Love and Monsters

  • 31 Oct - 06 Nov, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Suggesting a milder version of Charlie Day, Dylan O'Brien plays Joel, a 24 year-old who was 17 when the world ended. Earth's nations joined forces to destroy an incoming asteroid, but the toxic fallout from all the nukes they shot at it turned animals worldwide into giant, distorted monsters. Why weren't humans similarly transformed? Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson's script neither knows nor cares. But 95 per cent of the population was killed within a year, with survivors hunkered down in subterranean colonies that interact only via radio.

Tragically, all this happened just as Joel was bonding sweetly with Aimee. The two were separated in the chaos, but he recently discovered she survived: Having made contact with her colony and heard her voice on the radio, Joel impulsively decides to leave safety and make an 85-mile trek so he can finally reunite with her.

Two big concerns will arise immediately for viewers. But Joel's bunkermates skip "hey, did you ask her if she's got a boyfriend?" and lean hard into "dude, you're definitely going to die before you get there." And they're right. He's a good guy, but he invariably freezes under pressure, and has no experience defending himself. They try, and fail, to talk him out of it.

Matthews recovers his sense of the scenario's dangers soon enough, building exciting scenes around encounters with mutated versions of centipedes, frogs, crabs and the like. Design and FX teams do good work here, balancing the ick factor and unpredictable mutations with occasional notes of cuteness: As it turns out, not every one of the monsters out here burns with murderous intent.

That's a lesson Joel learns from two other survivors he meets, Clyde and Minnow. Tolerant of his inadequacies, they give him a crash course on survival as they join him for part of his journey. By the time he reaches Aimee's beachside shelter, he's practically a manly man.

The movie's last act offers complications both expected and surprising. For the most part, it satisfies, especially in what proves to be the pic's most elaborate action sequence. But likability carries it only so far, and an attempt to set Joel up as the inspiration for a "let's take back the planet" effort is too big a stretch – even in a world where luminous jellyfish float through the sky.