawork, effects, etc., but just watching it hurts your brain, and you just feel bad, because they tried so hard.

However, in the past few years that is fading, namely due to the promising works people have done specifically within the Half-Life setting. The ability to make a good visual narrative, with decent pro-am effects, and having competent actors, is finally getting a chance here.

It's not perfect, but I'm pretty impressed with it. They are honing their craft, and I am eager to see what comes next. I'm seeing more interesting shot choices, better editing, lighting, acting, and all around visual narrative.

So thank you, Purchase Brothers, for making a good piece of work, and giving me some real hope about fan films. And for making something that could be shown to non-HL people and pique their interest about the storyline of that world.
posted by chambers at 1:45 PM on August 25, 2011

Admittedly, they had already-owned and borrowed equipment to work with, but this for $250 is astonishing. There were many moments that I completely forgot I was watching a fan film.

Valve should hire them to make a web series that will placate fans until Valve gets around to HL3 or the fan base gets old and dies, whichever comes first.
posted by treepour at 2:34 PM on August 25, 2011

It seemed a little obvious for the G-Man.

One of the things that increases the creepiness of his character is that he just observes, for reasons you never fully know. He is not afraid of being seen, he's simply waiting. Hiding would imply fear, a weakness perhaps, but with the things he's seen, fear seems to be a missing feature in his character. That he's out in the open, seemingly unconcerned, enhances his creepiness. I don't think he minds being noticed, as long as he in is a position where you can't do anything about it. Not out of a concern for being stopped, just to prevent whatever the hell he does from being interrupted.

Valve should hire them
I agree, but not withstanding that, I'm happy just for the fact that Valve is supporting it simply by not sending out C&D notices to them. If there's a company out there that seems to 'get it' when it comes to embracing the efforts of it's customers and fans, it's them. That youtube page says they already have representation at CAA, so they aren't doing too bad at making their own way by themselves.
posted by chambers at 2:51 PM on August 25, 2011

chambers: "However, in the past few years that is fading, namely due to the promising works people have done specifically within the Half-Life setting. The ability to make a good visual narrative, with decent pro-am effects, and having competent actors, is finally getting a chance here. "

I confess that I've felt the opposite. I used to really enjoy things like this (and to a certain extent, I still do), but now it strikes me as unfortunate that such obvious talent is being used on something that's already been done. I would rather see an original SF film with production values like this, and I say that as a big HL2 fan. Then again, if it didn't have the name Half-Life attached to it we probably wouldn't be watching it right now, so I suppose it's a canny way to get your name out.

I don't mean to be negative. It's an impressive piece of work, to be sure.
posted by brundlefly at 3:06 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pretty cool. Makes me want HLIII and/or to lynch Gabe Newell even more.
posted by Decani at 3:10 PM on August 25, 2011

There's an uprising starting... outside Valve.

Oh wait, never mind.
posted by homunculus at 3:33 PM on August 25, 2011

Needs more Robert Culp.

Actually, that was really well done. When they entered the dark tunnel and the screen went black, I half expected to see a "Loading" screen appear.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:39 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Surprisingly underwhelming for a film that's been in waiting for two years.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:58 PM on August 25, 2011

From homunculus' link: "The cops showed up after someone else in the building called the police. He rode up on his Segway, but it turns out [the cop] was a big Half-Life fan. So he completely understood where they were coming from and didn't chase them off."
posted by Harald74 at 11:24 PM on August 25, 2011

In the past, when I hear the words 'fan film,' I have this wave of sympathetic pre-embarassment hit me.

One of the first fan films I saw was Troops, which completely blew my mind, so I've always approached them somewhat positively.
posted by Harald74 at 11:27 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lemmee get this straight: these guys are making (I assume) self-financed fan films for little or no money, but SyFy is still doling out cash for crap like Megapython vs. Gatoroid?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:57 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't want to be the guy that bursts the bubble, but it really wasn't that great. It was a mixed bag of forced emotion, hollywood tropes and references to Half-Life 2 scenarios. None of the characters felt even remotely developed and each scene felt entirely disconnected from the last. Not that it's all bad, the visuals were top notch as seems to always be the case with these sorts of projects, but as an actual film it felt a little lacking for me. The acting as well left me feeling a little empty, I mean I know anything set in the Half-Life universe has to be somewhat downtrodden, but that's not the problem here, I didn't feel any emotion from these actors.

