Portal: No Escape Is A Short Film

By Jim Rossignol on August 24th, 2011 at 7:26 am.


It’s a pretty fantastic short film. You can watch it below. The film was apparently directed by Dan Trachtenberg, and stars Danielle Rayne. It was first shown at SDCC earlier this summer.

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62 Comments »

  1. PodX140 says:

    Absolutely fantastic quality, with an equally well made ending. I especially love the fact that I can show this to anyone with any knowledge of the portal universe, without actually having to spoil anything or go into detail.

    The narration given by the environment only really is a fantastic piece of work, and suits the tone perfectly.

    Exceptionally well made and written.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Obviously i do agree on the quality of the work, but I don’t feel it fits the tone of Portal. Portal only hints at a level of gloomyness that this short displays.

    • PodX140 says:

      I guess I meant to say the tone of the film, not the Portal universe. It just ties everything (the single character, the bleak state of the room, the soundtrack, the constant exercise, the surveillance shots, ect.) together in the film by really emphasizing the loneliness and lack of hope.

      EDIT: The only fault I’ve only now seen (after inspecting the surveillance footage thoroughly to see how long it took her) is that the footage is extremely garbled. We can see the days counter go up to 15 at one point, yet in a following scene we see 14, then even 8 after that. It is either an error (likely), or left in for a reason I can’t begin to guess.

    • iisjreg says:

      @Tusque D’Ivoire, I agree to a point. There were many, many subjects and probably many different iterations of tests. I think this short would be perfectly fitting and ‘viable’, but, yes, not with the specific storylines that are in the two games. :)

    • Chris D says:

      I don’t know. I think Portal is pretty damn gloomy if you stop and think about it. The humour in the game undercuts that quite a bit but I think we’re able to appreciate the humour because we’re not actually the ones trapped by an insane computer who has killed everyone else, with no idea if there’s anywhere left to escape to, and even when we think we’ve got out we’re dragged back to go through the whole thing over again.

    • soldant says:

      @Tusque D’Ivoire – I’m with you. This is a very good movie and I enjoyed it (especially the end!) but it’s not Portal, it just uses Portal art with the gritty factor turned up to 11. Portal is gloomy for sure and vaguely depressing, but this kind of grit isn’t really hinted at; Portal’s world is a cold, clinical, borderline-sterile environment which hints at a more sinister purpose that runs opposite to the appearance of the facility at large (high tech, scientific, bettering humanity). The “grit” seen here in this movie is mostly seen in the maintenance areas of Portal, or when the facility has completely crumbled, not in testing or living conditions. It’s fairly out of place.

    • Mana_Garmr says:

      @PodX140
      I think that’s actually the hours counter.
      (hours:minutes:seconds:seconds/100)
      So the changing number just shows the passing of the days.

    • PodX140 says:

      @Mana_garmr

      I believe it’s only miliseconds as the smallest denomination in the first surveillance footage, the section at 2:03 has to be in seconds, you can clearly see that small events (such as throwing the tray) are not fully shown, just cut.

      The only reason I’m nitpicking this in the first place is that A) pet peeve and B) it’s such a fantastic film to begin with that it’s easy to see areas where it lacked that same quality.

  2. povu says:

    Very nice, didn’t see that coming.

  3. Jahandar says:

    I hope this is just a taste of something larger to come, but even if not, the taste alone was awesome.

  4. Rii says:

    That was awesome, although I’m not quite clear how she suddenly discovered the Portal gun, and I think we could perhaps have done with a few less push-ups.

    • karry says:

      More like, some variety of exercise was in order, not just two kinds interchanged 10 times.

      Also, i dont think it really works very well, with human guards and all…even if they were supposed to never actually catch her – she just moves too slow. Of course real people cant do a 180 turn and shoot in 1/10th of a second, but that just means there had to be a bit longer pre-production phase.

    • gwathdring says:

      Yeah, I’m not quite getting how she found it either. That’s the one bit I didn’t like.

    • Donjo says:

      It is a bit confusing alright, but as it’s revealed in the end- that it’s all just a test, it isn’t entirely implausible that she was subtly guided to it.. that’s what I imagine anyway :)

    • Jahkaivah says:

      She was looking at the writing on the wall with a fairly distinct look of accomplishment on her face before she went to get the portal gun. I would say it’s logical that the writing was a code explaining how to obtain the gun and she had just figured out what it was saying.

      I would say a bigger problem is the context for which the portal fling was used. Portal fling is something you would want to experiment with first and there were far safer ways across that gap like simply firing a portal across it. Though I appreciate that portal fling would be more entertaining of course.

  5. ckpk says:

    perfect characterisation of chell

  6. nash93 says:

    No way could she make that jump at the end without Long Fall Boots!

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Her momentum at the end was horizontal tucking into a roll not a vertical fall. Or did you just want to see Rayne in high healed boots? Me too. I also half expected it to end in a wedding proposal.

