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Love and Monsters Proves That Dystopia Doesn’t Have To Be a Downer

4/5 cuddly Kaiju.

We may be eight months into the global pandemic, but our appetite for end of the world films and television series shows no signs of abating. The latest entry in the genre is Love and Monsters, an amiable YA coming of age story set in the monsterpocalypse. When a giant asteroid threatens the planet, countries across the globe dispatch missiles to blow it up. And while the asteroid is obliterated, the nuclear fallout from the bombs turns every coldblooded critter into bloodthirsty Kaiju. 95 percent of humanity is quickly wiped out by the monsters, leaving the few survivors hunkered down in underground shelters.

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The film begins seven years later, where we meet Joel Dawson (The Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien), the lone single guy in an underground pod filled with couples. While the apocalypse has turned most folks into hardened warriors, Joel remains frozen in fear and self-doubt, unable to kill a single monster. Still, he has plenty to offer the bunker, like fixing the radio, cooking minestrone soup, and drawing colorful sketches of the creatures they encounter.

While using the radio, Joel discovers that his high school sweetheart Aimee (Iron Fist‘s Jessica Henwick) is alive and hiding out in a bunker just 85 miles away. Despite the certain death that awaits him above ground and the fervent pleas of his found bunker family, Joel heads out into the apocalypse on a mission to reunite with his love.

From here, the story follows the predictable beats, taking inspiration from films like Zombieland, Tremors, and Stand by Me, to name a few. Joel teams up with a sweet doggo named Boy (truly the MVP of the film) and encounters experienced survivors Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his adorable but fierce 8-year-old pal Minnow (Avenger: Infinity War‘s Ariana Greenblatt), who train him to survive on his own.

The film wisely deviates from the expected ending, allowing Jessica Henwick’s Aimee to be much more than a Manic Apocalypse Dream Girl. It also spends a good amount of time focusing on Joel’s trauma and unpacking his development which was arrested during the apocalypse. The film doesn’t mock Joel’s sensitivity and also doesn’t force him into an alpha male role. As he grows braver and more confident, he retains a deep reservoir of emotion that makes him an appealing, if offbeat, hero to root for.

Director Michael Matthews (Five Fingers For Marseilles) delivers some fun special effects with each new creature, which are plenty creepy but not too scary for younger viewers. Not everything lands (a subplot with talking robots feels like an afterthought), but there is a surprising amount of soul in the film.

Love and Monsters doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it provides a delightful, upbeat break from our current dystopia. And while the film’s ending message doesn’t quite mesh with our current reality, the journey to get there is enjoyable nevertheless.

Love and Monsters is available for rent and purchase on all SVOD platforms tomorrow.

(featured image: Paramount Pictures)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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