“Love and Monsters” offers a twist in the apocalypse


Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Dylan O’Brien stars as Joel Dawson in this apocalyptic romance with great comedic timing as usual.

“Love and Monsters” is an apocalyptic movie directed by Michael Matthews and was released and distributed by Paramount Pictures on Oct. 16. It mingles romance, like the name suggests, and comedy into the movie, setting it aside from other apocalyptic movies. It’s been well liked by critics and the audience alike.

Dylan O’Brien, known for his performances as Thomas in “The Maze Runner” trilogy and Stiles Stilinski in “Teen Wolf,” sets the stage as Joel Dawson, who narrates the beginning of the monsterpocalypse with his sarcasm and dry humor. A rocket was sent by scientists to hit an asteroid, with the intent to prevent a mass extinction mirroring that of the dinosaur’s time. However, the chemicals from the rocket which came crashing back down with the asteroid debris mutated all the cold-blooded creatures. It’s also why everyone moved underground to colonies and bunkers — to escape from the cold-blooded animals which mutated into monsters from the chemicals introduced by the rocket colliding into the asteroid.

Joel is a relatable and likeable character for many. As the only single person in a bunker where everyone has found their soulmates, he feels out of place. 

“And I have a pretty severe freezing problem. But I am working on it,” Joel himself says. It’s why his status is only at minestrone maker, and he doesn’t get to go to the surface world to forage for food with the others. The freezing problem started seven years ago, when he watched his parents die in front of his eyes, on the fateful day the apocalypse started. It’s also the day he got separated from his highschool sweetheart, Aimee (Jessica Henwick).

Through the flashbacks, the actors show strong chemistry and have the audience rooting for this simple, carefree couple that can be corny without the overbearing bad puns. Joel’s actually a pretty good artist, but ends up drawing Aimee with a beard and a likeness to a kindergartener’s drawing. The two are the picture of young teenage love, and their banter shows how comfortable they are with each other. 

He picks up radio contact with Aimee’s colony, although she doesn’t sound as excited as Joel, and her tone’s more weary and akin to a mother listening to her child talk about their day at school. Then the radio dies. Disappointed but determined, Joel makes up his mind on the spot: “Time to let someone else make the minestrone.”

His bunkmates are all naturally worried, but Joel isn’t deterred although he doesn’t really have confidence in himself. He crosses the threshold, and goes into the surface world. But, he’s pretty useless when it comes down to nitty-gritty survival, and has to be saved first by a dog, Boy (Hero), and later a pair of survivalists, Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt).

— Through the flashbacks, the actors show strong chemistry and have the audience rooting for this simple, carefree couple that can be corny without the overbearing bad puns.

Minnow quickly becomes a surrogate sister to Joel, teasing him and correcting his every move. Boy also develops an attachment to Joel, following him around and even bringing him a mutated fish for dinner, which Joel politely declines.

Joel is repeatedly accused of being a food stealer — the accusers point out that he looks like a food stealer and that that’s probably why he got kicked out of his colony, although Joel tries to explain that he’s on a journey to find true love.

The movie definitely has its cheesy moments, but it doesn’t take away from the realisticness of the film. Or at least, the realisticness that one can achieve from a monster apocalyptic movie, but that’s beyond the point. 

One of the scenes which stood out the most was Joel’s first trial on his own after leaving Minnow and Clyde as they separate paths. Boy is about to be eaten by a mutant centipede, and Joel freezes up, remembering how his parents had died which was most definitely the cause of his freezing problem. However, he comes back to the present day situation, and snaps out of his frozen state. Joel saves Boy from the mutant centipede, and when he realizes what he’s done, he hugs Boy tightly and nuzzles the dog’s forehead. It’s much more intimate and heartwarming than the scenes with Aimee, and Dylan O’ Brien and Hero nailed the chemistry.

Another captivating scene indirectly brings attention to the toxic masculinity of today’s modern world, where boys are told not to give up when the person he likes rejects him. However, Aimee rejects Joel because she has a lot going on and lost someone special the year before. Instead of continuing to pursue her, Joel is truly sorry and guilty for not even checking with her before coming with visions of sweeping Aimee off her feet and being as hopelessly in love as they were when they were teenagers.

At the end of the movie, Joel shows that there’s in fact more to his life than romantic love. For everyone their reason to live — truly live — differs, and Joel’s cause is his bunkmates. He decides that he’s done hiding, and with his colony they venture off to the mountains where Clyde and Minnow are, while he narrates his journey on the broadcast to later generations in hopes that others can also decide to not live in fear. 

Although this movie is centered around a fictional world, the struggles regarding love and fighting real-life “monsters” that Joel goes through are very real and relatable. It’s a well-depicted example of a hero’s journey. Joel retains his character and the quirks that make him himself, but pushes through hardship to become the hero he’s wanted to be. The messages of deception, looks, pride, fear, and love really tied in the movie together, and many people are already talking about a possible sequel, prequel, or spin-off.

“Love and Monsters” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, iTunes, and YouTube.