Reading Between Reviews: Red vs Blue!

Have you ever wondered why we’re here?

Red vs Blue, the sci-fi/comedy/action/drama/machinima series that’s fourteen years old and still going strong, is a…unique series, for lack of a better word.  Initially starting as nothing more than a few guys who thought it would be cool to create a little comedic story using Halo, it grew into a huge series that kickstarted the company known as RoosterTeeth.  Spanning fourteen seasons, with a fifteenth to come this Sunday, I thought the opportunity couldn’t be better to review this massive web-series!

Because of just how long and unique this show is, I won’t be mentioning very specific details all of the time.  Rather, I’ll simply gloss over the big picture of what Red Vs Blue is, and what it attempts to do.  As a uniquely, surprisingly successful web series, it did a lot of things that can’t be defined very simply, and I’ll try and respect that, for better or worse!

1.  Red and Blue: A Lovable Cast of Idiots

Characters: 9.2/10 (Excellent)

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I start first with the characters, simply because honestly, they are definitely the backbone of Red vs Blue.  At first, featuring only the main cast of the Red and Blue teams respectively, the cast has grown to a massive size, with Freelancers, Mercenaries, and a variety of different soldiers.  However, the heart and core of the series, (not necessarily the story) is certainly based on the Reds and Blues.  Sarge, Simmons, Grif, Donut, and Lopez, vs. Church, Tucker, Caboose, and…well, a few others.  These guys are wildly incompetent in many ways, bogged down by their inability to think for themselves, aim a weapon, or even think in a coherent mannner, and that just makes them extremely lovable.

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At its heart, Red Vs Blue has its roots in comedy, and these characters, with such defining characteristics, do a great job at emphasizing that.  Sarge with his comedic bloodthirst, Donut with his “lightish-red” armor, Tucker with his incessant perverted outbursts, the Reds and Blues are all memorable in their own way, and their banter makes for some of the funniest, most memorable moments of the series.  What must be noted though, in talking about the whole of the series, is its ability to keep these lovable characters the way they are, while still allowing for character growth, in a host of other characters.

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Agents Washington and Carolina, as well as the other Freelancers, and miscellaneous characters that are introduced, are characterized extremely well, while still meshing with the Reds and Blues.  They are given concrete motivations, you can see how and why they’d change, how and why they become who they are, and some top-notch writing allows them to just be solid characters in their own right.  It’s surprising sometimes, to see just how well these characters were written, especially considering the apparent lunacy of the Reds and Blues, but, you know, it works.  And their dynamics with each other are simply very, very enjoyable, very fun, and at times, even rather emotional.

2. Diverse and Strange, But Still Good!

Story: 8.2/10 (Great)

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Red Vs Blue is the story of a group of idiots.  Sometimes they hate each other, sometimes they “pretend to work together.”  However, somehow, they find themselves getting wrapped up in crazy situations, from explosions that send them through time and space, to having to face amped-up super soldiers and mercenaries, the gang certainly goes through hell together.  Facing the mysterious Project Freelancer, the mysterious Meta, Charon Industries, crazy ex-girlfriends, and more, this band of idiots does their best to get through it alive!  However, they still have their teams: Red and Blue, to which they remain loyal, and won’t hesitate to emphasize that point at any opportunity!

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Throughout the history of Red Vs Blue, there have been four arcs- The Blood Gulch Chronicles, The Recollection Trilogy, Project Freelancer, and The Chorus Civil War, and throughout it all, more and more content, and more and more emotional stakes are put on the line.  Throughout it all, Church, leader of the blues, tends to be a huge part of the plot, while the Reds and Blues get caught up in whatever crazy events happen around them.  With increasingly intense, high-stakes situations, Red Vs Blue has gotten to be a lot more serious of show, as it’s made the transition from straight-up comedy, with the Blood Gulch Chronicles, to having some genuinely interesting and compelling sci-fi, space drama elements in Project Freelancer and the Chorus Civil War arcs.

