Review for Red vs Blue: The Chorus Trilogy Steelbook
The Rooster Teeth collaboration hit of a bit of a bump for Manga/Animatsu. After an initial burst of enthusiasm and a whole wodge of titles, things hit a bit of a hiatus for a couple of years; a bang followed by a whimper. Things look to be getting back on track this year with some new Rooster Teeth releases, with some more RWBY, and more relevant to this review, the next season of Red vs. Blue as well. I had that bang and whimper sensation initially reviewing Red vs. Blue. The season 11 (where we started) check disc was a bright shiny Blu-ray, but for season 12, all that was available to reviewers was a heavily compressed DVD-R. When it came to season 13, Animatsu pulled a Manga, and instead of a single release, created a 3 disc steelbook instead collecting all three Blu-rays. There were no review discs at all for that one. Anyway, this autumn, Red vs. Blue Season 14 is coming out, and finally season 13 will get single disc Blu-ray and for the first time DVD releases as well. In anticipation, I’m going back to something I fished out of a bargain bucket a year ago. I’m taking a look at the 3-disc Blu-ray steelbook release of the Chorus Trilogy, my first time watching season 12 in HD, and my first time watching season 13 at all.
The spaceship crash-landed, for whatever reason, and the Reds and the Blues have reverted to their typical routine as they await rescue. The Reds, Simmons and Grif led by Sarge are maintaining a peace of a sort with the Blues, Caboose and Tucker, led by Agent Washington. Grif annoys Simmons, and Sarge annoys them both when it comes to the division of their shelter and territory, while Washington’s being all leader, trying to get the radio to work so they can call for help, keeping Tucker in training, and stopping Caboose from getting too depressed. Not that’s liable to happen now that Caboose has found a new friend, a giant robot called Freckles who has some odd ideas about command structure. If that’s going to happen, the Reds need a robot too, which is when Sarge builds another Lopez. And when they do eventually get the radio to work, they manage to contact Donut, who brings Doc and the original Lopez with him, but then sends the rescue ship away, leaving them all stranded on a desert planet in the middle of nowhere...
Only the planet isn’t deserted, it’s very much populated, and some people have their eyes on the Reds and the Blues, the greatest soldiers in the entire universe, if you can believe that!
Disc 1 is essentially the same disc I reviewed before, but I’ll naturally be taking a closer look at discs 2 and 3.
Red vs. Blue gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080i 60Hz. Given that the footage is captured from various X-Boxes, that format is to be expected. You’re essentially looking at videogame footage here, which is as good as a console can render, so if I were still qualified, this would be where I’d be whinging about polygon counts, texture maps, draw distances and clipping and the like. Since I’m about ten years out of date for that, I’ll just say that Red vs. Blue looks pretty good, and graphical glitches are few and far between. Whether that’s a compliment to Rooster Teeth or Microsoft or Bungie, I don’t know. It’s all clear, and sharp, and watchable throughout.
The audio is somewhat disappointing for Blu-ray, in that it’s only at DVD quality DD 5.1 Surround English. It’s actually a dialogue focussed piece, so everything stays pretty much front and centre throughout, with the odd moment of action getting the surround workout. Unfortunately, the first disc lacks subtitles, which given that all the characters are conversing on radios behind faceless helmets, could have been useful. In fact it does turn out to be so from Season 12 onwards, and it’s handy to go back and check that Caboose did indeed say what you thought he said.
You get three BD discs in a steelbook, one on the left inner panel, and two overlapping on the right, all wrapped up in a clear, plastic o-card, and a page of printed blurb glued to the back.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Rooster Teeth, before booting up to an animated menu.
In the More From RT section, you’ll find further trailers for Rooster Teeth product, and a Play All option lets you watch all 29:10 in one go. You’ll find The Best of Red vs. Blue, Best of RT Shorts, RT Animated Adventures, Slow Mo Guys, Red vs. Blue S1 – 10, RWBY Trailer, A Simple Walk, and Fails of the Week: Halo Edition. The S1 – 10 trailers also provide a useful recap for the series so far.
The big extra on the disc is the Audio Commentary from Miles Luna, Matt Hullum, Burnie Burns, and Kyle Taylor. It’s a surprisingly technical commentary, one which fans of the Halo game might appreciate more than I did. It’s still pretty light and easy to listen to though.
The rest of the extras get a Play All option, and given that they are brief in nature, this is useful.
You get the Season trailer running to 1:41, there are 3:45 of Outtakes for the show, some of which are actually funny, and there’s a Behind the Scenes featurette (5:11) with interviews with the key players behind the show.
PSA: Voting Fever (3:15), PSA Blockbuster (4:01), and PSA: Game Changer (2:25), are short skits with the Red vs. Blue characters, and finally there are two deleted scenes from the movie running to 1:15 and 1:29 respectively.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Rooster Teeth, before booting up to an animated menu.
