As the protagonist of ‘Of love and monsters’, by now we know what it is to be locked up for a long time. Although in our case it is a virus and, in his case, giant monsters that could bite your head off and have taken over the face of the Earth. Almost the same. As there is no vaccine that fixes that new normal to which humanity has been forced, the best thing is to learn to survive and, incidentally, take it with a sense of humor. They do so in this Michael Matthews movie, which landed on Netflix this week to show that post-apocalyptic teenage adventures can still surprise.
With references like ‘Zombieland’ and ‘Tremors’, this film starring Dylan O’Brien takes us to a monstrous apocalypse with an unexpected hero and the best dog of the year.
The film tells the story of an apocalypse like any other: in this case, a meteorite was about to crash into the planet, so a plan was devised to blow it up before the collision, with the result that the chemical debris They fell on the population causing the birth of monsters that ended up devastating 95% of the population. Seven years later, Joel (Dylan O’Brien) has decided to stop being the weak link in his community and go in search of his high school girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick), from whom he had to part on the day when everything it twisted. However, among his bunkers there are seven days (or more) to go and countless dangers that he will have to face with little experience in combat. After all, he was just the guy who cooked the minestrone.
So, we have the unexpected hero, the dystopian setting, the supernatural villains, the mission of life and death, the best dog of all time, the horny secondary … A ‘check’ in all the boxes of the teenage adventure genre in the end of the world. ‘Of love and monsters’ is seen in films like ‘Zombieland’, especially when the duo formed by Clyde (Michael Rooker) and the little Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) appear, two survivors who teach the protagonist to defend himself from the dangers that this hides the new World. It also gives off echoes of other films such as ‘I am a Legend’ (the hero and his dog in the apocalypse), ‘Looking for a friend for the end of the world’ (the man who goes in search of his girlfriend after the fall of a meteorite), ‘Memories of a teenage zombie’ (that funny narration in voice-over and a hero in search of his better half) and ‘Tremors’ (the aesthetic monsters between artisan and digital), and it is close in theme and tone to the series ‘Daybreak’, also from Netflix (and canceled after its first season).
So many references are no coincidence: this film consciously tries to be an amalgamation of all the above, a definitive remix to the rhythm of ‘Stand by me’ that is neither plagiarism nor homage, but simply a natural result. And, fortunately, the result is much better. In the end, he bets the most for that mix between action, comedy and fantasy, in which he finds, at the same time, his own voice.
With a budget of 30 million dollars (to compare: that of ‘Godzilla vs Kong’ was around 200 million), the film makes the most of its special effects (which, beware, have received a nomination in the next few Oscars 2021), although he does so knowing that his best asset is the charisma of his characters, the sense of humor of the plot and the well-managed references. As we pointed out before, there is nothing rabidly original in ‘Of love and monsters’ and, at the same time, it is not part of any literary saga or franchise, so it is one of those ‘rare bird’ of today’s Hollywood that bets on something if not new, at least own. And it works perfectly.
The truth is that this movie has come at a perfect time. Not only because, after more than a year, we are still suffering the effects of the pandemic and we need new films to brighten our days. That also. It is the perfect time because, in essence, the story is about how the world we know can change from top to bottom, and yet there is still room to find an equally satisfying new way of living. It talks about how we should stop clinging to the idea of an ideal life under the codes of the past and start building an ideal life with those of the present. Even if that includes a giant snail or flying jellyfish.