Review by C.J. Bunce
Initially marketed as Monster Problems, Love and Monsters is a surprise sleeper hit apocalypse movie, also marketed as an adventure comedy, which puts it into the camp of movies like the Jumanji series and Finding ‘Ohana. It was scheduled for release last April, then delayed to late 2020 because of the pandemic, and you probably missed it. Which is now a good thing, because it’s a nicely timed story about survival–namely surviving a big event and getting to the other side of that event, being able to breathe freely again, at least at some level. Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, and Michael Rooker, it’s a monster movie so well done it is nominated for a visual effects Oscar in tonight’s Academy Award ceremony. It’s now streaming on Vudu, Amazon, and DVD/Blu-Ray.
It starts with an asteroid labeled by humans as Agatha, an asteroid headed straight to Earth. As you’d expect, humans launch rockets at it and save the planet. The problem is the fallout from those rockets returns to Earth, infecting insect and water life to create a planet full of over-sized beasties that gobble up all but five percent of humanity.
Flash forward seven years. Dylan O’Brien (The Mazerunner, Teen Wolf, Bumblebee) plays Joel, a 24-year-old who recounts the past to the audience as he also is writing letters he hopes to one day give to his girlfriend from his teen-age years, Aimee, played by British actress Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist, The Defenders, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Humans live in colonies of about a dozen people, all pooling resources, skills, and experiences to survive. Joel is ninth man out in his colony, the rest full of couples. He’s also willing to be brave, but when it comes to the actual act of defending his colony, he freezes up. The monsters are just too menacing (they chitter, loudly). Using a HAM radio Joel is able to track down Aimee and learns she lives in a colony 85 miles away, about a seven day walk–if there weren’t beasts outside ready to eat you. So Joel psyches himself up and leaves camp to find her, which his fellow colonists know is going to amount to a suicide trip for Joel.
Enter a dog named Boy (played by Hero and Dodge), living out of a bus not far into his journey. With a loyal new companion he has someone to talk to, until he comes across two more humans, a craggy survivor named Clyde, played by the perfectly cast Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Eight Men Out, Tombstone, The Walking Dead), and a pre-teen girl named Minnow, played by Ariana Greenblatt (Avengers: Infinity War, The One and Only Ivan). Both Rooker and young Greenblatt bring an incredible force of street cred to the movie–both are tough and headstrong, with great chemistry and some of the best lines in the film. Melanie Zanetti (The Bureau of Magical Things) provides the voice of a futuristic robot called Mav1s (pronounced Mavis) who provides some encouragement to Joel (and good emotions for the audience) on his journey.
Does Joel get to be reunited with Aimee? And if so, then what? I’ll leave that for you to watch Love and Monsters to find out.
Providing the exceptional monsters is the visual effects team of Genevieve Camilleri, Brian Cox, Matt Everitt, and Matt Sloan, who garnered their first Academy Award nomination. If you watch Love and Monsters you’ll see the nomination is justified. One of the key confrontation scenes has some inspiration from The Lord of the Rings, and it’s every bit as effective. The Australian outback provides a great setting for this story of post-apocalypse America.
If you’re a fan of cool monsters (these aren’t too scary so bring the kids along), or a fan of coming of age movies and you need a boost as you begin to head back out into the post-pandemic world, you’ll like Love and Monsters. The small cast of actors are all superb, including the dogs that play Boy. Catch it on Vudu or Amazon Prime or here on a priced-to-sell Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon. The digital and Blu-ray editions include two fun behind the scenes features and several deleted scenes, each which add more content that bolsters the story, but were obviously cut to keep the film under 2 hours.