Only Cosplayers Can Save Humanity: Monster Force Zero (2020) - Reviewed

Monster Force Zero is a goofy sci-fi comedy about a team of cosplaying comic book creators who stumble across aliens and superpowers while desperately trying to promote their failing book. This is a movie that knows precisely what its audience would expect from it. It has tons of comic/movie references, silly fight scenes and what certainly seems to be intentionally odd dialogue. The special effects fit the tone of the production; cheesy, yet not so absurd that they take attention away from the characters. The plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the protagonists seem to accept the bizarre goings-on way too easily, but that’s not much of a problem since the filmmakers obviously weren’t taking things even the slightest bit seriously. All of the wackiness and gentle pokes at other sci-fi properties are fun to watch initially, though there were probably a bunch that I missed. Sadly, it runs out of steam approximately halfway through, becoming too much of the same thing over and over again.

The team consists of the writer/leader, the badass illustrator and the passionate costume designer. Once the action starts, I think they take on the personalities of the characters they based on themselves in their comic. However, we never really learn anything about the comic, so that isn’t made particularly clear. Their antagonists are a group of bullying, cosplay legends, though I’m not entirely sure what they were supposed to be, beyond the dumb arrogant jocks and their hangers-on. 

Several things just kind of appear in Monster Force Zero without a lot of explanation, like the dude in a yeti suit who randomly becomes a member of the team (that running gag is actually pretty funny). That approach works a couple of times, but eventually wears out its welcome. It ends up being too reliant on its audience’s knowledge of other stuff. It’s energetic, while never turning into something separate from its influences.

Some of that energy comes from the cast, who fully embrace the clichés their characters embody. That only carries things so far, because they tend to feel like outlines filled in by other pieces of entertainment. In addition to the parts occupied by the brave heroes and ignorant jerks, there is even the mysterious janitor who guides the Monster Force on their way. Amid all the movie/comic/tv references, the pop-culture nod that definitely worked the best for me was that The Janitor was played by former pro wrestler Pat Tanaka. He turns out to be solid in the role, essentially playing the straight-man to the shenanigans.

Monster Force Zero gets overwhelmed by the clichés and references, never taking the time to let its ideas stand on their own. It also struggles in paying off gags, specifically its biggest one, built up throughout the entire movie, only to end in tremendously unsatisfying fashion. So much is thrown at the wall here and it is mildly enjoyable to see everyone involved just go for it. That may be enough for viewers seeking something that is trying to be ridiculous. Unfortunately, it is amusing at first, then gradually loses its charm, becoming somewhat of a drag before the credits roll.

--Ben Pivoz