It’s another end of the world drama, only this time it’s presented in the teen-comedy formula. Netflix’s fair budgeted apocalyptic comedy, directed by Michael Matthews, is light in entertainment and thrills but rich in ideas. It’s a sophomore feature effort from the director, and stars teenager’s favourite poster boy, Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner trilogy, American Assassin).
It’s been seven years since the apocalyptic fallout. Monsters are roaming the Earth and as a result humans are forced to live in bunkers underground. After reconnecting with his high school sweetheart Aimee (Jessica Henwick) over radio frequency, who he hasn’t seen since the event, Joel (Dylan O’Brien) wishes to leave his underground colony to rekindle with an old flame. He will have to traverse through a world that will no longer feel familiar to him, taking on all kinds of mega-morphed insects and amphibians on the way.
Joel is a plucky young adult. A very unlikely hero, who would prefer to stay well away from any danger. But after hearing Aimee’s voice he gets a surge of courage. He packs a bag, arms himself with a weapon he cannot use, and sets off on a trek to reach Aimee and hopefully fulfil a new lease on life in the process.
Very soon into his quest he finds himself a companion in a sweet dog (who for the most part steals the show) and a couple of wandering survivors. Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) have their own survivalist journey, as they believe they have the location of a settlement that will allow humans to regain some of their land back and finally be free of their burrows.
Clyde and Minnow prove to be great help to Joel as they are simply everything he is not. They have the ‘street smarts’ and survival skills that have kept them alive. They feed Joel with the information that will be imperative to his endangering quest, as he jots down all their tips in his survivalist guide.
Dylan O’Brien is an actor that doesn’t make me immediately want to invest in something. Especially if he is given top billing. Having never seen a Maze Runner movie, and felt he was highly miscast in American Assassin, I had my concerns going in. But this is certainly a role that fits his quirky nature. A kid that talks too much and does too little. Whose charismatic and charming without really believing it. An unlikely hero that is forced to break out of his shelled awkwardness.
His interactions with Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) and Ariana Greenblatt (The One and Only Ivan) is where this film works best. The story is as flimsy, predictable and recyclable as they come. You get the sense that you know what is waiting around every corner in terms of narrative. But the script at least has its moments, and a high percentage of those moments fall on the banterous behaviour of the trio. Rooker is the grizzled veteran. He knows his in and outs when it comes to what’s standing in front of him. It’s clear he has a lot of experience with the surface level world and has been handed some tough losses.
Greenblatt is just a child. She’s spent as much time on Earth in its pre-apocalyptic days as she has since the fallout. But she’s been brought up to learn how to deal with the new age threat, and as a result is a monster killing badass. Showing the timid and goofy Joel the ropes, which leads to some comically pleasing moments.
There’s an ever growing sense of being an unsung hero ringing throughout Love and Monsters. That’s certainly the case in regards to how the lead role is written and portrayed, but also surprisingly this quirky, almost B-movie style teen drama received an Oscar nomination for its visual effects. Perhaps in a year that didn’t see so many movies being delayed it wouldn’t have reached such accolade, but it’s still respectable no less.
Love and Monsters is yet another surprise in Netflix’s recent collection. The story is lacking plenty and even fails to deliver on its main focal point. But it’s a fun little gem that boasts some delightful performances and beautiful design. Fluffy entertainment that makes for a perfect excuse to kill a few hours even if its unlikely to demand a rewatch.