In “Love and Monsters,” an imaginative post-apocalyptic coming-of-age film from the South African director Michael Matthews (“Five Fingers for Marseilles”), an asteroid doesn’t destroy civilization, but humanity’s attempt to stop it does.
After humans launch rockets at an asteroid heading for Earth, chemicals from the exploding missiles shower the planet and turn insects into giant, terrifying mutants that kill 95 percent of the population and force survivors to live in underground bunkers. “Love and Monsters” picks up seven years after this harrowing event and follows Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), who embarks on a perilous 85-mile journey to find his high school sweetheart, Aimee (Jessica Henwick), after they reconnect over the radio.
His fool’s mission drives the first half of the film, which introduces an amusing, if somewhat shallow, band of characters including Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), two no-nonsense adventurers plagued by loss.
“Love and Monsters” lacks the self-seriousness of typical dystopian flicks but, despite its surprisingly perfunctory title and relatively thin plot, it doesn’t completely lack depth. In addition to the tried and true lessons Joel learns along the way (the value of love, courage and confidence), the film remarks on the importance of documentation and archival work. For the last seven years and throughout his journey, Joel assiduously maintains a notebook of the monsters he encounters, creating detailed drawings and noting their behaviors. Not only does this habit save his life on more than one occasion, but it also plays into the film’s metacommentary on paying attention — even if it’s the end of the world.