It’s a little bit difficult to pin down just what the guys at Rooster Teeth actually are. Over the past decade, the Austin based internet collective has carved an impressive online niche as devotees of geek and videogame culture and subsequently parlayed that into the world of internet based programming. Their podcasts and web-series have garnered an enviable following that has grown to such a degree that they even have their own annual convention, a gathering that’s as much a celebration of nerdity and geekery as it is a call to creation. If nothing else, Rooster Teeth exists as an inspiration for today’s burgeoning creator class proving that if there’s something you want to see then there’s no reason you can’t make it yourself.
This DIY aesthetic has propelled Rooster Teeth from quirky denizens of the internet to full-fledged production studio handling a wide array of online productions from cartoons like Red vs. Blue to more experimental fare like The Slo-Mo Guys. Along the way, they’ve built a loyal base of fans that grows and grows; as their popularity increased, so, too, did their aspirations. They are, in many ways, a model for how a collective should scale proportionately to the size of their followers, and now, as they’ve done so often in recent years, it’s time to level up.
Lazer Team marks Rooster Teeth’s first foray into the world of feature length cinematic experiences and just as with everything they’ve ever done they’re doing it entirely their way. I suspect that your enjoyment of—or even your interest in—Lazer Team is directly proportionate to your enthusiasm for Rooster Teeth as a whole. I, for instance, have a mild fascination in the creative collective and so it was for their first movie. Its existence is probably more impressive than its results, but that it exists is probably a win in itself.
Rooster Teeth doesn’t venture too far outside of their geek bonafides with Lazer Team. It’s sort of an 80’s sci fi/action/comedy pastiche that follows familiar paths and offers few surprises. The premise starts with an expository set up explaining that the infamous SETI “Wow!” signal was, in fact, a warning from a friendly alien race that a more destructive, warlike race had their sights set on earth. To help us defend ourselves, they promise to send a suit granting a wearer Megaman like powers. In response, the military adopts a baby and spends several decades training him to wear the suit to become earth’s champion. At the last minute, however, a group of small town losers—Herman (Colton Dunn), Woody (Gavin Free), Deputy Hagan (Burnie Burns), and high school quarterback Zach (Michael Jones)—stumble upon the suit and each put on a piece of the armor. The suit then conforms to their DNA and can’t be removed, and the four have but a few days to come together as a team to stop the coming onslaught.
If it sounds sort of like the kind of movie a group of nerds might make over the weekend with their brand new GoPro’s, it’s because that’s more or less what it is. Lazer Team was funded largely through IndieGoGo, quickly earning $2.4 million to become the highest funded film in the crowdsourcing company’s history. Its efforts are amateurish but charming, which is more or less par for the course as far as Rooster Teeth are concerned.
In a way, I guess that makes criticism almost irrelevant because you’re probably not interested in the movie unless you’re interested in Rooster Teeth, and if you’re interested in Rooster Teeth than you’re in it for the long haul. This is a movie to be judged not by the standards set by the film community as a whole, but rather by the standards set by the Rooster Teeth community. To that end, Lazer Team should definitely meet or exceed the expectations of its most ardent proponents.
That’s all well and good, but what about the uninitiated? Can those of us who’ve never experienced the DIY glory of the Rooster Teeth collective find something to appreciate amidst the predictable madcappery of Lazer Team? Anything is possible, I suppose, but it seems highly unlikely. As with the entirety of their output, Lazer Team is designed for a very specific niche audience. The creative geeks, those raised by Nintendo and Playstation, the obsessive man-children—they’re all catered to here, as they are in all of Rooster Teeth’s catalogue. If you’re one or more of these things then you’re probably already on board, not just with Lazer Team but with Rooster Teeth in general. If you’re not, then the movie is probably one of the more insufferable experiences you could probably sit through.
And that’s okay because this isn’t a movie for you. Perhaps more than any other movie in recent memory, Lazer Team knows its audience because its audience is its makers. Concepts such as “good” or “bad” are thrown out of the window. On the whole, it feels like one of those critically maligned movies from the late 80’s or early 90’s that over the years became a cult classic and has been subsequently reevaluated as “misunderstood.” That’s the point, I think. I’m pretty sure that was what they were going for. Whatever else I might have to say about Lazer Team, this stands out most prominently: Rooster Teeth set out to make a specific kind of movie, and in that aim they succeeded admirably.
That’s the bottom-line, really. You’re either going to love or hate Lazer Team, and neither opinion is wrong. Its trope infused predictability is either a selling point which begs for endless arguments of, “No, it’s supposed to be like that,” or it’s its biggest fault and lessens the enjoyment factor. Its bathroom humor is either right up your alley or eye-rollingly obnoxious. There’s not a lot of middle ground to work with here. For what it’s worth, I personally found it pretty dumb, but charming and very often hilarious. That’s more or less how I feel about Rooster Teeth as a whole, however, so use that as a guide. How do you feel about Rooster Teeth? Then that’s how you’ll feel about Lazer Team.
Lazer Team is now playing in a limited theatrical engagement and is also available on YouTube Red.