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May 3, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Do not open until the future: Rooster Teeth Shorts

Anybody worth their geek cred is at least familiar with Red vs Blue, the irreverent and intricately plotted Halo-based web series about two teams of incompetent UNSC soldiers stationed in the cavernous and inescapable Blood Gulch and tasked with stealing the other team’s flag. This quirky take on Capture the Flag took the internet by storm, becoming the poster boy for the online machinima movement (in which video games are used to create short films) and gifting its creators, the indomitable Rooster Teeth Productions, the kind of tangible financial success few internet people achieve. Rooster Teeth has since developed into a business, offering the creations of its myriad minds for trade like an amazing, generous team in an Age of Empires game. But where Red vs Blue and several of their other productions (see Strangerhood) saw them gifting gold and meat, Do Not Open is basically a lump sum of wood. Don’t get us wrong, everybody needs wood, but when you’ve come to expect gold or meat, wood seems kind of stupid.

A collection of their live-action shorts, Do Not Open paints life at the Rooster Teeth office as one of absurd happenings and extreme violence filtered through a worldview that looks and sounds like a cross between a Joss Whedon show and an Adult Swim cartoon (some of the dialogue even sounds like it’s lifted from Aqua Teen Hunger Force). It’s the kind of approach that would easily appeal to Rooster Teeth’s target audience, the nerdy high schooler crowd, but it’s hard not to feel a little underwhelmed by everything if you’ve moved past that point in your life.

That’s not to say the shorts are terrible, far from it. When they succeed, the results are great—see Pongo’s tried-but-true take on puppets in the workplace, Warning/Error’s riff on evil computer tropes, or the pathos-loaded violence of Catch. However, the vast majority of product on Do Not Open is amusing but ultimately forgettable, and even the good shorts let themselves down at points—Warning/Error’s dull punchline, for instance, or the ingratiating acting of office tech Gus (something he admits to in the DVD extras). Given the fond memories many have attached to Red vs Blue, myself included, Do Not Open is nice, but one can’t help but expect more.


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