While we all may feel like we are on the verge of living out our own post-apocalyptic tale, the newest entry into the genre is not here to force you to ponder your own mortality. More Zombieland than The Road, the sophomore effort from director Michael Matthews Love and Monsters brings a level of fun and warm-heartedness to the end of the world. This makes sense when you learn the film was co-written by Brian Duffield, who created the criminally underrated Spontaneous from last year. The mass-extinction event in Love and Monsters does not come from a virus of any kind of apocalyptic weather event – as an opening narration explains, we did this to ourselves. In an effort to avoid an asteroid destroying Earth, a rocket is launched into space to prevent the catastrophe before it is too late. The mission is a success, but the unsafe chemicals used to launch the rocket rain down upon the lands and turn cute little insects, amphibians and more into humongous, dangerous monsters. Just think about how the world would have looked if Godzilla had not been around to save the day in any of his recent movies.
It has been seven years since the world changed and humanity has lost 95 percent of the population. Survivors find safety where they can as they try to avoid death on a daily basis. This is somewhat true for our beta-male protagonist Joel (Dylan O’Brien, The Maze Runner) who has not ventured outside of the safety of his bunker since his parents died in the initial chaos. Joel happens to be the only unattached person in a bunker filled with couples who engage in intimacy on a fairly frequent basis. Joel had a sweetheart of his own, Aimee (Jessica Henwick, Iron Fist), but he has not seen her since the world went to hell. His presence in the bunker is one of little importance; Joel makes a mean minestrone and can sometimes fix the radio, but his prowess for defense against the monsters of the world is effectively zero. Joel tries to face his fears, but every time he comes close to a bit of danger he freezes, which puts everyone at risk. After recently reconnecting with Aimee over the radio, Joel rallies the courage to make the 85-mile journey to her compound – much to the loving objection of his group. They truly care about Joel and do not want to see him embark on what they consider a suicide mission, but what is the use of living if you do not have love in your life?
O’Brien is the perfect balance of fear-ridden mess and lovable, burgeoning hero. You might be more than a little scared, as well, if you were face to face with some of the creatures in his path. An early toad-like monster is almost cute until you see him spring into action. The monster designs in the film may not always be photorealistic, but they are visually fascinating and varied in a way that amazes times after time. Yet, the creature that steals the whole movie is a smaller four-legged one: the cutest most loyal puppy named “Boy.” The pup knows way more about surviving in the world than Joel, and the way in which their bond grows throughout the movie is such a joy to behold. Joel does get to interact with some other humans along the way in the form of Clyde (the always great Michael Rooker, Guardians of the Galaxy) and his precocious 8-year-old sidekick Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt). These two are key to helping Joel learn how to survive in the world and unlock the potential greatness within himself. While this could be cloying, the lessons are often hilarious and extremely entertaining. If there is one front where this movie excels the most, it is in its balance of humor, heart and action.
Love and Monsters is a film that sneaks up on you and delivers something unexpected amongst all the trappings of a typical teen genre movie. There are certain points in the opening narration that you fear that the presentation will get too meta or self-referential for its own good, but it never falls into that trap. This story feels like it was written by someone who knows the cliches that can plague a post-apocalyptic film and actively works to elevate the film above this. The general bones of the story may not be something altogether groundbreaking, but you have to appreciate the execution. The movie hums along at a really steady pace that keeps you actively engaged the entire time. There is a message of hope and the familial love central to the film that feels like something we all need right now. Love and Monsters sticks the landing in the end by providing big spectacle and character growth in equal measure. The end of the world is nothing to celebrate, but that does not mean you cannot have some fun along the way. The film leaves room for a potential sequel, and a return to this world does not sound half bad.
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray of Love and Monsters offers a lovely uptick in quality over the already incredible accompanying Blu-Ray. Skin tones appear more natural with healthy doses of crisp detail apparent on faces such as pores. The increased range of the color spectrum is stunning to behold. The Dolby Vision enriches the colors from already impressive to out of this world when it comes to vibrancy. When Joel emerges from the bunker and into the lush environment of the natural world, the green of the foliage and blue of the sky hits you like a ton of bricks. The highlights in the film are more defined with whites more pure and balanced with no instances of blooming to be found. Elements in the latter half of the film at the beach are more vivid and finely delineated. The black levels are especially strong in this presentation, staying deep and inky with great detail. This 4K UHD presentation really delivers on all fronts including strong gains in clarity and color. The Blu-Ray is great, but Paramount has delivered another fantastic transfer on this latest 4K release.
This 4K UHD Blu-Ray release boasts a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track that packs one hell of a punch. This disc brings these mutated monsters right into your living room with a depth and clarity of sound that is staggering. As Joel moves throughout the land, the sounds of unseen monsters in the grass and trees flow out of your side and rear speakers. Each sound is precisely placed with perfect spatial awareness. The track engages all of the channels with panning effects and sounds of destruction that really makes you feel like you are in the thick of the fight. The implementation of environmental effects such as rainfall and wind come through in a natural way. There is an insane amount of activity in the low-end which will keep your house shaking with every stomp and roar of a monster. Dialogue comes through clearly without getting muddied by the score or any sound effects. Paramount knocked it out of the park with this track, so those with a good surround sound setup should have fun with this one.
- Deleted Scenes: Six scenes totaling twelve minutes are included here featuring more time in the bunker at the beginning of the film, a close call with a monster right after leaving and more.
- Bottom of the Food Chain – The Cast of Love and Monsters: An eight-minute featurette in which the cast and crew discuss the core story along with the characters in the film. My favorite part was learning more about the talented pups in the film.
- It’s A Monster’s World – Creating A Post-Apocalyptic Landscape: A seven-minute look at shooting the film in Australia and how they used the natural environment to create this disastrous, magnificent landscape.
Love and Monsters is the perfect mixture of exciting action and clever humor grounded by a compelling story of growth and love. The cast are all very compelling in their roles, but the star of the show is one of the most lovable pups to appear on screen in some time. Paramount Home Entertainment has provided this one with a 4K UHD Blu-Ray with a truly excellent A/V presentation and a few interesting special features. This is the type of original storytelling that does not get produced by the major studios as much these days, and it makes a strong case for taking chances on new ideas. Highly Recommended
Love and Monsters is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Paramount Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.