Love and Monsters was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was sadly overlooked. Here is why it’s a great movie that’s worth checking out.
Love and Monsters was a 2020 post-apocalyptic monster romantic comedy directed by Michael Matthews that follows a young man named Joel (Dylan O'Brien), who sets out to reunite with his high school friend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) after reconnecting with her over the radio. What sounds like a simple setup is complicated by the fact that, for seven years, the world has been taken over by giant monsters and Joel must travel 80 miles alone through monster-infested land to reunite with his love, and eventually discover what he wants out of life even after the world has supposedly ended.
The movie had been in development since 2012, but started to come together in 2018 and was set for a theatrical release. However, the movie was one of many films that became a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. It had a short theatrical window and if one were to look up the box office total one would think it was a flop.
Even the status of being one of many movies released during COVID-19, when there was both a combination of overwhelming options but also few choices means the movie might have fallen in through the cracks. Yet Love and Monsters is worth checking out, as it is one of the freshest original concepts for a movie that a major studio has released in recent years and deserved better than what it got.
Love and Monsters works because it feels both unique and familiar. It is a mash-up of multiple genres including high concept apocalyptic movies with giant monsters that also is a sweet romantic comedy. It is a road trip movie, a survival story, and a coming-of-age story all in one. It mixes all these various genres together to add a refreshing take that will delight audiences. The movie was pitched as a mix of a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future with a John Hughes love story, and that is an apt comparison.
What makes it more impressive is how Love and Monsters has the scale and scope of a massive blockbuster, but a budget of $30 million. It not only makes that budget go a long way (it was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards but lost to Tenet), but the smaller budget also means the filmmakers need to focus more on creative world-building and digging deep into the characters' emotions. It looks like a sci-fi spectacle but has the heart of a smaller character study. It feels perfectly suited for audiences that want a big action movie, a romance, and a quirky offbeat comedy.
Love and Monsters bolsters an impressive cast of performers. Actor Dylan O'Brien had already made a name for himself as a star in shows like Teen Wolf and films like The Maze Runner, American Assassin, and Bumblebee, but Love and Monsters feels like the perfect vehicle for the star. It showcases his everyman status, romantic lead bona fides, and charisma as an action star. Love and Monsters feels like the calling card for the actor to show his range.
Jessica Henwick had been known for her role as Colleen Wing on Iron Fist, but Love and Monsters is the film that is the true breakout for the star and has since gone on to be a major star in films like The Matrix Resurrections and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Michael Rooker appears in a small but pivotal role as a supporting character, showcasing that the actor livens up any movie he is in, and his co-star Ariana Greenblatt truly holds her own against the young star.
Originally set for release on March 6, 2020, Paramount delayed Love and Monsters to April 17, 2020. Just two months before its release, and one month before theaters shut down because of COVID-19, the film was once again delayed to February 12, 2021. However, likely unsure when theaters would open back up, Paramount Pictures decided to release Love and Monsters direct to video on demand on October 16, 2020. The film was given a limited theatrical run in 387 theaters that were open across the country for the weekend, where it grossed $255,000 in its opening weekend. While the film did carry a budget of $30 million, Paramount Pictures likely made back their investment through PVOD sales, as the film was the number one rented movie on FandagoNow and Apple the week of its debut.
The COVID-19 release date may have helped the film and made the movie more timely. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where people were cut off in their own pods, looking for ways to connect and communicate with one another certainly seemed topical, particularly in October 2020 as many had been stuck at home for over six months. The idea of going out into a world full of danger seemed like a reality everyone was living through. Love and Monsters was the big budget high fantasy story that audiences missed from theaters, but for whoever watched it at the time, it surely provided a sense of comfort for the reality they were living in.
Richard Fink is a writer who graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with a degree in Film and Media Production. He loves the finer things in life, like cold Diet Coke on a hot summer day. Richard is a fan of all things Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and Film History.