Amonster movie for our times
Love and Monsters (13+, 109 mins) Directed by Michael Matthews Reviewed by James Croot ★★★★
Earth’s luck finally ran out with Agatha 616. The asteroid (whose name is a sly nod to amarvel character) is heading on a cataclysmic collision course with our beloved planet, so our leaders decided the only thing to do was to ‘‘shoot a bunch of rockets at it’’.
Unfortunately, in the course of eradicating that threat, they created another. The missile’s chemical compounds, when they settled back on the ground, mutated all the DNA of theworld’s cold-blooded creatures, causing them to exponentially grow.
The US President was killed by a moth, as 95 per cent of the world’s population was wiped out within a year. Those left were forced underground, as reptiles, amphibians and insects took over the surface.
Seven years in and Joel Dawson (Dylan O’brien) is growing tired of life in Bunker 7045. While everyone else has seemingly found their soul mate, he’s stuck flying solo.
And because he’s paralysed by crippling fearwhenever stressful situations arise, Joel isn’t considered for any hunting parties, volunteered instead for the role of the bunker’s chef – minestrone a speciality.
There is one bright light in Joel’s life though, but it’s also one that makes him yearn for a change of scene. In the past few months, he’s managed to re-connect, via radio, with his pre-apocalypse high-school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick).
As the pair laugh and reminisce during their frequent calls, Joel increasingly wants to join her. However, to do that, he’ll have to overcome his anxieties, avoid whatever’s waiting for him above ground and make the arduous 135-kilometre journey to her coastal community.
Already seemingly destined to be this decade’s Zombieland, South African director Michael Matthews’ charming and thrilling mon-rom-com (monster-romanticcomedy) has taken on extra resonance in our locked-down world. The conceit of desperation to end separation will strike a chord with many, as will the bubbled-up life of the bunkers.
At its heart though, Love and Monsters is a rollicking rollercoaster of a roadmovie.
Joel’s trek involves threats and colourful characters and beasties at every turn.
Writers Brian Duffield ( Jane Got Her Gun, The Babysitter) and Matthew Robinson ( Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Monster Trucks)
have stuffed the story with memorablemoments, witty oneliners and, sometimes, a palpable sense of danger, immensely assisted by the Oscar-nominated visual effects that bring the giant bugs and other creatures to life.
Combined with the sometimes caustic humour, it reminded me of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, although it also evokes memories of A Quiet Place and
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (and there’s a scene especially for fans of 1980s comingof-age classic Stand By Me).
Clever framing, smart editing and some unexpected twists help keep the viewer fully immersed in Joel’s journey, and the impressive O’brien ( Themaze Runner) is helped along by some fabulous cameos from the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy ’s Michael Rooker and
The One and Only Ivan’s Ariana Greenblatt. Sharp-eyed Kiwis should also keep a look out for local actors Tandi Wright and Te Kohe Tuhaka in small, but key, roles.
From the opening animated titles to the action-packed crowdpleasing finale and the ongoing Zombieland- esque ‘‘lessons for living’’, Love and Monsters is a sheer delight that would have been the perfect cinematic night out with a group of friends.
You’ll just have to gather them around to watch instead.