Set in a post-apocalyptic future where the world has been overrun by giant monsters, Love and Monsters follows a young man who decides to leave the safety of his underground bunker and brave the dangerous wastelands of California in order to get to the woman he loves who is 85 miles away. After being on a streak of watching awful movie after awful movie, I was relieved and grateful when Love and Monsters turned out to be a fun journey with plenty of creatures and plenty of heart.
When the Earth is threatened by an asteroid, the world uses rockets to destroy it. However, the chemical fallout from those rockets causes cold-blooded animals to mutate and grow into giant monsters. With the rise of the enormous beasts, civilization fell and only a small fraction of humanity remains.
Before the world changed and before our hero Joel (Dylan O’Brien) was forced to hide in an underground bunker with a small group of survivors, he met the girl of his dreams, Aimee (Jessica Henwick). He was separated from her when everyone evacuated their homes however seven years later he has made radio contact with her and decides he will traverse the 85 mile distance on foot to get to her. There’s just one problem though: he freezes up when faced with a dangerous situation. With dangerous situations being in plentiful supply on his journey to Aimee’s colony, his chances for survival are next to none.
Fortunately for Joel, he befriends a dog called Boy who quickly becomes his canine companion as well as two survivalists, Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) who allow Joel and Boy to travel with them for some of the trip. Clyde and Minnow are well versed in surviving the post-apocalyptic landscape and do their best to pass on their knowledge to Joel in the hopes it will increase his chances of survival when he eventually leaves them. But will their training coupled with Joel’s determination be enough for him to survive his monstrous encounters – and will it be enough for him to survive the monsters that are sometimes human beings?
For the light-hearted style of comedy and adventure the film is going for, the acting is on point. Dylan O’Brien is perfectly cast as Joel: the determined, lovestruck, soon-to-be a monster’s dinner willing to risk it all for a girl. Sorry not A girl, but THE girl. He totally nails the comedic vibe with his voice alone – particularly his narration – and embodies that naive, lack of logic or self-preservation when a guy is doing whatever it takes for love (ok, and lust).
He’s so swept up in his feelings of love and go-getter attitude that it’s inevitable he’ll get himself into trouble. O’Brien has done a fantastic job bringing to life a character you actually want to root for because he is genuine and his motives are relatable. You want him to get the girl. You want him to find his courage and you want him to learn that it’s not always about what he wants.
Director Michael Matthews (Five Fingers for Marseilles, Sweetheart) has directed a fun story that has a good mix of – here it comes – love and monsters. While the story can get a little silly at times – it gets a bit much in the part where Cap (Dan Ewing), the Australian, shows up – it’s not meant to be taken too seriously and instead delivers on the promise of that amazing title and does so in spades.
There’s an eclectic range of monsters that our heroes encounter and for the most part they look great. Some of the CGI could have done with a bit more work, but the film is so engaging that it’s easy to forgive. And that’s where Michael Matthews has done such a great job, he isn’t focused on the monsters, they’re just obstacles. He’s focused on the people and their human needs.
While the love story between Joel and Aimee is ultimately the reason for the journey, we get plenty of love with the bond that forms between Joel and his dog Boy as well as the crush Minnow develops for Joel. But ultimately it’s the love for family, even if it’s not biological that is entrenched in the DNA of this story which is what makes this fun but silly story, a journey with substance.
Love and Monsters is an enjoyable movie that delivers exactly what’s in the title, and then some. Plenty of monsters, plenty of mushy feelings, and plenty of genuine heart and characters you’ll want to spend time with, one that never takes itself too seriously. This is a star-making role for Dylan O’Brien and it will be interesting to see where director Michael Matthews goes from here. With Halloween quickly approaching it’s a great choice if you’re wanting something that isn’t too scary for the kids or are simply looking for a light-hearted viewing experience more focused on being fun than scaring you.