TL;DR – While it never quite gets to the heights it aims for, it is still a delightful ride with some stunning effects.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this film.
Love and Monsters Review –
There are times when people can be stringent around how films can be categorised. Then films can come along and blow those strict delineations apart. You see it in movies like Zombieland or Warm Bodies, and we see it again today in the film we are about to look at.
So to set the scene, in the near future, there was an asteroid Agatha 6-1-6 hurtling towards Earth. The governments grouped together to shoot it out of the sky, which they did. Unfortunately, the chemicals they used in all those rockets fell back down to Earth. They contaminated and mutated all the cold-blooded animals, from ants to crocodiles and everything in-between. While the militaries and the giant mutants wiped each other out, 95% of the world’s population died, leaving only those who were able to find security in bunkers. One of the survivors was Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) from Fairfield, California. He made it to safety, but he has a habit of freezing in front of the monsters, not a good long-term survival trait. After an incursion into their bunker, Joel makes up his mind to go out into the world make the trek 90 odd miles to where his old girlfriend Amiee (Jessica Henwick) now lives. Ninety miles of infested territory that is trying to kill everything.
The first thing that I have to say is that the production companies did an excellent job of bringing this world to life. We are used to the post-apocalyptic world setting where nature has grown back over what we have built. Here, not only do you have that layer the set dressing, but also a new grown world full of webs and nests. From a world-building perspective, it reminds me of Annihilation in how it can use the setting to invoke a certain feeling even if you can’t see and danger on screen. There are hives in many of the trees mountainsides are tuned into giant nests. It is pretty compelling.
This world-building also extends to the monster creation, which is another strength of the film. In fact, it might be the strongest part. The setting means that nearly every anthropoid, amphibian, and reptile gets super-sized. Some of these are almost as large as cities, but I am glad that this is not the film’s focus. Instead, the film looks at the car-sized dangers, which look terrifying enough. Picking this class of animals is a good move because it neatly overlaps with many of the fears people have. So upsizing those fears makes for a solid idea, and they exploit it to the max. In the first chunk of the film, we get a murderous ant, a hungry many-eyed toad, and a snail the size of a small house. Each rendered in extraordinary detail and designed to look familiar, yet different, but also believable, and for the most part, this works.
From the story side of things, we have a reasonably standard ‘road trip in the apocalypse’ narrative, with one character, Joel, crossing the wasteland to get to his ex. As a framing device, it works because they can pull off Joel as being our knowledgeable view-point into this world and being the fish-out-of-water for most of the film. That balance allows the film to have comedic moments and some genuinely heartfelt moments, like when he runs into Mav1s (Melanie Zanetti). It also helps that they introduce the dog Boy (Hero & Dodge) that gives Joel someone to bounce when he is on this journey alone.
Of the many things that I liked, I am glad the writers set up the original colony to be an actual caring place. Even though Joel is the oddball that freezes all the time, they are okay with that because that is what family does. There are many different expressions of family throughout the film, both good and bad, and that, as always, is my jam. I think Dylan O’Brien did a good job bringing this character that feels very straightforward but starts to reveal more underneath to life. Michael Rooker is always a delight, and here is no exception, but even he almost gets outshined by the joy that is Ariana Greenblatt.
In the end, do we recommend Love and Monsters? Yes, yes, we would. This is a slightly off-kilter film in that it looks nothing like California, but everything like Queensland where it was filmed. But as someone from Queensland, that was just a fun game of spotting the melaleuca trees. At the same time, it would have been nice if the story didn’t reveal its hand as clearly as it does. Nevertheless, this is a fun romp through a very different kind of apocalypse, and I wouldn’t mind some more set in this world. If you liked Love and Monsters, I would also recommend to you Kong: Skull Island.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Love and Monsters
Directed by – Michael Matthews
Story by – Brian Duffield
Screenplay by – Brian Duffield & Matthew Robinson
Music by – Marco Beltrami & Marcus Trumpp
Cinematography by – Lachlan Milne
Edited by – Debbie Berman & Nancy Richardson
Production/Distribution Companies – eOne, twenty-one laps entertainment, Paramount Pictures & Netflix
Starring – Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt, Dan Ewing, Ellen Hollman, Tre Hale, Pacharo Mzembe, Senie Priti, Amali Golden, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Tasneem Roc, Thomas Campbell, Joel Pierce, Melanie Zanetti, Bruce Spence, Hazel Phillips, Miriama Smith, Andrew Buchanan, Tandi Wright, Damien Garvey, Julia Johnson, Ariu Lang Sio, Donnie Baxter & Helen Howard with Hero & Dodge
Rating – Australia: PG;