Love and Monsters might sound over-the-top, but it’s one of the most entertaining films of the year. It doesn’t care if you’re bogged down by a global pandemic, it wants you to know you could have it worse — you could be pursued by giant ridiculously-morphed creatures in hopes of finding your one true love.
You’ve heard some of this before: an asteroid aimed at Earth draws worldwide attention, and Earth responds with less-than-high standard results. Chemicals rained down all over the world, and ninety-five percent of the population was killed off by mutated bugs and other mutated live forms. In one of the surviving colonies, Joel (Dylan O’Brien, Maze Runner, Teen Wolf) provides little additional value in the underground bunker in Fairfield, CA, because he often freezes up when he’s scared, so he’s regularly left behind when the bunker’s inhabitants venture out for supplies. But he still pines for his pre-apocalypse girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick, Iron Fist, Game of Thrones, Underwater) to whom he writes letters he can’t send, until the day he decides to leave the colony to reconnect with her.
Against all advice, good sense, and incredible odds, Joel sets out across the wilds between his colony and Aimee. “Run fast, and try to hide. Don’t fight,” the group recommends, when Joel proves intent on leaving with his map, a crossbow, and adolescent optimism… even though he doesn’t know what direction to go in. O’Brien’s Joel is earnest and amusing, and he plays well with the dog he nicknames ‘Boy,’ against the hardened likes of The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker, another survivialist named Clyde, who travels with the child Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt). Rooker provides some hilarious wisdom (and criticism) in this stage of Joel’s journey, a sort of coming-of-age, survival, romance mash-up, with a dash of monsters thrown in for good measure.
The film spectacularly integrates the actors and the CGI world (and monsters) around them, providing a Tim Burton/Lewis Carroll-like world for Joel to explore. There might be jump scares but this is more energetic and funny, like one of my favorites, The Princess Bride, or my kids’ favorite, The Last Kids on Earth. Certainly, we won’t interact with crazy enlarged bugs, but we all need to venture out of ‘safe’ to see what’s possible, and the journey toward love is certainly one we all need if we’re going to figure out who we are. We’ll suffer loss and grief along the way, but living in a bubble isn’t going to last as a longterm choice – even if 2020’s pandemic makes some of us think it will.
Special features here include some deleted scenes, a look at how director Michael Matthews’ created his world, and what the cast has to say in “Bottom of the Food Chain.”