The rise of the internet has allowed for some truly unique and ambitious technical and artistic endeavors. Ten years ago, what started off as a creative exercise in writing and video editing has since evolved into a rich and textured sci-fi epic, albeit one with a deeply rooted comedic sensibility. I am of course talking about the popular web series Red vs. Blue, which has recently seen the DVD release of its ninth season.
In a remote box canyon known as Blood Gulch, two opposing military factions, known as the red and blue armies, wage an endless, meaningless (and in their particular case, ineffectual) war against one another. So deeply have these two sides grown disillusioned by their place in the universe that they fill the bulk of their days with idle chatter and aimless pastimes. So when the time comes that the soldiers are confronted with rouge A.I. and supernatural phenomena, it’s all treated as so much water off a duck’s back, despite the fact that it marks the beginning of a great intergalactic adventure.
Red vs. Blue is made by Rooster Teeth, a company that employs the process of machinima, a sort of digital puppetry utilizing videogames (in this case, the popular multiplayer game Halo), to tell its stories. What began as a spirited independent venture soon caught the attention of Halo’s production studio, Bungie, who have since fully endorsed Red vs. Blue to the point of actively designing games that are easier to film with. What’s more, recent seasons of the show have seen the implementation of motion capture technology to create fully animated action sequences that rival Hollywood productions.
Despite all its technical ingenuity, the Red vs. Blue series has always been about the characters. The two titular rival teams are rife with popular archetypes, from the gruff drill sergeant to the smart-mouthed slacker to the kiss-up know-it-all to the effeminate sensitive one (and that’s just on the red team). Over the course of nine seasons, these characters manage to evolve out of their stock roles, and have brought with them a refreshingly dynamic story that hundreds of thousands of viewers have become emotionally invested in.
There’s never been a better time to become a fan of the show. Each season consists of approximately 19 episodes, all of which are edited together into a feature length film for their respective DVD releases. Recently, Rooster Teeth even went back to the earliest seasons and, utilizing the high-definition graphics of later Halo games) remade them in their entirety, shot-for-shot. This, along with a treasure trove of behind the scenes features and outtakes, makes the complete Blood Gulch Chronicles set (seasons 1-5) a must own. This is followed by the Recollection (seasons 6-8), which is where the series really hits its dramatic stride and expands its epic scope.
Red vs. Blue is a touchstone of internet artistry, an irreverently hilarious and thoroughly engaging adventure that brings to it new fans every day. It’s recommended for mature viewers only, as it contains pervasive explicit language and crude humor.
The various DVD sets for Red vs. Blue are available from roosterteeth.com (B.G.C.: $38; Rec.: $30; Seas. 9: $20), but can also be found in stores and online at Best Buy ($40; $25; $15).