Love and Monsters
Another Netflix title that has been floating in front of my face for quite some time without me clicking on it has been 'Love and Monsters'. I don't really know what took me so long, considering this is a concept so far up my alley it kinda hurts when I think about it. I love a good survival movie, I love a lot of creativity when it comes to creatures, and I love when a character takes time to develop as we learn more and more about them; the "zero to hero" situation, but not too rapidly.
The story opens with a little backstory in which an asteroid has crash-landed into Earth (and even the film makes a jab at it being unoriginal). The chemical fallout from the destruction has caused cold-blooded creatures to mutate into giant monsters, decimating most of the human race. When his hometown of Fairfield is evacuated, Joel Dawson (Dylan O'Brien) gets separated from his parents (Andrew Buchanan and Tandi Wright) and girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick). He is picked up by a group of survivors, and has since been living underground with the knowledge that his parents are now dead, and Aimee is far away at another underground colony.
As the next seven years pass, Colonies are able to keep in touch via radio, and everyone within Joel's colony has paired off. One day, Joel gets in touch with Aimee through the radio. Remembering a promise he made to find her again, he's nudged into action and decides to roam through the dangers of the surface in order to see his promise through - even if it has been seven years since he last saw her. His colony isn't entirely supportive, however, as Joel has a pretty serious problem when it comes to these mutant monsters; he freezes. To them, he might as well be a worm dangling on a hook. Joel won't let them keep him down though, and he heads out, as he feels he doesn't have much else to lose.
Along the way, Joel befriends several characters. It starts with a dog named Boy (Hero/Dodge) who happens to be a faithful and protective companion. This is one of those animal roles where you fall in love with him almost instantly. On top of that, we also get survivalists Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) who teach Joel a thing or two about what it means to survive on the surface. Perhaps the most important lesson is that, though dangerous, some of these creatures aren't just out for blood. There is definitely an underlying message here about environment and human treatment of animals, but thankfully, it's not in your face. This is an adventure story first, and a message second.
The film's CG might look a touch low-budget here and there, but for a Netflix original, it's entirely passable. The truth is, I found a lot of the creature designs really cool, creative, and even gruesome in all the right ways. What makes this one really special for me is the idea that Joel has set out on his own for this adventure. It could be compared to something like 'Into the Wild' in that sense, and personally, I have a real thing for the solo adventurer. I feel like there's a bit more room for development, and in this, we laugh, cry, and even get a little anxious while we take this adventure with Joel.
While there are certainly movies similar to it, and a lot of things here might remind you of 'Zombieland', I found it interesting that one of the biggest nods I found here was towards 'Stand by Me'. This wasn't a constant, but it does combine a long journey, the song itself, and even a scene involving leaches - which are much worse than the ones found in 'Stand by Me'. In my opinion, this is one that's really worth checking out for just about anyone. It may have a few creepy-crawly frightening scenes for younger viewers, but the story is solid, and I found myself routing for Joel quite often. You want him to get over his fears and succeed, especially when certain scenes stop the movie to warm your heart up. Despite a few little odds and ends, this is one I can easily recommend.
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