For those unfamiliar with the company Rooster Teeth, the creators of Lazer Team, they’ve been making videos and series online for years, since even before Youtube. They first garnered fame from their series Red vs Blue, a series featuring a group of friends dubbing over Halo gameplay. Red vs Blue is now 13 seasons long, can be found on Netflix, and has given Rooster Teeth a huge fanbase with several other series. It is this fanbase that crowdfunded their first feature-length film, Lazer Team, and the parallels between Lazer Team and Red vs. Blue are clear. Which means both good and bad things.
In its time, Red vs. Blue evolved from a simplistic, raunchy comedy to a sci-fi series, infused with personality. The show never lost its jokes, but they did take a backseat to the detailed plots that gave structure to the series. Lazer Team attempts to do the same thing, but based of the time its given, it feels a bit rushed and off. There’s some funny moments for sure, but they come few and far between compared to the story. Now that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s hard to say a film is bad because it has a good plot. But it is odd to see a film billed as a comedy turn out to be less focused on the funny than the story. It’s like the opposite of The Martian, the Ridley Scott Mars movie that won Best Comedy at this year’s Golden Globes. Not all of Lazer Team’s jokes land, but it’s enough to color in the plot to make it feel like a complete movie. It just doesn’t feel like a complete comedy.
As far as the Lazer Team talent, the chemistry is clearer between the in-house Rooster Teeth actors than the other actors cast in the film. Not to say they were bad – Colton Dunn and Alan Ritchson both did well with their roles (Herman and Adam, respectively), but it’s clear they don’t mesh quite the same way the others do. Woody (Gavin Free) is an odd character – it’s a British actor playing a dumb Southern man who evolves into a smart British man because of a space helmet. It’s a transition that doesn’t quite feel organic, but the film does its best to make us okay with it – “that’s what stupid people think smart people sound like.” At the very least, Free’s Southern accent sounds better than some other Brits (looking at you, Andrew Lincoln). Burnie Burns (Hagan) and Michael Jones (Zach) both play to their strengths – Jones as the foul-mouthed high schooler, and Burns as the bumbling father figure. For Rooster Teeth fans, there are plenty of cameos of the personalities you know and love, even by Rooster Teeth collaborator/Barenaked Lady Ed Robertson. But as far as adding in new people to the strong internet family, the shoe doesn’t quite fit – they are, in a sense, two different Boot Crews.
One thing that the movie really excelled at was the special effects. It probably shouldn’t have been so surprising, seeing as Rooster Teeth has done so many projects that involve special effects. Their other big show, RWBY, is an animated show that relies on motion-capture for their characters. They’ve had experience with special effects, and it really showed in this movies, especially considering they brought in their animated experience into a live-action film. The effects of the aliens and the weaponry were well done, and Rooster Teeth clearly used their experience and Indiegogo money well.
It’s the idea of Rooster Teeth’s “experience” in creating content, particularly content that treads the line between serious and comedic, that makes the shortcomings of Lazer Team a bit more apparent.
Slight spoiler – Lazer Team ends with a bit of an ambiguous ending. Much like the ending of 21 Jump Street, the film is leaving the door open to sequels or spin-offs. It wasn’t a bad thing – 22 Jump Street was surprisingly delightful, but seeing it in Lazer Team made me realize what my real problem with the movie was. Overall, the strengths of Lazer Team are the same as their various series, which made me leave the screen wishing that Lazer Team were a series as well. Lazer Team certainly played to the strengths of the creative team, but if you look at their work, they do better at the series. Lazer Team was a good set-up for a universe, but its ending made me realize I wishes it were a web-series, much like Red vs. Blue, RWBY, or even Ten Little Roosters, a movie-like web series. Overall, it was a pretty good film, just something that may have fit more in the medium that Rooster Teeth knows. Hopefully, if this does get spun out into a sequel, we’ll see the strength of TV-like serialization in a sequel that feels like a solid new story.