Love and Monsters is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure comedy about a young man who musters the courage to leave an underground bunker. It’d be a pretty short film if that was it or possibly something in the vein of Ryan Reynolds coffin thriller, Buried. As the title suggests there’s much more to it as young Joel begins a quest to reunite with his ex-girlfriend. Instead of being inconvenienced by a race of alien robots, the hapless youth must contend with monstrous mutations of creatures who became victims of a chemical fall out.
Set seven years after this monster apocalypse, the bunker’s resident minestrone maestro decides its time to overcome his fears and venture into the outside world. This story line has some clever pandemic undertones. Covid-19 was often portrayed as a gang of spikey beach balls patrolling the city and in a similar bent, Love and Monsters treats the outside world as a hostile and dangerous place. Burrowing underground, moving slowly or gourmandising their prey, this monster-infested future presents a number of challenges for The Maze Runner regular, Dylan O’ Brien.
A handsome chap leaning into the offbeat charm of Ryan Reynolds, he works well as this story’s Peter Pan. His Wendy is on the other side of Neverland forcing the young upstart to use his wits, picking up some valuable tips from friends along the way. Love and Monsters is primarily O’Brien’s tale, pushing off his comrades, fellow survivalists and staying one step ahead of everything that moves. He’s ably supported by Jessica Henwick and it’s good to see Michael Rooker as a hardened mentor. Adventuring with his trusty companion, a dog named Boy, there’s a bit of Jock of the Bushveld beneath this quirky and zippy blast of popcorn fun.
“You’re saying his reindeers mutated and ate him?”
It makes perfect sense when you consider the film is directed by South African filmmaker, Michael Matthews, best known for Five Fingers for Marseilles. Love and Monsters plays like a western in the hero’s trek, the Wild West scenario, “bandits” around every corner and arrival at an outpost in need of help. The spectacular thrill ride adopts a cheeky tone similar to the zombie romcom, Warm Bodies, and post-apocalyptic action in the vein of Zombieland. Unfurling as if adapted from a graphic novel series, the pulpy blend of feel good comedy and over-the-top action make for great entertainment.
Moving at a quick pace, its comic book charm, compelling soundtrack and eye-popping visuals smooth over a number of plot holes and there’s rarely a dull moment. This fleeting storytelling, lighthearted energy and winsome attitude is welcome, engaging as a lightweight yarn and powering home with Oscar-nominated VFX and colourful world-building. However, it would have been more emotionally resonant if the characters had more depth. Keeping the story upbeat, maintaining the offbeat comedy and keeping the popcorn flowing will amount to a more superficial take. Having a dog as a co-lead can help win viewers over but doesn’t make exposition any easier.
Love and Monsters is a lightweight comic book style adventure. While the screenplay could have used some more polish, this post-apocalyptic action comedy sci-fi adventure coasts on the offhanded charm of its Peter Pan lead, the spectacular VFX, a driving soundtrack and its mission to entertain. Leaving the door open for a sequel, part one does enough ground work to show its potential as a young adult version of Resident Evil. The film’s solid production values, pulpy spirit and chipper tone go a long way to give this popcorn feast the benefit of the doubt.
The bottom line: Fun