I really want to like this film, honestly I do, but it just feels like they weren't basing it on any coherent script and instead filmed it one scene at a time with the impression that it'd all gel at the end.
posted by _frog at 4:05 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought part 1 was superb- very fast-paced, engrossing. They tried to throw in a 15-minute character arc with this second part, with slightly worse acting, worse editing, worse special effects, amateurish shakeycam. The final two or three minutes with the dreamish sequence was kind of nonsensical and disengaging. Overall a disappointing follow-up to its superior predecessor.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of the first fan films I saw was Troops, which completely blew my mind

That was a fantastic piece of work. It's just that since then (was it really 1997?), I've seen so many bad, bad, fan films. I enjoy both the best and worst of films, but I haven't seen more than two or three that haven't made me cringe and stop watching. A friend of mine for years has shown me many fan films in the hopes that 'You just might like this one.' Usually, it's the acting that puts me off. I'm not talking about the stuff you may see in "The Room," or even "Manos: The Hands of Fate." I mean worse. Way worse.

I don't like being on such a hatefest about these films. I don't want to link to examples, because I don't feel right saying 'this guy's work in particular sucks,' because even though it's unwatchable to me, it takes a ton of effort, conviction and heart to see a film project from start to finish, no matter if your budget is $100 million or $10. I mean, I wouldn't tell a painter not to paint if I didn't like their work, and the same applies to fan films for me.

I think I understand why several of the other posters in the thread didn't like it. But after all the painfully awkward, ham-handed and emotionally exaggerated scenes from so many other fan films, to finally see one that has promise is such a pleasant change, that I want to encourage and show my support for it. These guys aren't in the big leagues now, but give them 5-10 years, and they just might be making fantastic stuff. This short has it's problems, but it is several notches higher than 95% of the other fan films I've seen.

This short film took $250 and took it miles further than most other fan films in the last 10 years. I've seen people drop $50,000 and end up with something they don't even want to have on their own demo reel. Give these guys a 'real' budget, and a good amount of pre-production time, and I think they'll make something that's both original and great.

it strikes me as unfortunate that such obvious talent is being used on something that's already been done. I would rather see an original SF film with production values like this

I agree to a point. But to really do something original with equal production values, it takes much more money and time than can be at hand. With the tech these guys have, it's more about time than money.

Here's a two really big things that you would have to do yourself by going 100% original SF:

1) A setting and general world history that many people are familiar with, so you don't have to shoot very much backstory or exposition scenes. And establishing a good backstory is not easy when you have limited time and resources. It's one of the trickiest things to devise, and there are so many pitfalls, like having long narration scenes or introductions where you may lose the audience, or try crowbaring it into dialog to the point where you just have 'Sgt. Current Situation' and 'Detective Plot Point' just happening to have a detailed, relevant description of what's going on. You could try the other route and go obscure and vague, but then you need more time in which to reveal what things are and why characters react.

2) Design and animate from scratch all sorts of visual and audio effects, costume design, and new technological devices just to name a few. This can take over a year sometimes with only one or two people working on it, just to get the stage where you are ready to start animating the special effects. I know from experience.

The HL world is one of a few comfortable settings I can think of where a writer and director can tell a story and not feel like they are stepping on anybody's toes (like the main HL story arc). Other popular SF settings, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc., have a lot of baggage that makes having a separate, unrelated story more difficult for a writer to establish their own voice.

I too strongly desire to see more original SF stories and films that aren't more sequels of known moneymaking franchises. Right now though, good stories are taking a back seat to CGI for a while, which I've talked about in other threads. So I'll wait a while more while the studios burn through their sequel/remake 3D/CGI-orgy phase, and afterwards we may have a new wave of original, challenging, fantastic, smart, and well-written SF movies.
posted by chambers at 7:08 PM on August 26, 2011

new wave of original, challenging, fantastic, smart, and well-written SF movies
Like Children of Men, District 9, Inception or Source Code? [/derail]
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:17 PM on August 26, 2011

Like Children of Men, District 9, Inception or Source Code?

