Rooster Teeth was founded in 2003 by Matt Hullum, Burnie Burns, Geoff Ramsey, Gus Sorola and Joel Heyman all of whom starred in the company’s awardwinning, flagship (and the longest-running ever) web series, Red vs Blue. The series used in footage recorded in the Microsoft game Halo, enhanced with voice over a technique known as machinima. If you haven’t ever seen Red vs Blue you should give it a watch, as it’s genuinely very funny.
Over the years the company and its fanbase have grown considerably, and in 2014 they announced their intention to produce a featurefilm, seeking backing from the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. The campaign smashed through its $650,000 target inside of ten hours, ultimately landing on the record total of $2.4 million and raising a lot of media interest in the project. So what did the fans get for their money?
In 1977, an alien civilisation contacts the American Military (because it’s always America, aliens love it so many monuments to destroy) and gives them a warning and a gift. The warning: a warrior race, known as The Worg, are coming to eff things up, but for some reason they won’t be coming for 38 years. The gift: weaponry, in the form of a shield, helmet, speed boots and a laser blaster. These gifts are likened to the items Perseus received from the Gods in Greek mythology, which I though might be an indication that the Greek Gods were also aliens, and that once again human life was to become a part of their cosmic game but such notions would prove too high brow for Lazer Team. Several miles too high.
The army then spends the next 38 years training a wunderkind infant into a human killing machine, ready to save the Earth only for the weaponry to fall into the hands of four idiots: the high school jock, the town sheriff, the washed-up American Football player and a redneck idiot.
I didn’t come into a film called Lazer Team expecting a lot of intelligence in the writing, but I found myself frustrated with the evidence the the writers are clearly very intelligent, what with the Greek mythology references, and a savvy knowledge of genre tropes however the end result all felt just a little lazy. Perhaps they felt that they had to restrain themselves to try reach a broader audience, but I wished they hadn’t. The story and the characters are all fairly run of the mill, and yes you can say that the film is trying to be at one with the Sci-fi blockbusters of yore, such as Ghostbusters, yet I can’t help but feel there was a chance here to pay due homage and still be something more itself.
Despite the missed chance, though, the film is still good, really good in fact, and I put this down largely to the acting.
The key to the successes of the film lie in how much fun the cast are having everyone seems entirely happy to be there, which makes for a great audience experience. There is huge amount of chemistry between Rooster Teeth regulars Michael Jones (Zach, the jock), Gavin Free (Woody, the redneck) and Burnie Burns (Hagan, the sheriff) they riff off one another, creating an irresistibly charming dynamic I couldn’t help but enjoy. I’m not saying that any of them are going to be winning oscars anytime soon, but I am so weary of seeing great actors phoning it in in big blockbusters it is utterly refreshing to witness a cast who are boiling over with enthusiasm. The fourth member of the titular team is Colton Dunn (as seen in Parks and Recreation, and a writer for popular sketch duo Key and Peele) as Herman (the has-been), and while he’s not an RT regular (though he has been involved with the company more and more since this film) he fits seamlessly into that core dynamic.
The film also features Allie DeBerry (from some Disney Channel stuff) as Sheriff Hagan’s daughter and Alan Ritchson (Gloss in The Hunger Games and Raphael in the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as Adam, the would be champion of Earth. Dunn, DeBerry and Ritchson don’t exactly add Hollywood AList glamour to the mix, but they definitely all make more-than-worthwhile contributions.
The film is welldirected by Matt Hullum, who has a good eye for shot composition, and he keeps the film’s pace up well keeping us interested though this occasionally works to the film’s detriment. There were a few occasions where we could have slowed down a little more, maybe taken some more time to get to know our characters before they discover their alien weapons. Also, near the end of the film Hullum goes for a ‘dark night before the dawn’ moment, with the team deserting Hagan for what feels like all of a minute, before deciding to go save the day after all.
The film shows a lot of promise, in my opinion, and I have to give Rooster Teeth huge props for trying to make a big film here, with lots of effects, explosions and excitement. If you’re here looking for an Academy award winning film you’re in the wrong place, but if you’re here to sit back and relax and have fun that you’re going to have a great time. I am judging the film partly on where it has come from, partly on the potential shown here, and partly because it represents little guys making big waves but I’m judging it mostly on how much I enjoyed watching it and, in spite of all its many flaws, I enjoyed it a lot.