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The Best Sci-Fi Adventure Film You Haven’t Seen is Streaming Now on Netflix

Feel free to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Dylan O'Brien sits with a robot in 'Love and Monsters'
Paramount Pictures
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The apocalypse has been visualized so many times in so many different ways that it’s hard for any filmmaker to find something new to bring to the dystopian genre. That’s become particularly true over the past 15 years or so, with films and franchises like The Hunger Games, Mad Max: Fury Road, Snowpiercer, and even Tom Cruise’s Oblivion all offering their own, completely different versions of a post-apocalyptic Earth. The chances of any film introducing viewers to a dystopian world that feels genuinely different and new have become dauntingly slim.

That doesn’t stop Love and Monsters from making it look easy. The Michael Matthews-directed sci-fi adventure film takes place on a version of Earth that has become overrun by monsters and giant, mutated animals, and it features a lead performance from Dylan O’Brien that’ll leave you desperate to see him get bigger and better chances than he largely has in recent years. In 2020, Paramount Pictures was forced to settle for a digital release of the film — robbing it of the exposure it likely would have received under different circumstances.

As of this month, though, Love and Monsters is officially available to stream in the U.S. on Netflix, which means it may finally get the wave of recognition and appreciation it always deserved.

Based on an original story by No One Will Save You director Brian Duffield, Love and Monsters follows Joel (O’Brien), an idealistic young adult who is terrified that he’s going to spend the rest of his life relatively alone. In the film’s explosive first-act flashbacks, viewers watch as Joel’s parents are murdered right in front of him by giant, mutated bugs and he gets separated from his girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick). Most of the movie takes place seven years later with Joel now living with a group of human survivors in one of many underground bunkers that were built in response to the world’s monster infestation.

Joel’s habit of freezing up every time he comes face-to-face with danger of any kind has made him an outcast even in his tight-knit, claustrophobic underground community. But when he and his fellow survivors suffer an unexpected loss, Joel makes the brave — or moronic, depending on how you look at it — decision to travel across the film’s monster-infested surface world to reunite with Aimee. In doing so, he puts himself in considerable danger but also ends up on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention that offers him a new perspective on both his dystopian reality and his place within it.

To put that another way, Love and Monsters is a fairly straightforward genre riff on a coming-of-age story. Joel’s arc isn’t particularly surprising or subversive, but it also doesn’t need to be. The movie has enough heart to make its unlikely hero’s adventure stand out, and Duffield and Matthew Robinson’s screenplay fills the journey with memorable moments. At the same time, Love and Monsters never slows down long enough to feel like it’s overstaying its welcome or getting too bogged down in the details of its dystopian world. That fact just makes the movie even more likable, which is the best compliment one can give a coming-of-age sci-fi film like it.

Love and Monsters is a fun, lighthearted, and delightfully weird dystopian adventure film.

Paramount Pictures

As simple as Love and Monsters’ story is, the film doesn’t pass up any opportunities to get a little kooky and weird. The designs of its monsters range from terrifyingly gross to hilarious, and the movie’s climax is an absurd, sun-soaked set piece involving an Australian yacht captain and a giant green sea crab. Joel’s journey, meanwhile, is comprised of detours that are alternately melancholic, nerve-wracking, and endearingly fun. His brief time spent with a survivalist duo (played by Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt) is, for instance, enough on its own to remind you of the enduring appeal of the classic sci-fi that clearly inspired Love and Monsters.

Ultimately, the film is an uncomplicated crowdpleaser — the kind of spring blockbuster that used to draw teenage moviegoers into the theater in droves once upon a time. Those days may be over, and Love and Monsters may not have ever gotten its round in the spotlight, but that doesn’t make the film itself any less entertaining or delightful. On the contrary, it’s easily one of the best American sci-fi blockbusters of the past five years.

Love and Monsters is streaming now on Netflix.

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