Review: “Colossal” Is A Darkly Comic, Albeit Uneven, Take On Giant Monsters
Giant monsters are something we’ve seen before – but giant monsters whose movements are linked to alcoholic screw-ups? Now that’s a first.
Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, best known for his excellent 2007 debut “Timecrimes”, always brings a very unconventional, personal spin to the what would traditionally amount to big-budget blockbusters, and after taking on time travel and aliens, Vigalondo has decided that he’s going to tackle the kaiju (giant monster) genre. As expected, his new film “Colossal” is immensely unique, although not without its kinks.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an unemployed writer forced to move back home when her fed-up boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicks her out of their shared NYC apartment. Struggling to find her footing, she runs into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old friend from grade school who gives her a job in the bar he owns.
Somewhat surprisingly, Anne Hathaway carries much of the first part of the film. With a wry sardonic demeanor, Gloria is a total mess who borders on unlikeable. By indulging in her more unsavory, self-destructive traits, Hathaway somehow makes Gloria an endearing protagonist.
The film, as stated before, rests on her performance at this stage. It’s not to say the first act or so is bad, it’s just mundane. We’ve seen the same old “selfish city character is a fish-out-of-water” in a small town trope before, and while Vigalondo’s script is charming, there’s just no getting around the dull central conceit.
“Colossal” picks up in a big way (no pun intended), however, when a drunken night out leads to Gloria stumbling around in a park in the wee hours of morning. As she watches the news hungover in the afternoon, she sees that a giant monster has appeared in Seoul, South Korea. It only takes a couple more drunken nights to realize that her and the monster are connected: its movements mimic those of her.
From then on, things get delightfully weird. The selfish characters take advantage of their newfound power in some initially very fun ways. In his personal focus, Vigalondo captures what each of us would do given the absolute power of controlling a giant monster.
But he also shows us the consequences of that power.
Around mid-way through the film, something happens (that I’m not going to spoil here) that changes Gloria. Coincidentally, when Oscar walks into the park he realizes that a giant robot appears in Seoul at the same time…and he and Gloria have very, let’s just say, different ideas of how to use their power.
Now you may be thinking that this where “Colossal” turns into a parable about power and responsibility and you’d be partially right, but there’s so much more going on as Vigalondo dives deep into themes of fragile masculinity and predatory, insecure men.
Jason Sudeikis gives a powerhouse performance that really makes the stellar second half. Oscar starts off as a “nice guy,” who quickly reveals himself to be insecure, jealous of Gloria’s city background and furious at her rebuffing of his advances. No amount of giant monsters can match the human drama on display here. If anything, they serve as walking metaphors – as the “monsters” that live within Gloria and Oscar come to an explosive conflict that Hathaway and Sudeikis antagonistic chemistry sells the hell out of.
Nacho Vigalondo’s brilliant script and even better directing masterfully balances tones in the second half – there are smart laughs balanced with the dark dynamics going on without any jarring shifts. I’m kind of in awe of it.
To speak a bit on the visuals, they’re fine. The monster looks vaguely cool, if not quite convincing, though the focus is very much on the character dynamics and themes.
“Colossal” is not perfect. It really, really struggles to find its footing in the opening stretch. However, once it does it’s a bizarre treat that actually manages to say something about the world we live in.
If you’re looking for something a little different when going to the cinemas this weekend, Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal” is a monster of an indie that you’ll never forget.