Author Rachael Acks once again inflicts movies of unknown quality on zirself, much to our delight.
Movie Review: There Is No “I” in Lazer Team
by Rachael Acks
Lazer Team is the first feature length, theatrical release film by Rooster Teeth. Whether that company name rings any alien invasion klaxons depends on if you’re in the part of the nerdosphere that adores their Halo-related Red vs. Blue series, American anime RWBY, or various Let’s Plays and video game-related streaming video. Rooster Teeth has a loyal and active fanbase which contributed significantly to the production of Lazer Team to the tune of almost $2.5 million on an IndieGoGo crowd funding project.
I’ve given various Rooster Teeth products a try and found that I’m definitely not the target audience—my dudebro quotient is probably on par with the average quiche—but hey, they made a movie? I like movies. I mention all of this as fair warning that while I did my level best to watch this movie with an open mind, I walked into the extremely guy-heavy theater with a sneaking suspicion that I might not be the target audience for this one either.
Lazer Team is about four small-town-Texas schlubby guys who have zero respect for each other and no significant skills. They accidentally cause a UFO carrying a suit of super armor—a gift from supposedly friendly aliens called the Antarians—to crash. And as comedy film morons are wont to do, they immediately don the armor, one piece per schlub, and discover it can’t be taken off. This is a problem, because the armor’s supposed to be worn by super soldier Adam, so he can defeat a warrior from a different alien species—the Worg—in single combat and thus save the Earth from destruction. Hijinks ensue and four schlubby individuals unite to become Team Schlub in the hopes of saving the world.
For a lean production budget, the visual effects are pretty good. The CGI certainly looks better than anything George Lucas subjected us to in the re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy. Rather than try for realism, Lazer Team leans toward a more video-game style, including glowing shields that pixelate when struck. This fits the tone of the movie perfectly. And the Worg warrior is, blessedly, an actual person in makeup and costume, doing stunts. The color palette is also notably not scifi-action-movie cyan and orange, but has the vibrant spectrum we get in adventure movies from the decades before The Matrix.
When it’s at its best, Lazer Team is a callback to all of the 80s and 90s movies many of us grew up watching, in which groups of losers who fall somewhere along the annoying to lovable spectrum craft themselves into a darn good team via montages and hurricane-force bickering. It’s a callback, a homage, not a parody like the significantly more hilarious and purposefully terrible Team America: World Police. If you still have a soft spot in your heart for The Mighty Ducks movie and get something in your eye every time they start chanting “quack,” this will probably to hit a warm and happy place. The ensemble cast works well together, with loser deputy Hagan (Burnie Burns), Zach the obnoxious kid who wants to bang his daughter (Michael Jones), his former football teammate and now bitter rival Herman (Colton Dunn), and Herman’s idiotic sidekick Woody (Gavin Free) irritating the ever-living shit out of each other from start to finish even as they grudgingly develop mutual respect. Once the team starts to form up in earnest, the script wanders through a few barely coherent turns (what is that final car chase?), but is good natured enough about it to remain fun.
Much of the film’s humor is in its dialog, which has a quippy improv flavor (“Since when is blowing up shit against the law?” “Since they invented laws!”) that can be quite fun. It’s typical Rooster Teeth style, which is both a blessing and a curse. Talk to a Rooster Teeth fan and you’ll discover they watched the film on an entirely different level than the uninitiated viewer, and it’s apparently a hell of a lot funnier up there.
The real curse is that, like much of everything Rooster Teeth produces, the dudebro is strong. Women barely exist in this movie; the only female character to have any major effect on the plot is Mindy (Allie DeBerry), Hagan’s daughter, who exists so Zach can want to have sex with her and Hagan can be annoyed by that fact. Bless the screenwriter for Hagan’s insistence that Mindy is a strong, independent woman who can make her own decisions even if he disagrees with them, and for the amusing scene where she beats Team Schlub up while possessed by aliens, but it’s hard to forget that her primary existence is to provide a point of friction between her would-be boyfriend and her dad. The only other woman who appears in more than one scene and speaks is a female scientist, apparently there so Woody can turn on his helmet’s “X-ray” function and ogle her naked, then be freaked out by the fact that he can also see all the men naked, because men looking at naked men is gross and thus funny, amirite?
Considering the wide array of people I know are fans of Rooster Teeth’s work, I’m not angry, but disappointed that this is yet another film where women and queerness exist only as a punchlines. There’s markedly less punching down in this one than your average Seth McFarlane movie (and fewer dick jokes), but let’s consider that in the realm of damming with faint praise. It’s disappointing because it isn’t necessary, and it’s a part of the beloved movies of decades past that could really have been left there.
Lazer Team is a ton of fun for current fans of Rooster Teeth, but it doesn’t quite offer an open hand to new audiences, particularly not anyone looking for something that doesn’t make them a punchline for an audience of fanboys.
Rachael Acks is a writer, geologist, and dapper AF. Ze’s written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Rachael lives in Houston with zir two furry little bastards, where ze twirls zir mustache, watches movies, and bikes. For more information, see http://www.rachaelacks.com.
If you want all the awesome content we offer, you can subscribe to the magazine at Weightless Books, or buy individual issues for a mere $2.99 at the following locations: Direct from Escape Artists via Payhip, Amazon, and Weightless Books.