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YouTube is trying something new. For $10 per month, you can get a YouTube Red subscription that offers several useful benefits, the main one being that you’ll no longer see advertisements on YouTube videos. The other big benefit is you get to watch YouTube-exclusive content.
As part of the push for YouTube Red, YouTube partnered with dozens of high-profile YouTube stars to create original series and feature-length films that you won’t find anywhere else. But are these YouTube Red originals worth the price tag? We watched the first batch so, well, you don’t have to. Here’s what we thought…
Note: I’m coming from the perspective of someone who isn’t into YouTube culture. I have no idea who these stars are and have never seen them before. As such, I may be outside of their intended audience, but that also lets me be as unbiased as possible.
Four losers are thrust into the position of saving the world when they stumble upon a UFO crash site and become genetically equipped to the battle suit on board.
I went into Lazer Team with absolutely no knowledge about the film’s premise, nor did I have any prior experience with Rooster Teeth except for the few episodes of Red vs. Blue that I saw when it debuted back in 2003. Simply put, I had no idea what to expect.
So I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Within the first minute or so, I found myself somewhat impressed by the production quality and how much it felt like an actual feature-length film. I’ve seen YouTube “films” in the past, and none have ever looked this good. The music isn’t bad at all either.
Lazer Team is available in resolutions up to Ultra HD 4K, which is fantastic, because it’s quite the visual feast. There’s no lack of special effects from start to finish, and I have to say that I’ve seen “real” films that have looked worse, so bravo to Rooster Teeth for pulling this off. It could have been great in 3D, too.
In terms of narrative and tone, Lazer Team feels like a mash-up between a teen comedy and a superhero movie. I’m not a big fan of either of those genres, but even so I found the film to be quite enjoyable, so if you liked The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ll probably like this one.
My biggest criticism is that there’s nothing new about the characters or jokes. The actors deliver worthwhile performances (for the most part), but we’ve seen these characters and we’ve heard these jokes before. There are genuinely funny moments throughout, but nothing that really stands out.
At 90 minutes, Lazer Team is a bit long. It starts to drag in places, and I believe it would have been a tighter, stronger film if it were about 10 to 15 minutes shorter. But overall, I liked it, and that’s not something I thought I’d say going into a YouTube original.
Lilly Singh, YouTube’s iisuperwomanii, brings her happy place to life in an ambitious 27 city world tour where she hand delivers an inspirational message to her 7+ million fans while learning what it takes to become a world class live entertainer and boss.
Let me start off by saying that I really don’t understand modern YouTube culture. The first names that pop into my head when I hear “YouTube celebrity” are NigaHiga, Jenna Marbles, and Ray William Johnson. To say that I’ve never heard of Lilly Singh is an understatement.
And the unfortunate thing is that, by the end of A Trip to Unicorn Island, I still have no idea who she is. I get that she’s a YouTube sensation with a ton of followers who basically worship her, but I’m left perplexed as to what she actually does.
OK, she wants to help people “find their own Unicorn Island” and she wants to make people feel happier with her videos, but that’s pretty vague stuff. This documentary expects you to already know who she is. If you’re already a fan, you’ll love it. It not, you won’t gain much from it.
That being said, I respect her for the hard work she does. Lilly Singh obviously puts a lot of effort into her channel and videos, and she’s obviously doing something right to have just under 8 million subscribers. But a lot of it is geared towards teenage girls, so none of it resonates with me personally.
The documentary itself is produced well enough, except for the whole not-explaining-what-she-actually-does bit. My biggest complaint, however, is its over-reliance on handheld shots, which is so bad it gave me motion sickness. Viewers beware. (For what it’s worth, the same thing happened when I watched Cloverfield.)
Ultimately, I came away feeling like this one was a big miss, but I also feel that YouTube should make more documentaries. It’s an interesting avenue to explore, and I’ll watch more of them if that’s the route the company decides to take.
When Hunter gets sent to a dance camp, he meets the girl of his dreams and together they attempt to beat out rival Lance in the camp’s competition.
With a name like Dance Camp, I immediately knew that this film would be way outside my usual tastes. Musical films and teen camp films just aren’t very interesting to me, but I gave it a fair shot anyway. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either.
Dance Camp has all the elements you’d find in a typical Disney movie: teenagers, romance, low-hanging jokes, shallow and stereotypical characters, a simple plot — and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what the filmmakers were aiming for. Dance Camp knows what it wants to be, and it does it well.
It caters specifically to YouTube’s demographic, meaning young folks who are still in middle school (or high school) and dealing with the kinds of issues that teenagers deal with. However, Dance Camp feels like it tries a little too hard to be relevant, what with all the hashtags and social media lingo it throws around.
Not only that, but the story is extremely rough around the edges. The individual scenes are fine on their own, but when the credits roll at the end, I couldn’t help but think, “Okay… and?” Dance Camp wants to say something, but isn’t polished enough to know what that something is.
As for the dance routines, they’re sorely underwhelming. The irony here is that you can use YouTube to find all kinds of impressive dance clips that blow the ones in Dance Camp out of the water. If you’re thinking of watching it for the performances, do yourself a favor and find another flick.
Overall, Dance Camp can be summed up with a quote from one of its own characters: “Wow. Um… there was effort.”
In this reality-adventure series from the creator and executive producers of “The Walking Dead,” experience thrills, chills, and laughter as PewDiePie encounters terrifying situations inspired by his favorite video games.
PewDiePie is known for playing, commentating, and reacting to video games — especially horror games — on his YouTube channel. Scare PewDiePie is an evolution of that concept. Now viewers can watch as he goes through and reacts to reality horror setups across 10 different episodes.
I only saw the first two episodes, and I found the first setup (the hospital) to be more compelling, at least as far as being genuinely creepy and unsettling. The second setup (the alien ship) seemed like a lot of fun, but not at all scary, and the whole point of the show is to be scary, isn’t it?
What surprised me is that I actually found it quite entertaining. I don’t know if I like it enough to tune in every week — in fact, I don’t know if I’d even finish the series if all of the episodes were already available — but I don’t regret the time I spent watching what I saw. At the very least, it’s a great way to kill 20 minutes at a time.
My biggest complaint — which is a common complaint across all reality shows — is that I find it hard to believe that PewDiePie’s participation is completely unscripted. Some of the “hidden camera” angles seem like they’d be blatantly obvious and hard for him to miss.
And if that’s the case, then how much of his performance is authentic and how much of it is for the camera? But I digress. There’s really no way around that as long as participation is voluntary, so you’ll just have to suspend your disbelief before watching Scare PewDiePie.
Overall, it isn’t bad. Scare PewDiePie is better than I expected and I enjoyed watching it, but it wasn’t good enough to hook me as a regular viewer. Honestly, I’d consider that a success.
I praise what YouTube is trying to do with these original films and series, but I’m obviously outside of its intended audience. At times it feels like YouTube is trying too hard to cater to a very narrow demographic, but if that’s what it wants, then YouTube is doing a fantastic job of it.
If you’re already following these YouTube stars, then you’ll love what they’re producing. If not, then don’t bother checking these out. Suffice to say, YouTube is only catering to viewers who are already hooked into YouTube culture, and that’s admittedly a smart move.
That being said, some people believe that YouTube Red will be bad for the overall community, so you may want to think twice before buying a subscription. Instead, support free content like these YouTube channels for movie-lovers and these easy-to-binge YouTube channels.
What do you think of YouTube Red? Have you seen any of the original content? If so, what do you think? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!