Warning: SPOILERS for Love and Monsters are currently in play. Should you be worried about those, hold off on reading this story until you’ve seen the film for yourself.
When developing any script, but especially when shaping one as clear in purpose as this weekend’s Love and Monsters, there’s a chance that any scene could be cut at a moment’s notice. The trick is obviously to know which scenes need to stay and which ones need to go. But sometimes there’s that one piece of the puzzle that, above all others, needs to stay intact. With more than a decade of development on this project, producer Shawn Levy encountered one of those moments in the early days of putting Love and Monsters together, and sure enough, what resulted is a scene so full of emotional meaning, it’s nothing short of crucial to the narrative that bookends its existence.
As we see Dylan O’Brien’s character Joel make his way through Love and Monsters’ apocalyptic landscape, a lot of blockbuster adventure awaits on his quest to find his high school girlfriend. An 85-mile trek through the monster ridden world that he exists in isn’t exactly a walk in the park, unless that park happens to be built by irresponsible billionaires with cutting edge genetic technology. But in the middle of director Michael Matthews’ action-comedy quest, there’s a scene where Joel finds himself being kept company by a very futuristic personal electronic assistant.
Known as Mav1s, spelt with a “1” instead of an “I,” as she insists, the robotic character is someone that our hero is familiar with, but has never seen in working order. Amounting to a walking/talking Alexa, Mav1s shares a moment with Joel that confirms his humanity, reminding him of his life before the “monsterpocalypse.” It’s a moment that dials down the momentum in Love and Monsters, but with a very important purpose; one that I got to discuss with Shawn Levy himself on behalf of CinemaBlend. During our conversation, I told Mr. Levy about how much that scene had stuck with me as an audience member, and in turn, he revealed the history of Mav1s’ big on-screen beat:
Over the course of eight years of development, writer Brian Duffield’s Black List script, formerly known as Monster Troubles, was morphed into the film you see before you today, cleverly retitled Love and Monsters. Through that time, there were certain core pillars that remained in play, no matter how various rewrites attempted to change the ultimate story. The first core value was for the film to embody a product that occupied the crossroads of a classic teen comedy meeting a post-apocalyptic adventure.
Second, and more important to Shawn Levy, this particularly emotional scene had to be kept in the film at all costs, as it was critical to the adventure of the film’s hero. Not only that, but in further discussing the movie with Levy, his belief in just how important the Mav1s scene was to Love and Monsters story highlighted a rather interesting beat of humanist energy that ties Dylan O’Brien’s overall performance together perfectly. In Levy's words:
“Humanist” is a word that is important to remember when it comes to works that Shawn Levy has put his personal stamp on, both as a producer and a director. Much like what he’s aiming to accomplish with the forthcoming release of his big Ryan Reynolds collaboration Free Guy, Levy’s energies in reshaping the story of Love and Monsters kept a constant focus on how important the humanity of Dylan O’Brien’s Joel is to his journey. But of course, there’s still a lot of humorous adventure to be had in the film, and that was just as equally important as the emotional throughline, as Shawn Levy explained thusly:
The importance of Joel and Mav1s’ short-lived friendship in Love and Monsters resonates for pretty much anyone who’s touched the script. I learned this firsthand, not only through speaking with Shawn Levy, but also in chatting with the film’s star, Dylan O’Brien. Also on hand to discuss his leading role, O’Brien’s take on this pivotal scene was in a very similar vein as Levy’s. So much so that when I told him about my reaction to that moment, he opened up quite a bit about his views on its importance:
A veteran of franchises like MTV’s Teen Wolf and the wildly successful The Maze Runner trilogy, you’d think something like Love and Monsters would feel like a walk in the park for Dylan O’Brien. As you can see in his reaction and care towards the script, it’s something more special than that. Even on a surface level, a scene where a young man like Joel stumbles upon a tool that helps him remember his pre-apocalyptic past feels like one of those tropes that almost always shows up in a disaster film. The hero, clutching a photo or a flashback that fills in vital backstory, breaks down in a dark hour of the soul; just as they’re about to pick up a second wind and fight to the end.
That’s not exactly what happens in Love and Monsters though, as we’ve already been treated to pre-apocalyptic flashbacks before Joel finds a working Mav1s. Rather, the mechanical assistant provides some crucial plot movement, introducing a sort of ticking clock to his journey’s progression. In addition, the fact that this Mav1s unit sacrifices her limited battery power to make this possible tinges the moment with even more bittersweet meaning. In her final moments of operation, Mav1s lets Joel make peace with his past so that he can have a future. And since he’s a character we can root for, it turns a standard scene into a highlight of this absolutely entertaining film. Dylan O’Brien fleshed this point out even more, by making the following remarks:
2020 has been a year that’s taken a lot from the world, as our collective sense of security already has it feeling like an apocalyptic event is upon us. Love and Monsters not only distracts the audience from this fact, but allows them to connect with it in a way that all good fiction attempts, but doesn’t always land. As Shawn Levy and Dylan O’Brien understood this from the word go, thanks to this benchmark scene in the film’s script, it only served the rest of the film in the best way possible; and you can see it for yourself this very moment, as Love and Monsters is currently in limited theatrical release, as well as available on VOD.
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