  7. Very Real Talker says:

    Jesus Christ I hate the criticisms of you guys…. BUT THE ORIGINAL PORTAL WASN’T SO GLOOMY!

    Yes because they are FORBIDDEN to give their interpretation of the original material, they must recreate portal in the most identical way as possible. Come on guys how stupid can you get.

    Personally I loved the gloomy elements in portal 1 and 2 and I don’t think there is anything bad if someone wants to make a fan tribute focusing and expanding on them

    • PodX140 says:

      agreed 100%. The Half life universe needs this sort of fleshing out, after all, it’s a freaking dystopia!

    • godwin says:

      Yes, I’ve already had enough of the RAT MAN or COMPANION CUBE meta fan “fiction” fixation bullshit from the The National music video contest.

  8. mandrill says:

    I find myself wondering if Dan Trachtenberg is in any way related to Michelle of Buffy and Euro Trip fame.

  9. Yosharian says:

    The film was quite good, however the music was terrible – intrusive and inappropriate at all times. The person who wrote and coordinated the music for this short does not understand the use of music in films. With a different soundtrack this could have been perfect.

    • Starky says:

      Bullshit.

      I know it is common to pretend to be an expert on every subject on the internet, but I seriously doubt you’re such an expert at film scoring that you can pass such sweeping judgement.

      While that short may have had a few issues with the music’s editing in my opinion (speaking as a amateur musician – it was slightly off beat compared to the visuals at a few points) overall it was a good enough fit and didn’t in any way detract from the mood.

      You might disagree with the style of music, but that is a matter of taste – what would you prefer sweeping string heavy orchestral score?

    • SuperNashwan says:

      It’s not terrible but it is highly derivative of Trent Reznor’s stuff. Of course often that’s exactly how a director will ask for music: “make it sound like composer x” (where x is normally Hans Zimmer).

    • Starky says:

      Or Horner, or Williams.

      That said it didn’t remind me of Trent Reznor, but another composer who I can’t recall right now and it is bugging me.

      I was thinking John Murphy, but it’s not him…

      Still there are quite a few films and composers that do that heavy piano bass rock and synth sound, so yeah it is pretty derivative, but derivative isn’t always bad – some of the best songs and soundtracks in history are highly derivative.

    • Saldek says:

      I almost could have sworn that the music was from NIN, but I confused it with Ghosts III,4 (22/36) :/
      Would love to know what it actually is …

  10. aircool says:

    Does she have proper, Physx bewbs?

  11. Binary77 says:

    This is a really slick piece of work, but the story needs a kick up the bum & it sorely needs a bit of humour. Too many fan films are excuses to test out FX, but i guess that’s what they’re for in a way.

    Top marks for production value though. I’m a filmmaker myself & realise how hard it can be to put even the simplest production together.

    And yeah, the actress was great in it. I just would have liked to have seen a comedic foil to her seriousness.

    • Rii says:

      “The story needs a kick up the bum & it sorely needs a bit of humour.”

      Or not.

    • Donjo says:

      @Binary77
      I totally disagree, this is a brilliant addition to the Portal universe. It doesn’t all have to be fat jokes you know.

    • Binary77 says:

      Alright, maybe i forgot to add the disclaimer ‘IN MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION:’ before my comment. I appreciate that a lot of people really dig it & rightfully so. I just feel that it could’ve been better with a bit more characterisation. And the humour in Portal is way more than just fat jokes anyway – both games are full of jokes & quirks from start to finish. This seemed empty in that respect & i thought it was a bit of a shame, considering they’d got so much else so right.

    • PodX140 says:

      @Binary77 But it DID have characterization. It characterized the protagonist, sure, but even more it characterized the setting. Just because it didn’t have speaking doesn’t mean that it wasn’t fleshed out. The emptiness is the point of the film, it’s a bleak take on the Half life universe.

      PS. I feel like I’m posting too much on this story…

  12. drowsy says:

    For anyone that’s interested, Dan Trachtenberg also directed a short called More Than You Can Chew which is fairly cool. Twilight Zone-esque, in all the right ways.

    • vivlo says:

      a fake zombies movie ! well that one got me hanged way more that the one on Portal, which was nice in some regards but not as well acted, nor having as good an ambience imo.

  13. mindlessrant says:

    Freaking gorgeous. How have I missed that before.

    • EOT says:

      Because when I sent the link to Jim last night there were only 100 views and as such word of its existence hadn’t spread very far.

  14. EOT says:

    Reply Fail

  15. scorcher24 says:

    It is aswesome!
    Thanks for bringing this up.

  16. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    Since I’m a lazy boy I’ll just copypaste what I wrote in the other thread:

    Well the game itself is awesome, but damn that’s some heavy consolitis. No AA, no quicksave, no mouse cursor in the menu if a 360 controller is plugged in (had to deactivate it from the options to make the cursor appear), no changing graphical settings ingame, no changing THE FRIGGIN’ CONTROLS ingame! Also all the settings (graphics, controls, everything) resets when you exit the game. I sincerely hope that these things are artifacts of the demo being the console demo with just the barest minimum of porting done because man, that is some embarrasing stuff.

