'Love And Monsters' Review
You just got to love it when a film decides to lay it all out just in its title because Love And Monsters certainly delivers both of those things in neat fashion. Helmed by South African director Michael Matthews with a script from Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson, the movie finds a thoroughly likeable lead in Dylan O'Brien who once again finds himself running away from things, very much like in his 'Maze Runner' role. O'Brien plays Joel who lives in a bunker (also called a colony) with several other people after a fallout turned the Earth to an apocalyptic state, with animals transformed into huge monsters. Joel's parents were killed during the evacuation when he was a teen and his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) is separated in another colony 85 miles away. He decides to make his way to her base, accompanied by a wonderful dog and helpful strangers along the way, as he'd rather live or die with someone he loves than live or die without her. Playing to its strengths primarily, the movie is all kinds of fun and charming so you end up just going along for the ride.
Perhaps we should reverse time first and start with the monsters instead of love since they are mainly the thing that makes the 100 minute trip so fun. They are indeed mutated animals so it's nice to see that they are familiar enough (crabs, worms, centipedes) even if they look eerie in the forest/jungle setting, lazier movie would've made them much more horrific and made the stakes a little too high for one young man. Also considering how much natural and artificial light there is, the VFX on the monsters and action sequences are really well done and when keeping the budget of $30 million in mind, it is pretty insane that only few shots with a crab creature in the end look dicey. One thing that isn't CGI and should be highlighted though is the dog in the film, hopefully the dogs and the trainer got paid well because the dog acting is off the charts here and it wasn't even used for cheap emotional manipulation.
Then we can get to the love part where O'Brien and Henwick come into play. The flashbacks are a bit awkward, especially when we learn how young the characters are supposed to be (casting younger for those short bits would've worked better) but they are quite good in present time. O'Brien gets to explore his range a bit more here and much of that is his comedic performance which should land him more roles in that field, I don't think anyone would mind that. Henwick works her best with the limited screen time she has but she also suffers from being stuck in the worst part of the movie. A combination of Matthews' directing in scenes and his stunt team's work takes away from the fun adventure of Love And Monsters. The human villain is boring and unimaginative, people get knocked out from light hits, human fighting isn't what the movie is about and the dialogue becomes generic. The characters' love and those monsters are the interesting part.
Smileys: VFX, character design, Dylan O'Brien
Frowneys: Some issues with directing and stunt choreography
Between eating minestrone every day and those monsters, I think I'd take my chances with monsters too.