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DVD Review: Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles

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The success of an Internet meme is often linked to a very specific kind of humor — it’s kind of like capturing lightning in a bottle, and a lot of memes exist only as one-off entities because of it. Then there are those ideas that really capture an audience beyond the initial humor or shock value and enable the creators to continue producing them.

Red vs. Blue did just that, and although it probably hasn’t entered the public consciousness in too pervasive a way, it certainly opened up the world of machinima —using the graphic engine of a video game to create a separate work — to a whole new audience. Machinima has been around since the ’80s, but Red vs. Blue is arguably its first breakout hit, using Microsoft’s Halo to create a snarky, profane, and altogether hilarious take on the minutiae of life.

All five seasons of the original Blood Gulch Chronicles, which ran online from 2003-2007, are collected in this new six-disc DVD set. These episodes were previously available on DVD, but this set boasts remastered versions — the source material is pretty limited, but the DVD presentation is certainly preferable to online streaming.

Red vs. Blue takes place in a box canyon with two teams of soldiers fighting a civil war. They don’t know how they got there and they don’t know what they’re fighting about. Both sides have their share of bickering, often fueled by characters that are incompetent or just plain stupid.

The irony of Red vs. Blue is that it features a gameplay engine that is all about nonstop action, but features very little fighting. Instead, characters mostly engage in verbal conflict, and the sharp voice work and deft comic timing make for consistently hilarious encounters.

Although Red vs. Blue has its share of video game-related humor, it remains accessible to most audiences because it doesn’t place itself within the context of a video game world or even Halo itself for the most part. Inventive uses of the game engine and of the verbal sparring make for a wholly entertaining series.

The DVD set includes all 100 episodes — usually around five minutes each — along with a host of bonus features including audio commentaries for all five seasons, deleted scenes, outtakes, and character profiles. An extra disc of just bonus content expands on the extras, and also includes miniseries Out of Mind and Recovery One along with making-of videos and documentary footage. For fans, this is a wealth of Red vs. Blue material.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.