Released: 14th April
Seen: 21st April
It has been said before that there is only a finite number of stories that people draw from, things like the monomyth or Boy Meets Girl are simple little stories that end up applying to thousands of movies and books. One story that keeps being reused and influencing others is A Boy and His Dog, the 1969 story that is the basis for a large amount of apocalyptic fiction. Even just knowing the basic storyline (a boy and his dog walking through a nuclear wasteland, the journey help the boy grow) you’ll see it in places like Mad Max, Fallout and the Oscar-Nominated Love and Monsters.
Love and Monsters takes place in an alternate future where humans tried to blow up a meteor that was heading their way, but the fallout from that explosion accidentally turned almost every insect into a giant killer beast that destroyed about 95% of the population. One of those who survived is our hero, Joel (Dylan O’Brian) who is stuck in a colony with a bunch of people who only let him cook the minestrone and repair things. No one seems to trust him with a weapon, which makes sense because he’s not very good with them.
One day while calling around on a radio, Joel comes in contact with Aimee (Jessica Henwick) who is his ex-girlfriend and in another colony. Joel makes the wild decision to go onto the surface and make the dangerous trip to fine Aimee. On the way he’ll fight monsters, find a good dog who is good, make new friends and discover more about himself than he had ever known before.
If you played even 5 minutes of any Fallout game, Love and Monsters will feel so familiar to you because it is absolutely that (Yes, I compared this to the Boy and his Dog story from the 60s, Fallout’s a more popular reference point so I’m switching to that!). From fights against giant creatures to side quests with interesting characters to an over the top ending where the main character shows off the skills they’ve learned over the course of the adventure. It’s honestly a lot of fun to watch, and at a brisk hour and a half I can’t deny that this was enjoyable.
It helps that Dylan O’Brian is a pretty great lead, able to mix the sympathetic with the comedic pretty well and actually carry most of Love and Monsters on his own with nothing to work with except a dog or a legless robot. You really root for him to survive, the little moments where he runs into someone (including a pretty great Michael Rooker cameo) really give you hope that he’s going to make it through.
The danger also feels visceral thanks to the fantastic effect work, the thing that made Love and Monsters an Oscar Nominee. The designs of all the creatures look stunning, brought to life with a great combo of practical puppets and digital work that makes for some truly exhilarating sequences. They manage to make these creatures blend into the world they’ve created in a way that’s believable, they blend into the world so well that you never really think about it (unless you’re forced to think about it in order to explain how good it is so that its award nomination can be justified).
Love and Monsters is certainly not going for anything hard-edged or complex, it’s a simple adventure story with a simple goal and a pretty easy to follow ending. It’s obviously aimed more at a family level, kind of like a kid’s first sci-fi story, and it nails that. Most of the characters, with the exception of our lead, are kind of single-dimensional characters that could get boring after a while. Luckily we’re with them for such a short amount of time that you don’t really get tired of them, though I can’t really call them memorable. Even the brief appearance by Michael Rooker is only memorable because it’s Michael Rooker, he’s impossible to ignore.
On the whole, Love and Monsters is good fun with a charming lead and some genuinely fantastic effects work. Might not be a classic by any standards but it’s a solid way to introduce a new generation to dystopian fiction, something they’ll need to get used to since they’ll soon be living in their own apocalyptic dystopia.