I'm not saying there hasn't been anything good lately. (Although District 9 was not good, even laughable at some times, and Source Code was neither original nor challenging in my opinion - just mix The Singing Detective, that Seven Days TV show, and a hint of Sliders.)

What's good for business (asses in seats) simply isn't as important as developing a quality story. Spectacle always sells, and CGI fits the bill to a T, so when you can throw $200 million mostly to CGI and some big actors with a crap script, and have a halfway decent chance of making the money back, right now story isn't as important (cf. Transformers 3). So it's not impossible, just extremely difficult, to get something with both a good story and spectacle at the same time.

The system will right itself, though. As technology improves even further, and costs are driven down even more, and what costs $100 million to do now may only cost a tiny fraction of that ten years from now.

Sure there still will be terrible big-budget empty-headed summer blockbusters, but think of how many more opportunities will be seen as a safer bet by studios then? An innovative story that is too financially risky now becomes something that can be seen as a decent gamble that could be grudgingly written off as a loss, rather than bankrupt the studio if it flops.

THAT's when things get interesting. With more opportunities to make more SF films with quite respectable special effects, even for movies in the $5-20 million range, competition in a more level field shifts the balance towards having well-written and implemented story with good CGI and effects that does not have to compromise story as much to ensure broad appeal. Now I'm not saying it's all sunshine and rainbows to come, they'll be plenty of crap too, but I would say it'll be similar in nature to the sci-fi of 40-50 years ago.

Imagine what the best films of this situation could bring out? Something as challenging and innovative as Alphaville, or as frontier breaking as 2001, adventure, good characters, and social commentary like Star Trek, or just simple fun like Barbarella and Dr. Who.

There is good SF out there now, of course; but what I think I see coming is going to be more chances for great SF to get out of development limbo and into the theaters.
posted by chambers at 11:15 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

District 9 was not good

WAAAAY beg to diffah.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:05 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

WAAAAY beg to diffah.

I know I'm in the minority with this one. The CGI and effects were fantastic, and Neill Blomkamp's work in this and his previous shorts were exceptional. It was a let down for me for two reasons:

First, the story itself, which felt like a rewrite of that 70's cheese movie Laserblast and an awkwardly presented social message. A few more rewrites would have made a world of difference, and made a deeper, more nuanced story that would have been able to merge the story with the message better. I had a hard time connecting with the characters when I saw it, which made me less involved with whatever was happening. The third act I started to get into it, but by then it was almost over.

Second, and this is the lesser of the two, with all those fantastic effects the cinematography in which those effects appear felt flat and a little dull. I totally get the reasons for wanting a handheld-cam look mixed with higher quality shots, but I would have preferred the the difference between the two was more exaggerated as it seems was initially intended. In the cinematographer Trent Opaloch's own words:
The two styles evolved during production. "At first," he notes, "the idea was to have a lot of contrast between the two types of footage. Pete had said, 'Go bonkers with the journalistic footage. Let the highlights blow out, let the camera find focus and have the iris adjust.' But then an interesting thing happened as we'd run a scene with the RED on a dolly and it felt like a completely different film. How would you ever piece these things together? And so we met in the middle. We went a little less extreme with the EX1 shots and a little less [clean] with the RED portions. I've seen the completed film twice now and I think that was definitely the right choice. The editors did a bang-up job cutting it together, and so now I think some of those transitions from one style to the other make some of the coolest-looking parts of the movie."
I would have preferred that they have went with the original high-contrast plan. But that's just my preference, and with the success it had and awards it received, I'm surely in the minority on this one.

My main gripe with the story is really with the script more than anything else. It could have been so much more than it was. I don't know, maybe I am being too hard on it.
posted by chambers at 3:49 PM on August 27, 2011

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