By Marine Saint, First Year, English and History
Netflix’s latest post-apocalypse film Love and Monsters (2021) is a surprisingly satisfying, witty comedy. Whilst it has been likened to the 2009 hit Zombieland, director Michael Matthews’ second feature film stands out as a unique take on the genre thanks to charismatic protagonists and unexpected twists.
Love and Monsters follows unlikely hero Joel Dawson (played by Maze Runner star Dylan O’Brien) as he ventures 85 miles across North America-turned monster wilderness to find his high school sweetheart, 7 years after an apocalypse. After leaving his colony’s bunker for the first time since creatures took over the earth, Joel encounters killer mutated animals, seasoned slayers Clyde (Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker) and Minnow (portrayed by Ariana Greenblatt), and picks up a companion on the way: an energetic dog named Boy.
O’Brien pulls off an appealing comedic performance and holds the film’s initially somewhat cliched storyline together. To begin with, the film seems to follow the pattern of many other post-apocalypse adventure comedies with a quest, monsters to hunt and a romantic incentive, but it is the fact that protagonist Joel is not a ready-made action hero but rather a relatable and perhaps foolish character who becomes self-assured which makes Matthews’ film differ from previous works in this genre.
Produced by the creators of Stranger Things, it's no surprise that the film delivers aesthetically and transcends the stereotypes it sets up
This fool’s errand for love which transforms into the making of a protagonist is helped by the skilful special effects and pleasing script which incorporates the main character’s awkwardness and the interesting dynamic with the people he meets on his journey. Considering that the film was produced by the creators of Netflix’s biggest original hit series Stranger Things (2016-), it’s no surprise that the film delivers aesthetically and transcends the stereotypes it sets up.
Love and Monsters’ feel-good energy is undercut by dramatic flashbacks which reveal the chaos of doomsday, but unfortunately the more serious elements of the plot are not fully developed or explored to add more nuance to the film’s lightness. In addition, the amusing trio made up by O’Brien, Rooker, and Greenblatt could have been even more incorporated into the storyline rather than pushing a rather artificial close-knit family relationship between Joel and his fellow colonists.
Nonetheless, the film’s soundtrack truly compliments its mood, and the often-strange elements of the story are improved by strong surprises and turns in the plot. The best element of the film, however, is undoubtedly the relationship between Joel and Boy, the two of which have much more compelling chemistry than the rather stilted coupling of Joel and former girlfriend Aimee (another Marvel alum, Jessica Henwick).
Overall, Love and Monsters makes for ideal light-hearted viewing for those seeking to watch a monster-pocalypse film less serious and lower budget than classics like Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) but one that has still gained critical acclaim, scooping up an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects. Whilst waiting for the return of cinemas, this film still offers an impressive visual spectacle on the small screen.
Have you seen Love and Monsters yet?