Today, YouTube Red gets the gang back together for Lazer Team 2, the sequel of the hugely popular sci-fi action comedy, Lazer Team. Produced by Fullscreen Films and Rooster Teeth, the film taps into Rooster Teeth’s 38+ million YouTube subscribers and doubles down on the non-traditional approach the team used to make the first movie. The original Lazer Team film set a new standard for how fans support projects from their favorite creators by breaking crowdsourcing records with over $2 million raised in just 30 days. It also brought together Rooster Teeth fans from around the world who crowdsourced a demand-based theatrical run in more than 200 cities. And it’s that rabid fanbase that Lazer Team 2 is meant for.
Returning cast members Colton Dunn (NBC’s Superstore), Burnie Burns (Rooster Teeth co-founder), Gavin Free (The Slow Mo Guys), and Michael Jones (RWBY) are joined by some exciting new talents, including Nichole Bloom (Superstore) and Victoria Pratt (Heartland, Mutant X) for an action-comedy tale that sees the title team head into space to retrieve one of their own. It’s a movie that doesn’t necessarily require you to be a fan of the first film or of the Rooster Teeth brand itself, but it certainly helps.
Lazer Team 2 is written by Burns, Daniel Fabelo, and Rooster Teeth CEO Matt Hullum, and co-directed by Fabelo and Hullum. My review follows after the film’s newest trailer below:
The original Lazer Team presents a fantastic template from which to pattern this sequel’s story, but when it comes to the production and distribution of Rooster Teeth’s live-action movies, the company was on the cutting edge. In addition to seeking production partners, the budget for the first film largely came from Rooster Teeth’s fanbase through a crowd-sourcing campaign. That’s an approach that’s been done before by indie filmmakers, but an interesting one for the company known for the animated antics of Red vs Blue and RWBY, along with a variety of live-action YouTube fare. It basically let their fans weigh in, decide if they wanted to see a movie about a team of dysfunctional degenerates equipped with alien technology who take down an extraterrestrial threat, and pony up the dough to make it so. Against all odds, it worked.
And because it worked, Lazer Team 2 is cut from the same cloth of the original. It’s sporadically funny throughout, has a strong foundation in the conflicts among its title characters, and pumps up the action as compared to the original. But it’s not for everyone, rather, it seems to be specifically tailored to the tastes of Rooster Teeth’s fans. Or perhaps the uneven comedy–which veers from the low-brow face-in-crotch/ass jokes and offensive, unfunny comments about Syrian refugees, to clever turns of phrase, perfectly timed gags, and absolute gut-busting moments of surprise humor–grows more from the core creative team at Rooster Teeth which fans of similar tastes gravitated towards over the years. Regardless of the chicken-or-the-egg origin of Rooster Teeth’s brand, it works for them, and it works for Lazer Team 2.
The sequel adds a pair of impressive supporting roles with Bloom’s intelligent and resourceful scientist Maggie, and the imposing yet charismatic Pratt as Kilborne, a tough-as-nails military leader who antagonizes the team on two fronts. (Dunn remains my favorite of the bunch in both films and his comedic timing can’t be beat.) Maggie sort of stands in for those of us in the audience who find the Lazer Team’s behavior immature and a bit irritating. She finds them in various states of despair after their short-lived success as world-saving champions eventually ruins their lives, in part because the alien technology is still grafted to their bodies which makes maintaining gainful employment and normal relationships difficult. Woody, whom Maggie worked alongside and got quite close to, is the only one to use his new gifts toward a bigger cause in a pursuit of greater scientific knowledge. Unfortunately, this work leads to his abduction by an unseen alien force. And when Kilborne shuts down the project with Woody still on the wrong side of a wormhole, Maggie is forced to reunite the Lazer Team in the hopes of rescuing him.
It’s a fairly simple and straightforward conceit, and one that allows the writers and actors to revisit the dynamics that made the first movie work as well as it did. The members of Lazer Team constantly butt heads over their differing opinions and strong personalities. But rather than just rehash the team-building efforts of the first film, which this sequel does a bit to be honest, the guys and their gear get an upgrade in this new film. New tech emerges, as do new super-stretchy suits, and they get the opportunity to show off their new abilities in fun combat scenes pulled straight out of your favorite video game. You might see the conclusion coming a lightyear away, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts. (Oh and it’s worth mentioning that video game culture is alive and well in this sequel with numerous references dropped throughout; Rooster Teeth faithful will also spot plenty of Easter eggs and familiar faces.) Be sure to stick around through the end credits because there might even be a tease for a potential Lazer Team 3…
Ultimately, you probably already know if you’re going to like Lazer Team 2. If you funded, watched, and enjoyed the first one, then the sequel is a must-watch. If you only have a passing understanding of what Rooster Teeth is all about, but you also like Sci-Fi Channel/Syfy movies (and I say that unsarcastically), the Lazer Team movies are worth checking out. On the other hand, if you have no connection to the brand or its familiar faces, and have no desire to watch a low-budget sci-fi action/comedy, you’re fine skipping this one. For my money, I’ve always been impressed with Rooster Teeth’s storytelling choices since they’re fearless in their approach; they make hard narrative decisions, paint themselves into corners, and find wildly creative and entertaining ways out of them. The results don’t always hit a home run, but when they do, they’re spectacular, and Lazer Team 2 is yet another example of this fan-focused phenomenon.
Fan Rating: A-