Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Movie Review: LOVE AND MONSTERS (2020)

Although COVID has prompted most movie theater chains to close their doors, there are still a few small theaters in and around Atlanta showing movies and still a few smaller movies coming out. One such film is called Love and Monsters and based on the trailer I saw online, it looked pretty cool. So having the whole week of Thanksgiving off (teacher life FTW), I decided to go check it out...

The Plot

When an asteroid threatens to destroy Earth, the nations of the world unite to destroy the oncoming death rock with nuclear missiles...which works. The problem is, the fuel from all these rockets falls back to Earth and starts mutating insects, reptiles, amphibians, etc. into gigantic and predatory forms. Humanity is knocked off the top of the food chain, with only a few survivors hiding in underground bunkers seven years later.

One of these survivors is Joel Dawson (Dylan O'Brien), an artistic young man whose tendency to freeze in the face of danger relegates him to boring and safe duties in a California colony. Communicating with another colony via CB radio, he discovers his high-school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) is alive about 85 miles away. Tired of essentially being the ninth wheel in a colony of several couples--who don't even bother trying to hide all the sex they're having that he's not--he sets off on what his friends believe to be a suicide mission to reunite with Aimee. Along the way he encounters survivalist Clyde Dutton (Michael Rook) and child survivor Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) that he's kind of adopted, who teach him how to survive in this dangerous new world.

The Good

*In a world of remakes, sequels decades in the making, reimaginings, etc., it's good to see something totally original. That was one reason I made sure to go see it, and in a conventional theater as well, to ensure the film makes at least some money that's not streaming-based and harder to quantify. Hollywood is so damn risk-averse these days it's annoying.

*Although the overall plot is a bit derivative (more on that later), the story itself is well-constructed with foreshadowing, Chekov's guns being on the mantle before they're fired, etc.

*Although our hero starts out as kind of a wimp who needs to Man Up To Survive In A Dangerous World (TM), the film doesn't depict his other talents as useless, unmanly, etc. His talents with cooking and art and his good memory come in handy at different times through the story. It's fairly well-balanced in that regard--rather than devaluing Joel's "beta" interests or alternatively blowing them up to be more important than being able to survive in a monster-infested wilderness, the film shows the importance of being well-rounded.

*The film both deconstructs and reconstructs the tropes of men making grand romantic gestures to impress a love interest, although to be fair Joel and Aimee were already dating before the apocalypse happened. Not going to go into more detail for reasons of spoilers.

*The overall message of (informed) courage in the face of fear is especially important in these COVID-wracked days. Seriously there's being cautious and listening to medical advice and then there's the paranoid nuttery I've seen on social media. Although again no details for reasons of spoilers.

*I liked some of the critter designs.

The Bad

*My earlier comments about originality only go so far. Dutton is pretty obviously a second-rate version of Tallahassee, Woody Harrelson's tough survivor from Zombieland. One review I've seen basically describes this film as what happens when somebody sees Zombieland and decides to do something like it. Given how many of my writing projects emerge similarly I can't be too judgmental, but they could have differentiated it a bit more.

*There were several times, especially later in the film, that I was looking at my watch or even got my phone out because it had gotten boring. The film isn't bad per se, but it could definitely be tightened up.

The Verdict

I saw one of the last Love and Monsters showings in Atlanta at an actual theater for $7-ish. I would wait until it becomes available for rental on Amazon or whatever video-streaming service you prefer if seeing it in theaters isn't an option. Rent it, don't buy it, especially not for the $20+ it's selling for online in late November 2020. 7.0 out of 10.

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