By Jamie McNaught.
Rooster Teeth to the uninitiated are one of the internets prodigal sons, being most famous for the machinima series Red Vs Blue using the Halo Engine to create the show. Now in its 14th season and boasting other series as RWBY, Let’s Plays, Podcasts etc. As far as companies go on the internet, RT are up there. So naturally, giving their successful move into live action shorts (all acted by the staff themselves) it was inevitable they would move into full featured films. Originally set for a budget of $650,000 RT went about funding the film via Indigogo. This modest aim was blown out of the water eventually receiving approximately $2.4m, a record breaking amount on the site for film funding.
So, for a Sci-Fi flick that budget equals that of the likes of SyFy’s ‘Big Sea Monster vs Ludicrous Robot Giraffe…’ This is a very low budget genre film. The reason for the likeness is to highlight just how far the company stretches the money onto the screen to elevate itself from the schlocky efforts seen else where. With epic sweeping camera movements, many shots from the air, great SFX on the whole and quite frankly excellent lighting, this easily rivals mid budget films for pure aesthetics.
Just as the case in their shorts, most of the actors are directly used from the company and are not fully trained actors, with the exception of Alan Ritchson (Smallville, The Hunger Games) and Colton Dunn (writer on The Key and Peele and various RT productions). Knowing this fact it does impress as the ensemble hold their own on the whole with their acting chops. Michael Jones (RT’s Achievement Hunter shouty man) ultimately plays a Dude Bro Frat Boy, Zach, as 2D as it sounds, but he does it with fluidity and gusto. Gavin Free of The Slo-Mo guys starts as an American Southerner with an absolutely awful southern drawl, limiting him to one liners and no chance to shine. Luckily he later talks in his native English accent and begins to shine with his “Gavinisms”.
Writer and Executive Producer Burnie Burns plays a deadbeat cop Hagan, whom absolutely no one respects. A role one would expect Burns to relish in but seemed rather stiff and felt a bit too try hard. Onto Alan Ritchson and he plays his poorly written plot device character as well as he can. Finally Colton Dunn raises a few laughs with his once great All American Football star turned large drunk. However the tiresome cliched lines such as “Awww heeellll nooo…Oh no you didn’t” highlights the continued problem of African Americans being marginalised with such problems in many a script.
The script then, is poor overall. It has a sense of a parodic love note to 80s/90s Sci Fi films with wise one liner cracks to some of the staples of the genre story arc. The problem with these wise cracks are that they are generally the lowest common denominator, akin to what ‘that guy’ in the cinema would blurt out to get a raise from his friends. The machine gun approach to jokes largely fall short, referencing Millennial zeitgeists, mainly involving social media or again, obvious jokes referencing exactly what the audience have just seen. At times however the film shows a confidence in comedy timing and when they hit it will raise a titter or two. One laugh out loud moment comes ripe from the likes of Road Trip/American Pie, working as a multi generational joke and a highlight for the film.
It is a shame then, knowing RT’s excellent body of work from the brilliant RVB to fantastic shorts that have done a lot better on parodying/being self aware genre pieces. Maybe there is an amount of seeing people you know well from Let’s Plays etc that elevates the film, as if watching your friends do something funny within your circle but will pass others outside of that.
A fantastic achievement with it’s cinematography, SFX and lighting considering it’s budget and large use of non actors. It is however ultimately let down by a script struggling to find an interesting group dynamic without repeating or stretching thinning ideas. From the outside, it’s an incredibly average film, from the inside it may be a bit more interesting seeing the likes of Gavin Free being…Well, Gavin Free. It is a positive move for the company however and certainly shows promise for future projects if they learn from the mistakes of this film.
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