Okay, so watching a post-apocalyptic movie in the middle of 2020 may seem like a bad idea. But hear me out, an action-romantic comedy in the guise of an apocalypse survival film is a good one. If you haven’t guessed already, Paramount Picture’s Love and Monsters is the movie in question and yes it brings moth of the elements mention in its title in spades.
Directed by Michael Matthews, and is written by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson, Love and Monsters stars Dylan O’Brien, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt, and Jessica Henwick. While it may have drawn the ire from some critics on my timeline when the trailer first hit Twitter, the film immediately pulled me in. Monsters? Check. O’Brien in an adorable role slightly aged up from his usual YA fair? Check. And that’s really all the checks I needed.
That said, if you need more, the film itself takes place seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, when the world destroyed a meteor which would have destroyed them but in the process rained down enough waste that the cold-blooded life forms on the planet mutated into monsters. This means insects, frogs, and all the other creepy-crawly and slimy beings have become freakish monsters and have rendered the human population nearly extinct.
Because of the Monsterpocalypse, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), along with the rest of humanity, has been living underground ever since the giant creatures took control of the land. After reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who is now 80ish miles away at a coastal colony, Joel begins to realize that she may not be as lost as he once thought. Having spent most of the seven years apart writing her letters, Joel realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground and decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite the dangerous monsters that stand in his way.
Now, Joel isn’t necessarily who you would pin as the leading man. He freezes when confronted with any monster and is barely holding it together because of his loneliness and general lack of survivability. In fact, when he sets out on his own, his community in his bunker doesn’t think he’ll make it.
The bulk of the film takes place in above ground as we follow Joel on his seven-day journey to reunite with Aimee. Along the way, Joel meets three characters that help him along the way. The first is Rooker’s character Clyde who acts as a father to Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), the eight-year-old bow prodigy who is way more equipped to survive the world than Joe. But the best member of the extended cast is Boy, the best dog. When Joel meets Boy, it becomes a story about a boy and his dog and how he evolves to learn to protect and care for someone, overcoming his fear.
But while Joel goes through the growth we would expect from a film like this, what makes Love and Monsters a film to watch is how well done the visual effects are executed on a variety of levels. The first of these is the way that the team behind the film worked to design monsters that both remained familiar but also had an element of fantasy to them. While it would have been easy to go into a world of waste, there is an air to the film that shows nature thriving and not in a way that feels dangerous just by looking at it. Giant frogs, crabs, snails, and all manners of danger fill Joel’s journey but not all of them are aggressive and more importantly, all of them seem to be designed with wonder and not fear in mind – even the ones out for a meal.
The monsters themselves are a blend of CGI work and practical effects that come together in a way that makes the action sequences feel fluid and dynamic in nearly every moment. Additionally, the other way that the film executes its monstrous world is how it presents the natural landscape affected by the creatures. Hives are now embedded on the sides of mountains, craters are in the ground as nests, trees are a bright green and covered in various slimes and webs and it all feels magical. This wondrous element in the design of Love and Monsters’ world is fascinating and fun.
Overall, the story is simple and Joel embodies a pretty normal stereotype – technically one O’Brien has played before. That said, Love and Monsters gets the post-apocalyptic job done. The growth that we see Joel go through is expected but well executed. And with slightly more mature themes, the film is perfect for the young adult audience that has grown up with O’Brien’s other roles in Teen Wolf and the Maze Runner franchise. Joel will be familiar to them, but the story is one that works and delivers exactly what is on the tin.
Love and Monsters releases on VOD October 16th.
Love and Monsters
Love and Monsters gets the post-apocalyptic job done. The growth that we see Joel go through is expected but well executed. And with slightly more mature themes, the film is perfect for the young adult audience that has grown up with O’Brien’s other roles in Teen Wolf and the Maze Runner franchise. Joel will be familiar to them, but the story is one that works and delivers exactly what is on the tin.