“Love and Monsters” is a likable post-apocalyptic movie which often amuses or terrifies us as expected. Although it is more or less than a mere combination of several different genre pieces ranging from “Monsters” (2010) to “Zombieland” (2009), the movie is well aware of that aspect from the very beginning, and it willingly goes along with that aspect as cheerfully brandishing its goofy sense of humor here and there around its meek hero’s bumpy journey across his perilous world.
At the beginning, a lad named Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) tells us how the whole world was suddenly turned upside seven years ago. When a huge asteroid was unexpectedly heading right toward the Earth, US and many other countries responded to this dire emergency via shooting lots of nuclear missiles to the asteroid, and the mission seemed accomplished when the asteroid was consequently destroyed into far smaller pieces before reaching to the Earth. Unfortunately, the resulting fallout from this destruction turned out to contain dangerous mutagens which transformed all the cold-blooded animals on the Earth into big giant monsters, and the human civilization was thoroughly destroyed by these monsters within a few years.
Most of the survivors of this global catastrophe came to hide in underground bunkers, and Joel has been living with a bunch of survivors in one of these bunkers. As he casually admits to us, he does not have a particular set of skills for battling against any possible threat from the world above, but he has been fairly useful in cooking and many other small things to be handled everyday in the bunker, and he has been content with that so far.
However, Joel often feels inferior to some other members of the group who are braver and tougher than him. He is also miserably alone while every other member of the group has someone to love, but he has been consoled a bit by his routine radio correspondence with Aimee (Jessia Henwick), who was his girlfriend before the catastrophe hit their hometown. Although they became separated during that dangerous time, Aimee luckily survived just like Joel, and now she has been living along with several other survivors at a spot far from Joel’s current residence.
On one day, his latest radio communication with Aimee is suddenly cut off for no apparent reason, and Joel cannot help but become quite concerned about Aimee’s safety. He seriously considers going to Aimee’s spot for himself, but, as he and others around him know too well, he may get himself killed by those monsters in the world above even before the first day of his risky journey is over, and he hesitates more over what he should do right now.
Nevertheless, Joel’s undying love toward Aimee eventually beats his constant fear of monsters out there, so he comes to go up to the world above as everyone in the bunker wishes him good luck, but, not so surprisingly, it turns out that he really needs more than luck. While the world seems quiet and peaceful on the surface at first, we soon see various kinds of big monsters lurking around here and there, and our hero almost gets himself killed when he happens to encounter one of them, which later turns out to be more dangerous and stubborn than expected.
At least, our hero also comes across several characters who are a lot more well-adjusted to this dangerous environment. Joel accidentally befriends a dog which is quite intelligent and resourceful to say the least, and it does not take much time for him to accept this dog as a companion for his ongoing journey. When he literally tumbles down into another peril not long after that, he is fortunately saved by a pair of survivors, and they gladly impart some valuable lessons to Joel as they and he move together for a few days.
Never overlooking what it is being at stake for our hero, the movie gives us a series of humorous moments, most of which naturally come from our hero’s fear and clumsiness and his steady efforts to overcome them. Joel seems pretty hopeless at first, but, thanks to his accidental companions, he comes to find some grit inside him (Is this a spoiler?), and we accordingly come to root for him more.
Director Michael Matthews also takes some time for immersing us more into the post-apocalyptic background of the movie. While we get a number of terrifying moments to jolt us, there are also unexpected moment of awe and wonder such as when our hero and his companions happen to behold a certain big monster slowly moving right in front of them, and I also appreciate a funny and poignant scene involved with an abandoned robot which provides our hero a little solace.
The main cast members in the film did a convincing job of inhabiting in the background unfolded on the screen. While Dylan O’Brien, who is incidentally no stranger to post-apocalyptic world considering his appearance in “The Maze Runner” (2015) and its two sequels, demonstrates here a more humorous side of his talent, he is supported well by Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, and Ariana Greenblatt, who steals the show as much as the dog in the film.
Overall, “Love and Monsters” does not break any new ground in its genre territory, but it is still a competent genre piece balanced well between comedy, horror, and action. Although it does not exceed my expectation, it achieves as much as intended as serving us enough fun and thrill, so I will not grumble about this charming little monster flick for now.