Here you’ll find trailers for Red vs. Blue Seasons 1-11, The Best of Red vs. Blue, RWBY Volume 2, X-Ray and Vav, Fails of the Weak, Best of Animated Adventures, Slow Mo Guys, Best of RT Shorts, and A Simple Walk to Mordor.
There is a directors’ commentary to go with the film.
BTS (Behind the Scenes): Return to Chorus lasts 8.32.
BTS: The Production Process lasts 11:45.
BTS: New Characters lasts 10:10.
The Season 12 Teaser Trailer lasts 2:19, you get 4:43 of Outtakes, and there are two deleted scenes, 0:31, and 2:53 respectively.
There are four PSAs, comedy skits with the characters running to a total of 17:19, and there is more comedy in the form of the Character Journals, four running to 6:35.
Disc 3 also autoplays with a trailer for Rooster Teeth, before booting up to an animated menu.
Once again you get a director’s audio commentary for the season.
There are also plenty of making of featurettes this time, beginning with Evolution of An Episode which lasts 9:27.
The Art of Chorus runs to 5:30.
Motion Capture Animation lasts 5:37.
The Music of RvB lasts 5:03.
Very Scary Mercenaries lasts 5:33.
Leaving Chorus lasts 5:51.
There are six minutes of Outtakes, 4 PSA comedy skits which lasts 21:02, and trailers for Lazer Team, RT Shorts, Best of Animated Adventures, X-Ray & Vav, RWBY Volume 2, and Red vs. Blue Season 13.
Red vs. Blue Season 11 was my introduction to Machinima, and boy, was I underwhelmed! Things really picked up with Season 12, but now that I have seen the entire trilogy in short order, I’ve been converted. This stuff is brilliant. You can see in the extra features what they were trying to do with the trilogy, tonally match the first 10 seasons, going from comedy, to narrative, to epic in the space of three discs. And they really pull it off. I was blown away with just how much of a story they managed to craft, until it was explained that Red vs. Blue is a mix of Machinima (controlling the Halo videogame characters and dubbing them to create a narrative), and wholly original animation. That explains the awesome hand to hand fight sequences, and emotionally animated characters like Felix. If Season 11 was mostly Machinima, by Season 13 the mix is around half and half, and it needs to be to really sell the story.
The Reds and the Blues are soldiers to be sure, but they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, and their personalities tend to drown out whatever skills they might have. Even career soldier Sarge has a tendency to blowhard way off topic. With the only defining features the colouring of their respective combat suits, the fact that you can enjoy the comedy to the extent that you do is down to a feat of voice acting, clearly defined and likeable characters.
Season 11 concentrates on that comedy, with a handful of soldiers marooned on what they think is a deserted planet, stranded in a canyon, occasionally salvaging weird tech from what remains of their crashed spaceship. They’ve split into Red and Blues again, but maintain a truce while they try and get the radio fixed. That season revolves around the comic nonsense that results in a situation where they do nothing but wait for rescue. It isn’t until the end of that collection that the story really begins, as their hideaway is discovered, attacked, and they are captured by two mutually antagonistic forces.
They’re stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war on the planet Chorus, with the Rebels trying to overthrow the tyranny of the Feds, or the Feds trying to stop the pernicious terrorism of the Rebels, depending on which side you are. With half of the Reds and Blues captured by one side, the other half captured by the other, and both winding up indoctrinated by their respective captors, they wind up fighting against each other while trying to rescue each other as well. Both the Feds and the Rebels are being assisted by hired mercenaries, a charismatic hero type called Felix, and a cold-blooded killer type named Locus. But it transpires that the mercenaries are working to an agenda all their own, and have a vested interest in escalating the war to genocidal levels. It’s all about the alien technology and ancient alien archaeology on Chorus, the sort of technology that could make certain corporations extremely rich and powerful, if there weren’t any pesky inhabitants to lay a prior claim.
Season 12 ends with the Reds and Blues reuniting and uncovering this scheme, throwing the mercenaries off the planet and ending the civil war. Or so they think. As Season 13 begins, their sneaky scheme derailed, it falls to the Charon Corporation and the mercenaries to get serious about cleansing Chorus. Against such overwhelming odds, the Reds and Blues have their hands full just trying to get the Feds and Rebels to work together to defend the planet, and as more of the planet’s alien secrets are revealed, so the stakes get raised even higher.
Season 11 was a poor introduction to Red vs. Blue, but you don’t have that problem when you take the trilogy as a whole. It still astounds me just how much of a story you can tell just by moving videogame avatars in certain ways. It’s a testament to just how cinematic modern games have become. Where the games limits arise, Rooster Teeth put their considerable animation skills to use to further develop the story and enrich the characters. Of course none of this works unless you have the story to tell, and the Chorus Trilogy is a great blend of character, narrative, action and comedy. It’s the most fun I’ve had with videogames since I stopped playing videogames!