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Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue(TV)
This futuristic release includes the complete seasons 1-10 of the sci-fi series Red vs. Blue, following the bizarre adventures of two equally inept armies as they battle for a section of galactic real estate known as the "Blood Gulch."
For more about Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue and the Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray release, see Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Elijah Wood
Director: Burnie Burns
» See full cast & crew
Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray Review
O brave new world, that has such machinima in it.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 9, 2012
I am the father of two teenage sons, and as such much of my home life with them is filled with conversations about videogames. In fact, my youngest son partook in an exchange program earlier this year where we had a Chinese exchange student stay with us for a few weeks and my son visited the same kid in China over the summer. The Chinese boy had only a rudimentary facility with English (much better than my own son's nonexistent command of Chinese, it should be stated), but once my older son started asking him about videogames, it was like there was no language barrier at all, and all three boys were instantly on the same wavelength, something that both my wife and I marveled at when it occurred. My oldest boy has become so proficient at the online component of a game called Starcraft that he actually is making money mentoring other players, and in a completely unironic moment, we were advised by one of his teachers that he should include this "entrepreneurial" quasi-startup on any college admissions form he may fill out in the coming year. This same son just recently discovered a very minor glitch in Starcraft which he uploaded to YouTube, generating thousands of hits within minutes of the posting. Such is the brave new world in which we live. Both of my boys have played Halo through the years, and in fact my oldest son did a project for school a few years ago that utilized Halo's built in movie making capability. However, I still wasn't really all that up to speed on the long running Red vs. Blue webisodes until my younger son started showing them to me on YouTube (and yes, I was a bit shocked at the language in some of them). Red vs. Blue is entirely built around so called "machinima", utilizing Halo's movie making capability along with goofy interpolated voice work to weave together a now improbably long running tale of two opposing factions. Imagine the obscenity laced ambience of South Park combined with the sort of dunderheaded peacekeepers of Reno 911 and you might have at least a glimmer of the general tone and content of the series.
For those of you either uninitiated into the world of videogames yourselves or not privy to vicarious information imparted by your children, Halo belongs to a genre that is called a First Person Shooter (FPS) game. Players have their "avatars", so to speak, that maraud through various scenarios, and pushing various combinations of buttons on the videogame controllers allows the player to (hopefully) decimate their opponents before being taken out themselves. There's also an online component (via such portals as X Box Live) in Halo, and in fact for some years during my eldest son's middle school era, that was his main way of connecting with his buddies after school. A lot of these kids liked using Halo's movie making capability to capture their attempts to make it through various levels as quickly as possible, and it became popular to upload some of the videos to sites like YouTube. But one Burnie Burns saw the potential in this so-called machinima, bringing a sort of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ethos to the idiom. With his buddies, he started producing Red vs. Blue, initially planned to just be a sort of silly one-off that was done purely for fun, but which of course became a major internet sensation and has now provided Burns and his cohorts with nearly a decade of regular "work".
The not always reliable Wikipedia includes the rather odd tidbit that Burns is the son of a Catholic priest and a Catholic nun; one assumes they had left their relative callings before they procreated, but it may give at least a little insight into Burns' skewed look at life, at least insofar as it's revealed in Red vs. Blue. The series is often surprisingly existential in tone, with a sort of Waiting for Godot meets Tex Avery ambience that is both innovative and at times extremely funny. But there's also a scattershot aspect to Red vs. Blue, one which becomes especially apparent when you sit down and watch ten years' worth of material en masse (something I personally don't recommend). While a lot of Red vs. Blue is giddily amusing, there are also long swaths that are unbelievably repetitive and never quite find their ultimate punchlines.
There are three main story arcs spread across the ten seasons (so far) of Red vs. Blue. "The Blood Gulch Chronicles" spanned the first five seasons of the series, "The Recollection" played from season six through season eight, and the last two seasons have encompassed "Project Freelancer". Burns and his creative crew have done an amazingly adept job for the most part at keeping the basic concept fresh. What started out as a kind of military themed parody a la Gomer Pyle USMC or No Time for Sergeants has become decidedly more pointed and philosophical through the years, which is not to say it's not simultaneously juvenile, profane and just plain stupid some of the time. But despite the (intentionally) lame brained antics and sometimes tepid humor, this is generally a very smartly written enterprise, one that is post-ironic without ever being so self conscious that it grates. What particularly impressed me in wading through this rather lengthy outing is how wisely Burns and his crew have built upon the basic premise and generated some rather nice little developments along the way (not to post any spoilers, but this series echoes Lost in its willingness to jettison, if even momentarily, major characters). There is some very well done interweaving between the three main sections of the story thus far, and in fact "Project Freelancer" casts a whole new light on much that has gone before.
