Love and Monsters (2020)
In Love and Monsters (2020), we follow Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) as he attempts to trek through eighty miles of an apocalyptic world filled with insect-like monsters, in order to reunite with his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick).
Originally slated for release in February of 2021 and placed on VOD by Paramount, Love and Monsters comes from the mind of screenwriter Brian Duffield (Spontaneous) and his original script titled “Monster Problems”. The final product was re-written by Matthew Robinson (Monster Trucks) and directed by Michael Matthews. The result is a fun, yet somewhat forgettable ride as it falls apart in the third act.
However, Matthews makes the most of his $30 million budget, working with cinematographer Lachlan Milne (Stranger Things) to present a world that has been overrun by fauna and 5-10 foot tall monsters. This is made possible with superb creature designs by Steven Boyle (Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones), which were inventive and detailed. While they did rely on CGI - provided by visual effects supervisor Brian Cox- a bit more than usual, it was well-executed and complemented the creature designs. As for score, composers Marco Beltrami (Logan) and Marcus Trumpp use a pulse-pounding synth template. It’s a bit cliche but Beltrami and Trumpp make it work by giving it an adventure-like quality.
Dylan O’Brien stands out as the everyman Joel Dawson, a meekish 24-year-old who has not left the safety of his home in the seven years since the apocalypse started. O’Brien - best known for his roles on the MTV reboot of Teen Wolf and in the Maze Runner franchise - plays Joel with a sense of honest relatability. O’Brien sells Joel’s desperation and determination to reach Aimee. O’Brien also displays a sharp sense of wit and sarcasm that makes for good chemistry with his castmates.
Speaking of his fellow cast members, we have Michael Rooker - best known for his role as Yondu in the Guardians of the Galaxy films - plays Clyde, a mentor figure for Joel as well as being a part of a father-daughter duo with Minnow, played by Ariana Greenblatt. Both Rooker and Greenblatt have great chemistry with each other and O’Brien as they teach him the names of the various creatures and how they operate. In addition, Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist, Godzilla vs. Kong) - who plays Aimee, Joel’s love interest - also displays some nice chemistry with O’Brien despite her short screen-time. And without giving too much away, she has a pretty cool action scene in the third act. Also (and this might be unusual), but special shout-out to Hero, an Australian kelpie, who plays Boy in the movie. Boy is the metaphorical heart of the film and his relationship with O’Brien’s Joel is great and adds to the main narrative.
Overall, despite it not landing with its third act, Love and Monsters is a surprisingly fun and enjoyable ride. Matthews managed to make a film that had a ton of heart, and successfully balanced the use of practical and special effects. Contributing to this success is O'Brien, whose eagerness and chemistry with Rooker, Greenblatt, and Henwick, makes you root for him from beginning to end. Altogether, Love and Monsters is a solid film.
Score: 3.5 out of 5