“Love and Monsters” unfolds against a decimated earth and ends with faith in the human spirit.
By Gene Wickham, Staff Writer
“Love and Monsters” is an admirable and entertaining film that harkens back to the giant creature features of the 1950s and pairs it with a modern view of self-discovery: love will conquer anything life throws in the way.
As the film begins, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) details the story, through his drawings, of how a giant meteor headed to Earth was successfully blown up. However, the debris landed on the planet, spawning giant creatures. Seven years later, 95 percent of the Earth’s population has been obliterated and Dawson now hunkers down in a gritty underground bunker with others. Operating a rusty CB radio, he locates his old girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henpeck), who is located at another bunker 85 miles away. Feeling useless in his current location, Dawson decides to leave and find Aimee. During his journey, he meets other survivors and numerous monsters that enable him to overcome his fears and trust himself.
The film is directed by Michael Matthews, a newby director from South Africa whose freshman feature “Five Fingers for Marseilles” won him the best director award at the 14th Africa Academy Movie awards.
The film is quick to start, setting up the scenario and dropping the characters into a world which is a bleak canvas of people living a primitive life of meager subsistence. As an action/comedy, the story and pacing helps keep the narrative focused on Dawson’s journey. There are not many questions answered about the how and why of the plot, but the film is still a pleasure to watch.
O’Brien is a good actor with great screen presence, but his character’s issue with “freezing” whenever he encounters a monster is played a little heavy given the level of light drama and comedy presented. This quirky trait gets in the way at inopportune times and could have been played more humorously than psychotically.
The special effects in “Love and Monsters” are decent with only a few scenes darkened to hide any inadequacies. The CGI creatures are more intimidating due to their size than their appearance, with the exception of a giant mantis-type insect creature in the beginning. One of the more notable creatures is a giant crab, which appears to reference the giant crustaceans in “Attack of the Crab Monsters” where a team of scientists are eventually consumed by large crabs.
Besides the monsters, the only real villains are a trio of Australian pirates — plundering survivor camps along the coast — who are not introduced until nearly the end of the story. Their leader Cap (Dan Ewing) endears himself to survivors as a benevolent savior, all the while hiding his dubious intent.
The addition of a dog named Boy, who Dawson finds after confronting a giant frog, is a nice humanizing touch, giving him a more empathetic appeal and allowing both to help each other out of dangerous situations they confront.
They meet a pair of survivors along the way; a young cantankerous girl named Minnow and her middle-aged companion, Clyde. Both are headed to higher ground, which they believe is mostly monster free. They not only convey to Dawson the idea of a promised land, but also teach him skills and mindsets to overcome the monsters and his insecurities.
Dawson’s journey involves looking at the Earth in a new way; exposed to the world he once knew and the challenges and beauty currently seen everywhere, he understands people need to adapt, not hide. Dawson and Aimee’s relationship does not have a lot of depth but it is still strong enough to support the core of the story.
The overall message of the film is positive and, like a biblical allegory, Dawson's journey of fulfillment leads him to take the remnants of civilization to a safer more hopeful place.