Editor’s Notes: Lazer Team is currently out in limited release and will hit YouTube Red next month.
Director Matt Hullum concludes Lazer Team with the promise of a sequel, making it the first superhero movie since Chronicle or the first Avengers film where I was genuinely hyped to see where the characters I had spent the last couple of hours with would venture next. Though the suggestion of a sequel set in space plays well as a satire on the entire nature of sequels, I’d be lying if I said that given the choice between the two I would buy a ticket for the latest obligatory Marvel movie instead of this hilarious, clever, entertaining, outing.
Lazer Team is the brainchild of Rooster Teeth, an Austin-based internet production company. They are perhaps best known for Red vs. Blue, the longest running web series of all time, but they also dabble in live action and animated productions as well as video games and podcasts. Lazer Team marks their foray into feature-length theatrical films, made possible by more over $2.4 million dollars donated to their record-breaking Indiegogo campaign.
Usually a long list of screenwriters in the opening credits bodes ill for the material to follow, but Rooster Teeth members Burnie Burns, Chris Demarias, Joshua Flanagan and Matt Hullum deserve the highest of praises for churning out a creative script with surprises at every turn and rapid-fire jokes that rarely miss their mark.
If you understood nothing in that last paragraph, don’t be discouraged in the slightest. Lazer Team isn’t some expensive inside joke meant for a minute, inclusive audience. It’s as entertaining and wide-reaching a crowd-pleaser as ever there was. Usually a long list of screenwriters in the opening credits bodes ill for the material to follow, but Rooster Teeth members Burnie Burns, Chris Demarias, Joshua Flanagan and Matt Hullum deserve the highest of praises for churning out a creative script with surprises at every turn and rapid-fire jokes that rarely miss their mark.
Before we go any further, I should go ahead and drop a bit of a plot summary on you guys. Here it is. Earth gets a message from aliens telling them a special suit to fight off an alien invasion. The military pumps unthinkable amounts of tax dollars into pruning the right individual to become earth’s champion. When the extraterrestrials actually get around to sending the suit, it falls into the hands of the wrong people, and the different parts of the outfit (shield, boots, gun, helmet) dispersed between them instead of being given to the chosen champion. The fact that each parts melds themselves irrevocably onto each perspective body part makes things a bit complicated. 90.
We’re still far from finished celebrating the best that 2015 had to offer, but Lazer Team is easily already in the running for best ensemble of the year. Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones and Colton Dunn are so much fun to watch and their chemistry is infectious. Each of their character have their own unique characteristics, and the writers naturally bring out humor and believable emotions from them. The interactions feel real because the characters feel real, a wonderful departure from a style of writing where the writing is forced on characters where the words and emotions don’t’ feel like their own. As great as the film’s four leads are, the film’s secret weapon is Alan Ritchson, who is hilarious as the man who trained his entire life to be Champion of Earth only to see his birthright be dispersed among four bumbling buffoons. Seeing as this is a heavily male-centric film, it should come as no surprise that Allie DeBerry is given the short end of the stick. The movie briefly tries to remedy it, but her character can’t help but feel tertiary by the film’s final act.
Hullman and his writers are incredibly innovative storytellers, experts in leaving their audiences hungry for more.
If I had to nitpick a bit more, the pacing could use some fine-tuning. Some scenes go on for a bit longer than they should while others feel completely unnecessary. I imagine this is a byproduct of the amount of donations to the Indiegogo campaign. The initial goal was $600,000. When you’re given $2 million, I imagine things were added to the script so there were actual places for that money to go. That being said, nothing ever feels like a waste of money. Hullum has made an incredibly competent film that looks so much more expensive than it is. Sure there are a few instances where the visuals don’t feel quite right, but at least these are things being used in service of the story rather than some throwaway explosion or pointless action scene. Hullman and his writers are incredibly innovative storytellers, experts in leaving their audiences hungry for more.
That thrill of more to come promised in the film’s final moments would be nothing without the humor, heart, action and visual flair that preceded it. Most importantly, the writing and casting work together in perfect harmony to create a powerful recipe for infectious fun. Lazer Team isn’t just more fun than it deserves to be; it’s more fun than we deserve.