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The Director of Project Freelancer, and Carolina

The respective stories of each arc actually add a lot to the characters of the Reds and Blues over time, and each story arc ends up being surprising in its depth.  Mysteries involving AI, a group of super soldiers, bred to be the best, and a company that instigated a war for the sake of profit, Red Vs Blue gets dramatic, and it’s done VERY well.  However, that being said, I have to acknowledge, for many people, that the switch between comedy and action isn’t something that works.

Plot points, brought up for the sake of absurdity, are often retconned, and people who watch Red Vs Blue for one thing, may find themselves turned off, as Red Vs Blue develops into something new and different.  If you’re not a fan of the humor of the series, then it might not appeal to you, as the humor is something that is consistent throughout the entirety of the show.  There are high dramatic, or action points, but sometimes, it’s hard to balance that with the comedic aspects of it.  This may be situational, as I personally enjoyed many aspects of the comedy, but it is something that should be noted for any new watcher of the series.

3. Pioneering a New Medium

Art/Style: 8.5/10 (Great)

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Now, this is perhaps the most odd thing to judge about Red Vs Blue, simply because throughout its life span, it’s grown IMMENSELY, and, of course, is a machinima, done throughout the Halo series.  Nothing is quite like it, and so, I’ll judge it based on general effectiveness.

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One of the more common shots: one character is in the foreground, while events happen in the background.

So, due to the limitations of the Halo games, RoosterTeeth has very concrete limitations as to the cinematic potential of their main series- cinematic potential that is later surpassed, thanks to the usage of CGI.  However, for the most part, they are restricted to footage, taken from the viewpoint of a player in-game.  And considering this, Red Vs Blue actually does a fantastic job with what they have.  Surprisingly, the cinematography of the series is top notch, able to fit a LOT of key elements into a shot, while also providing some pretty great action scenes sometimes.   The creativity and uniqueness of the cinematic nature of Red Vs Blue gives the characters a life of their own, so that, even though you KNOW you’re just watching footage from the Halo games, it somehow becomes a lot more than that, even before Red Vs Blue started adding CGI.

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Thanks to the late Monty Oum, the series was able to produce elements that simply weren’t possible in the Halo engine- namely, sick, sick fighting scenes.  I don’t think anyone can deny that at least some of the action scenes in Red Vs Blue were fantastic to watch.  These action scenes, and the CGI in general, provided yet another level of appeal to a series that, up until that point, had relied on very witty writing and creative use of the Halo game engine.  The CGI, which has become a staple in the series, provided RoosterTeeth the ability to provide even more character, and a far more complex, varied plot, to a series that had, for a long time, been unable to move beyond the restraints of its  medium.

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You can finally have unarmored people, interacting with people IN armor!

Anyways, beyond the revolutionary nature of the series’ machinima roots, there ARE traits of the series that simply don’t work very well.  At points, CGI and in-game footage mixes in a way that is rather jarring, from their inclusion in the 8th season, all the way to the 14th season.  Also, the quality does not remain consistent, and at some points, particularly in the 12th season, it certainly feels like RoosterTeeth is experimenting with new styles- which is fair, given what sort of series Red Vs Blue is, but it still has to be noted.

4. Surprisingly Addictive!

Personal Enjoyment: 8.3/10 (Great)

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Do you ever wonder why we’re here?

Red Vs Blue was a series that I’ve kept up with since near the beginning.  From about season 2, all the way up to 14, it’s been a consistent joy of mine to watch the antics of the Reds and Blues, and, being a fan of well-developed characters and intriguing story, I couldn’t have been happier as the series progressed.  However, I’ll be honest and say that there were several slow points for me- the comedy wasn’t always appealing to me, and some details were never expanded upon as I feel like they could have been.

These are small qualms, however, and honestly, Red vs Blue ends up being surprising in the amount of depth it brings to the table.  They provide short episodes, but they’re consistently entertaining and fun, if not dramatic and epic.  Red vs Blue goes across the entire spectrum, and if you can appreciate that, then I feel like that’s a good show for you.

 

Final Rating: 8.50/10 (Great)

Recommended If:

  • You are a fan of their style of comedy- if not, skip the first 5 seasons for sure.
  • You enjoy character interactions and dialogue, just as much as you enjoy action and suspense.
  • You are looking for fun, entertaining characters, regardless of any explicit genre.

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