    Again, the game is good fun, but it spits in the face of PC gaming. (Though it plays excellently with mouse and keyboard, barring a few uncomfortable movements for the left little finger.)

    • EOT says:

      What the fuck are you talking about?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Mr Syndrome is commenting on the Space Marine demo, for reasons unclear.

    • diamondmx says:

      I thought he was applying bitter irony.
      Your suggestion does make more sense – but I like mine better, so I go back to my ignorance.

    • Urthman says:

      He’s absolutely right. This portal mod or whatever it is doesn’t let you change settings, customize controls–it doesn’t even support mouselook–it has no quicksave, and I finished the whole thing in less than an hour.

      In fact, it’s basically one long cutscene with no intereactivity whatsoever.

    • son_of_montfort says:

      But the graphics are super realistic!

  17. pagad says:

    The original Portal is one of the gloomiest games I can think of. Sure, there’s black humour, but the humour itself is still pretty grim to go with the creepy ambience of the abandoned Aperture complex (this really hits when the turrets are first introduced, which is also when you first discover some parts of the facility beyond the sterile test chambers). As much as I love Portal 2 I think it lost some of that as its overall tone is more overtly comedic.

    • JakeOfRavenclaw says:

      Interesting to hear you say that. While the bits of Portal 2 involving Wheatley tended towards the more overtly comedic, I thought that the second act was by far the grimmest bit of the series, as it’s only then that you realize how huge and twisted and insane Aperture really is. Looking up at all those testing pods never fails to unsettle me. Certainly Cave Johnson’s voiceovers defuse the tension, but it’s still pretty dark.

      Anyway, with regards to the film, I could have done with fewer push-up shots, but that ending was awesome. I assumed that those soldiers were supposed to be Combine at first (not entirely sure now), and the general tone seems to match more closely to Half-Life in any case.

  18. Gundato says:

    With regard to the gloomy: Yeah, Portal 1 (and 2) were pretty gloomy. But they also were light-hearted.

    The best way to think of it would be to take Cave Johnson’s rant about Lemons from Portal 2. With JK Simmons saying it, it is an emotional, but entertaining, rant. It gives a good insight into the character, it is pretty depressing, but it makes you smile.

    Now imagine if they had someone else as the voice actor. Someone who wanted to give a really deep and dramatic reading. Suddenly, you are no longer smiling. It is just depressing.

    That being said, I liked the short, even if way too long was spent on the exercise montage.

  19. Urthman says:

    Pretty stupid tactical use of portals. She should be putting portals under the feet of the guards and dumping them somewhere, not doing that risky kick-a-bed-through-a-portal onto his head (that was very cool, but what if she hadn’t kicked it quite hard enough to go through?) and definitely not portaling herself *closer* to a guard and taking him out by hand.

    • Starky says:

      I was thinking the same through it, when she shot up at the ceiling I thought she was then going to put one under his feet to escape.

      And those 2 guards on the roof, I’d have just flung them randomly over the edge.

      She clearly wasn’t properly thinking with portals.

    • diamondmx says:

      I don’t think she was quite ready yet to kill … for Science

    • godwin says:

      And you, good sir/ma’am, are thinking Too Much and being a Whiny Kid at that.

  20. celozzip says:

    yawn. badassdigest summed it up pretty well. although i didnt even like it as much as he did.

    http://www.badassdigest.com/2011/08/23/lets-talk-about-why-this-portal-fan-film-annoys-me

  21. Muzman says:

    Yeah can’t say I’m crazy about this one. Around the traps of short digital films those riffs and look effects are really played, if you ask me. A wider audience probably won’t see it that way though. Portal done Matrix/Oldboy grim-dark doesn’t sit with me very well either. Portal is all about that sort of Milgram experiment ‘banality of evil’ black humour. Doing that well requires great writing and acting though and that’s not always available.

  22. Viper50BMG says:

    It really wasn’t that bad; however, I think we’re all making the assumption that it’s supposed to be a Portal-only fan film. See, the tone really seems to be more appropriate for the Half-Life 2 universe, doesn’t it? Did anyone else find the “guards” pretty similar to the HL2 Combine we all know and hate? If so, perhaps the Combine has taken over the Enrichment Center Testing concept after finding the Borealis and it’s mysterious cargo? Just a few thoughts for the radical disparity in tone.

    Oh, and the Portal Gun was hidden behind the panel with the scratches on it. She looked at it funny, and realized that it was moveable. Yeah, really awkward and “convinient”.

    • icebrain says:

      Of course it was convenient. It’s a test – she was supposed to find it. Did you find it ‘suspiciously’ convenient that in Portal you had a Weighted Companion Cube when you needed one?

  23. brodix says:

    nvm

  24. ASBO says:

    Good grief. This is exceptionally good and yet I read the comments here and it’s like reading the comments on YouTube. Would people seriously have enjoyed it more if it had been a live-action walkthrough?