Part of what keeps the show enjoyable are the very clearly delineated characters, something that's rather amazing when one considers the fact that aside from their "colors", they're largely interchangeable from at least a visual standpoint. On the Red Team, we have the ridiculously savage leader Sarge, who of course refers to his grunts as "ladies" and, a la Kenny in South Park, is repeatedly offering up Private Grif for sacrifice. Grif's antithesis is Simmons, obviously Sarge's favorite grunt and one who returns the favor by obeying every order to the letter. There's also a very funny character named Donut who has a great little arc that covers the first couple of seasons of the show, where an unfortunate accident leads to his armor being turned pink, which in turn leads the Blue Team to think he's female. Donut in a way reminded me of Dangle in Reno 911, a friendly but largely clueless character who coasts through calamity on nothing more than good will.
The Blue Team has its own assortment of lovable lunatics. Church is the supposed leader of this team, and like Sarge in the Red Team, conveys most of his orders via furious bursts of temper. Tucker is ostensibly the sharpshooter of this team but due to one unlucky happenstance after another is never able to utilize his weapon. Much later in the series there's a pretty funny Alien-esque (actually kind of Prometheus-esque) subplot involving Tucker and an unexpected "delivery". Private Caboose appropriately brings up the rear, and is hilariously confused as to how he even ended up in battle. Somewhat later in the series, an unfortunate death in the "family" bring Tex, a sort of GI Joe on steroids type, into the mix. There are also a ton of supporting characters, including robots and (mostly) in the final seasons a whole "meta" batch of characters who help to keep the proceedings varied.
The technical achievement in Red vs. Blue may seem like child's play, but in listening to the commentaries included on this massive set, it becomes obvious how fiendishly difficult the task at hand is. This is a fascinating marriage of "pre-existing" visual data (albeit manipulated) and some often unexpectedly intelligent writing. Is it Art? Who's to say? I know there wasn't one episode throughout the ten seasons here that didn't provoke at least one hearty laugh, and that's certainly a pretty decent batting average.
Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray, Video Quality
Red vs. Blue is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of New Video Group with an MPEG-2 encoded 1080i transfer in 1.78:1. What can you say about a series that originates within the pre-programmed world of a videogame (at least for the most part)? This transition to high definition does what it can with the source elements, and the results have both their pluses and minuses. Colors are really nicely saturated and the smooth, textureless sheen of the teams' armors look very robust and nicely hued. What repeatedly hobbles this presentation is something akin to quasi-aliasing or that phenomenon known as "the jaggies" that crops up on virtually every edge of every scene, especially when the camera or a character moves. That gives wide shots a weird pulsating quality a lot of the time, but even close-ups present wavering edges that are rather distracting (you can see some of these, at least in part, in several of the screencaptures accompanying this review). It's probably a bit pointless to talk about fine object detail, since for the most part everything has the shiny smooth surfaces of a videogame, but there are some interesting CGI elements that begin to be interpolated into the series later in its run that help to give some textural variety, and those look fine.
Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Red vs. Blue features a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that has quite a bit of nicely immersive surround activity, but which probably would have been considerably brightened had it been given a full lossless audio upgrade. Not to state the obvious, but there is abundant opportunity for battle sounds and good LFE here, and while what's here is certainly good, and even commendable in terms of surround activity, the lossy soundtrack may be a stumbling block for those who insist that Blu-rays feature lossless audio this far into this format's life. Dialogue is cleanly presented, the series' use of music is very well rendered and dynamic range is quite wide.
Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Note on the Supplements: As you will see, this set has a rather large assortment of supplements (to say the least), all in different resolutions and typically all accessed individually, meaning I had to manually add the times for each "category" of supplement. I've tried very hard to be completely accurate in the information here, but I may have mistimed things by a few seconds here or there and may have inadvertently labeled something with the wrong resolution (though I tried very diligently to make sure everything was correct). If any fans find errors, just let me know and I can update the review.
Disc One: The Blood Gulch Chronicles Season One
This Bonus DVD offers three main menu options:
Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Red vs. Blue may well be the Citizen Kane of machinima, but of course this is still a developing technique (and/or Art, depending on your worldview), so Burns and his crew had better not rest on their laurels. Despite the ostensible silliness of the premise and in fact the technique itself, Red vs. Blue proves to be a rather smart little series most of the time. It has its own stupidly juvenile elements, but there's a fine satirical voice at work here that is certainly head and shoulders above a lot of mainstream "comedy" writing on the broadcast and cable networks these days. This is a huge set with an almost overwhelming amount of supplemental content (though one has to wonder about that Bonus DVD that repeats so much content, not to mention two Blu-rays with barely a half hour on each of them), and its hefty price may dissuade some potential consumers from jumping into the virtual waters. Those folks may simply want to whet their appetite online first. Red vs. Blue fans will almost undoubtedly want to get this impressive collection. Recommended.
Red vs. Blue: Other Seasons
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