Review: Love and Monsters (2021)

A fun-filled, action packed, yet predictable action comedy.

PLOT AND STORY

Seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), along with the rest of humanity, has been living underground ever since giant creatures took control of the land. After reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who is now 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground, he decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite all the dangerous monsters that stand in his way.

Written by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson they bring plenty of experience writing modern young adult action. I liked the originality behind the story of how our world became a post apocalyptic, monstrous waste land.

Brian Duffield also wrote Insurgent, The Babysitter and The Babysitter Killers Queen and brings his dark humour to the story.

Matthew Robinson is one of those writers who writes good underappreciated movies. Love and Monsters feels much like some of his other movies Monster Trucks, Dora The Explorer and The Invention of Lying because it’s good, fun, snappy but instantly forgettable. I feel, like me, people will watch this and enjoy it but it wont blow you away or desperately seek a sequel. This is not to say it’s a bad movie, it’s more like a Sunday afternoon movie you stumble across one day and find yourself watching because nothing else is on. 

My biggest issue with the story was simply how predictable it was. I’m not sure if this was Robinson, Duffield or a joint effort but it did feel at times you could predict what would happen so easily that the shocks and scares didn’t land like they should. Although I enjoyed Joel’s journey across the wasteland to find his estranged girlfriend the story failed to give me much originality. Loner wonders the wasteland, befriends an animal or misfit, meets kind strangers while on the verge of death and makes new exciting life changes they wouldn’t make without the journey. It’s a formula we have seen many times before in I Am Legend, The Book of Eli and pretty much any Zombie or Monster movie and we will continue to see it many times again because it works and it’s entertaining just on a very familiar level.

PRODUCTION AND DIRECTION 

I thoroughly enjoyed the look and feel of this movie. The monsters and special effects were very good and looking as realistic as a giant 50 foot high snail could look. This was one of those movies you know was filmed in front of a green screen for the vast majority but you could not tell. For a post apocalyptic world overrun with vegetation this is one of the better designs I can think of and I’m not sure if it’s because COVID-19 gave post production extra time to perfect images or if this was just a job well done by the special effects team.

The monster designs are creative, scary, original and executed with excellent CGI which could have had a real impact on the big screen with some scenes reminiscent to the Raptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex scenes in Jurassic Park. Hopefully after COVID and cinemas reopen it will get its big screen opportunity.

Directed by newcomer Michael Matthews whose only over work Five Fingers for Marseilles I am not familiar with. With a directorial debut as well delivered as this I can’t help but compare to the likes of Gareth Edwards who broke out with a similar type of movie Monsters and went on to direct Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Matthews’ career is one I will keep an eye on.

I would like to make a special shout out to cinematographer Lachlan Milne for an excellent job framing a monster movie which didn’t rely on darkness to be scary. When I looked up Milne on IMDB I was not surprised to see he was in charge of Hunt For The Wilderpeople

The vast majority of this movie takes place during the day or in well lit areas which is a very refreshing change. Most modern movies seem to heavily rely on the darkness to create atmosphere and fear which can work in the right movie but often feels lazy and not very creative. Love and Monsters is not afraid to bring its monsters front and centre in the daylight so the audience can see every inch of a terrifying monster’s body or the staind blood on the teeth of something wanting to eat our characters.

CAST

There is not much to say in this section other than talk about Dylan O’Brien who as the lead occupies almost every minute of screen time. I have been a fan of O’Brien since his breakout role in Maze Runner but more impressively in his role as Mitch Rapp in American Assassin. As a fan of the Vince Flynn series of books that was a role I was eagerly keeping my eye on and O’Brien proved as a young actor he could carry a movie or even franchise. I’m pleased to see this continue in Love and Monsters as he once again carries the movie on his shoulders with the maturity of a much older actor. Funny, charming and bursting with energy during the action sequences I believe this is a big step forward for O’Brien to secure that next big role. Watching this shows that Dylan O’Brien could be a great fit in an iconic role like James Bond, Ethan Hunt or a much coveted SuperHero role. Personally I think he would make a great Robin/Nightwing.

The supporting cast is small but great with the brilliant Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones, Iron Fist) who disappointingly didn’t get enough screen time for me. Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) and Ariana Greenblatt (Stuck in the Middle, Avengers Infinity War) had a brief but very important part in the movie and displayed great chemistry in a whirlwind stand out section of the movie.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed Love and Monsters and I think it makes a great popcorn movie to just switch off from the outside world and escape for a couple of hours. The story is predictable and the ending feels a little anticlimactic but there is enough charm, adventure and humour to make me feel happy to have watched it. Dylan O’Brien makes a great lead and the story moves at a fast pace to keep you constantly engaged. A strong supporting cast with a fun soundtrack certainly makes this movie worth a watch. If you are a fan of Monster movies, post apocalyptic settings or movies with a tone like Warm Bodies, Zombieland and Serenity then I think you will enjoy Love and Monsters.

I watched this via Netflix and received no incentive to review this movie. All images are courtesy of Netflix and their respective owners.

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