This is a movie for Fanboys, about Fanboys and by Fanboys.
And it never really tries to be much more than that.
It is every fanboys dream: “A.I” Cashill created his own self-published comic book with the help of his friends, and they’ve all gone to a big Sci Fi convention to promote their first issue.
Dressed as the major characters, of course.
But a rival cosplay team from another Independent comic (“The Destroyers of Destruction”) challenges them to enter a mysterious competition, and A.I. convinces his reluctant and exhausted friends that they need to participate.
What they don’t realize is that this competition isn’t just for some strange TV network, but is being run by aliens who are choosing people to carry out a secret mission.
So, with the help of a friendly janitor and a passing Yeti (or at least someone in a Yeti suit), they find themselves in a strange game which somehow grants them super powers.
Yeah, yeah, we get all the familiar talk about how we only use ten percent of our brain and our full potential and all that (and no, it is definitely not true that we only use a tiny portion of our brains. Stop telling that story, everyone. Look it up if you don’t believe me!) We’re told this is how the aliens are supposed to be doing this, and fortunately it’s one of those tropes which doesn’t require any further explanation.
And before long, they’re off on a mission to save everything. That’s what you do when you are a bunch of nerdy geeks turned superheroes.
By now you’ve noticed that this is basically every nerdy fanboy’s wet dream. Creating your own kickass comic and getting superpowers? Working with aliens and Yetis? Fighting evil? Why, we haven’t even got to the dinosaurs with laser eyes yet!
It’s better than meeting that superhot girl who never paid any attention to you in Junior High all those years ago and having her tell you that she always had a huge crush on you and was afraid to tell you!
You can’t help getting the feeling that this is a dream both writer and story creator, Michele Pacitto, and Nathan Letteer, who co-wrote and directed, are saying to themselves, the whole time they made this, “Hey, you never know, maybe the aliens will see this and decide it’s our turn to be super-powered.”
It’s a feeling I can’t shake as I watch this movie…we have the guy who has two awesome hot chick friends (one of whom is the classic tough girl, the other is the shy girl we know will blossom when she gets superpowers and tell A.I. she likes him. Finally. You know, like Vi in The Incredibles). We’ve got a wild party with people in cool costumes (the kind nerdy fanboys rarely get invited to); what would be your typical lethal game show movie situation if anyone actually got killed; and we have the underdogs winning against all odds. It’s crammed full of pop culture references (I love the Tardis elevator doors!) and keeps dragging us back to the Eighties: a Mr. Miyagi-like mentor, an AMC Pacer, and a Pine Tree Air Freshener in a flying car (it isn’t a Malibu, but who’s counting?).
Which is the real problem here: you can almost hear the Fanboys who wrote this saying, “this is sooooooo cool!” every time they come up with their next idea. And I’ll concede that, as a member of that elite fraternity, I do find myself saying the same thing when I spot that one of the crew listed in the credits of that Alien gameshow is none other than…”Jack Burton!”
(I’ll let those of you who didn’t live through the Eighties go look that up. I’ll be re-watching my copy of Big Trouble in Little China while I wait…)
But I guess my reaction is that it isn’t enough. It just can’t carry the whole film on its own. Yet that’s pretty much what they have to offer here. If it weren’t for that, it would all have the sort of routine quality of an episode of Lost in Space. Monster Force Zero gives us a story with little character development, no complications, and even fewer surprises. It all just goes in a very straight and expected sort of line, even the moment when things look really bad before the hero finds what he needs in himself to save the day.
Okay, I admit it: I enjoyed this film. It is fun. It just leaves you feeling that it should have been so much more.
But I’ll also admit that I’m more of a junior grade Fanboy, the kind who still has all his Topps Star Wars Bubblegum cards, but doesn’t have dozens of toys in their original packaging. You hardcore Fanboys out there — you know who you are — may have quite a different experience. All that coolness might just win out, and carry the rest of the film with it.
However, you probably have a better idea whether that’s true or not.
So for all the Fanboys out there I say, yes, go ahead and watch this one. You will have a good time.
But it may leave you feeling a touch dissatisfied.