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Monday, November 14, 2016

RED VS. BLUE: SEASON 14 -- Blu-ray/DVD Review by Porfle

If geek heaven is a place on Earth, then I'd guess that place is Rooster Teeth Studios in Austin, Texas. That's where a gaggle of creative young fans of anime, videogames, and other fun stuff get together and actually make a living indulging in all the things they love.

One of the creations to come out of all this (besides the beautiful "RWBY") is the web series "Red vs. Blue", which takes the characters and visuals from the HALO videogames and uses them in conjunction with outstanding new voice work and storylines to come up with wildly funny and exciting variations on the game's original premise.  (Sort of like a high-tech version of Woody Allen's "What's Up, Tiger Lily?")

Seasons 11-13 of the series were covered in our previous review of the 3-disc steelbook Blu-ray set "Red vs. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy", a sprawling saga that combines the series' almost non-stop wacky humor with an exciting, suspenseful story which built to a spectacular climax.

But the gang at Rooster Teeth are anything but predictable, so RED VS. BLUE: SEASON 14 turns out to be pretty much the exact opposite: an episodic collection of short films that not only lean more heavily on our funny bones but are unrelated storywise.  And since each one is done in a different way, using different media, the variety seems endless.

(Just to recap the premise: two opposing military factions, the Reds and the Blues, are stuck on a desert planet together in a place known as "Blood Gulch."  War is constant in this "1984 meets Starship Troopers"-type future although the power-suited warriors have no idea why the Reds and Blues are at odds.  In fact, they often make friends and join forces, with their common stupidity serving as a unifying factor.)

A "Twilight Zone" theme runs through the season with artificial intelligence entity "V.I.C." introducing each segment as a window floats through space.  "Room Zero" starts things off right in the middle of a frantic mission.  The next couple of segments show us some early basic training tomfoolery highlighted by an overly gung-ho Sarge proudly killing off his fellow trainees.

We get a grainy black-and-white recruitment film, a musical sequence, and even a rap battle.  Rejects from Project Freelancer (which predated the Red and Blue teams) are exiled into the desert and end up at war with each other. 

Agents are sent on a mission so top secret that even they don't know what it is.  Private Caboose tells a story in coloring-book pictures, in what resembles a sci-fi episode of "Elmo's World.  "And two groups of warriors all happen to be colorblind, making it impossible for them to tell who's on which team.

A three-part epic about present-day urban mercenaries/bounty hunters vs. a crime kingpin whose son they've kidnapped for ransom departs wildly from the formula with some choice computer cartoon animation.  There's also a delightful segment consisting of honest-to-goodness stop-motion with the main characters as Lego figures being manipulated by a geeky kid.  Old school animation fans will plotz.

To top it all off, the Rooster Teeth crew actually pull off some impressive live-action stuff with explosions and gun battles and some really cool power-suit costumes.  One live-action segment involves a desert battle, and the other one has the Reds and Blues accidentally transported into the Rooster Teeth studio building itself. 

All our favorite characters are here--Sarge, Tucker, Church, Grif, Carolina, Epsilon, Locus, Felix, and of course, the ever-moronic Caboose--my favorite--who reminds me of Space Ghost's former nemesis Brak. All of the various editions of HALO are represented, from the most primitive early ones to some really advanced stuff that yields really eye-pleasing visuals. 

Dialogue is rapid-fire and way off-the-wall--between bursts of action these characters stand around yakking at each other a mile a minute (sometimes I have to go back and play the captions in slow motion just to keep up) and the ridiculousness of these power-suited warriors pitting their severely limited intellects against each other is a giddy delight.

The 2-disc set from Rooster Teeth consists of a Blu-ray disc with extras and a DVD disc with creator credits only.  Feature is in widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and English subtitles.  Extras consist of the entertaining featurettes "Deus Ex Machinima", "The Building Blocks of RvB", "Making a Mercenary", "Immersion", and "Rocket Jump BTS", which cover several of the more fascinating creative aspects of the making of these short segments.  Trailers are also included. 

The keepcase contains four cool playing cards from the mercenary story and a "Blood Gulch Activity Book" in which it appears Private Caboose has already done all the puzzles.

I'll look forward to more of the standard long-form action adventure along with the comedy in future "Red vs. Blue" stories, but until then, the sheer variety and creativity of RED VS. BLUE: SEASON 14 make it a constant delight for "machinima" fans and anyone else who enjoys a colorful futuristic romp in a ditzy dystopia.


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