This movie just came out and it’s amazing.
An asteroid is about to hit Earth, so all of the nations fire their nukes in an attempt to stop it. They succeed, but the combined radiation and chemicals raining down upon the planet apparently mutate multiple types of non-mammalian life into gigantic monsters. During the initial attack by the creatures, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) is separated from his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick). It’s now seven years later and Joel has been living in an underground bunker. Joel manages to make radio contact with Aimee, who is in another colony. Determined to see her again, Joel goes above ground and risks his life to join her colony. Along the way, he is joined by a stray dog, who he names Boy. Together, the pair must survive in a giant monster apocalypse.
First, I have to apologize to the film Bubba Ho-Tep which is being bumped off of the 13 Reviews of Halloween because I cannot possibly ignore this film. It only came out last week, but I was told by two people that this was an amazing movie that I had to watch. They were completely right. Bruce Campbell, I will have to make it up to you later.
The first thing that I noticed about this film was that, despite not being an indie movie, it was apparently not based on a book or a comic. Amazingly, this was apparently an original spec script that somehow got green-lit without a major star or director attached. It does have Michael Rooker in a supporting role for a few minutes, but that’s about it. While the film has a lot of shared tropes with other apocalypse shows and movies, it’s still its own animal. The writers of the movie were Matthew Robinson, the guy behind The Invention of Lying and Dora and the Lost City of Gold, and Brian Duffield, who wrote The Babysitter and Underwater, so maybe I should have expected the combination of inventive scripting with fun dialogue. Add in some fun monster designs and you have a hit. Well, you WOULD have a hit, if theaters weren’t closed down almost everywhere and Video On Demand was more successful for non-Trolls movies.
A big part of this movie is that Joel is fairly relatable. He’s the only single person in his colony, with everyone else paired up. That makes his desire to meet with Aimee at any cost a lot more rational and believable. Additionally, he tends to freeze up when he’s confronted by monsters, something that I’m pretty sure everyone can understand. If you saw a thirty foot tall crab, you might get scared out of your mind, too. By starting the film off with him being the lovable underdog, it naturally allows the story to have a great traditional character arc. It capitalizes even further by having him bond with Boy, who manages to help keep Joel alive at multiple points and vice-versa. The film uses traditional story tropes but puts them in this extremely hostile and creatively populated world so that they feel fresh again.
The film hinges on Dylan O’Brien’s performance. Despite his character being essentially the wimp in the apocalypse, he never comes off as annoying. He’s more likable than Jesse Eisenberg’s sidmilar character from Zombieland, which is necessary when you don’t have a grinning Woody Harrelson to play off of. He’s on his own, or accompanied solely by a dog, for much of the movie, so he has to carry a large portion of the film and he has to showcase his growth largely through his actions. During the film’s third act action set piece, though, he demonstrates that growth in such a way that both you and the characters will simultaneously say “holy sh*t.”
Overall, just a great movie. It’s worth the rental. I’d go see it at a drive in if I could.
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