This article contains mild spoilers – you’ve been warned!
Colossal is not your typical science fiction romp and that’s entirely the point, in fact 2/3 of it are entirely atypical. Written and Directed by Nacho Vigalondo and starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, it’s a remarkably funny and odd film by sophomore Vigalondo that accords the audience’s intuition that there’s something more going on here.
Since the general idea and the Kaiju itself is present in all the promotional materials, it’s no spoiler to say, yes, Colossal is a monster movie, but with a twist. Here’s the very simple synopsis…
“Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NY and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.”
While the motif at first bears some resemblance to classic monster movies such as Godzilla and the more recent Pacific Rim, it instead flips the narrative on its head and places us right in the middle of a full-blown existential crisis mixed with the beats and rhythms of a Rampage video game (soon to be a film itself). The story painfully dances to the edge of ridiculous several times and each time it brings us back to an emotional center, thanks to Hathaway and a great script, which is what this film should be judged on. There were several times where I thought to myself that I’m losing interest but somehow couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen, in particular Hathaway and Sudeikis. As a viewer I’m here to say, you will be profoundly rewarded for not doing so as this film ends in a more satisfying manner than any other in recent memory.
Using avatar’s (Kaiju) in a way to manifest inner anguish, guilt and rage in an empathetic intelligence sort of way, it is a unique brand of storytelling on this side of the pond and one that I suspect will turn most people off the way the brilliant Swiss Army Man did. It would be their loss because there’s something special and unique in both cases that would be a shame to miss out on. While the journey will seem odd, even unpleasant at times, it’s made all the better when Vigalondo allows you in on the joke and switches the point of view around the half way mark.
The first and third acts are the strongest by far while the middle is full of uneven storytelling and the characters resort to performance art rather than exploring exposition. But through it all Hathaway is resilient as this sort of “gone to rack and ruin” Raggedy Ann, while Sudeikis plays the affable guy turned villain convincingly well.
In what some are calling a bit of a comeback role for her, Hathaway’s character (Gloria) starts with a complete meltdown and works her way to a stronger more functional adult fighting irrationality along the way. She reaches deep with this performance and brings to the surface some authentic emotions of fear and melancholy while towing the narrative along at a digestible pace.
Sudeikis on the other hand puts in a surprising Jekyll and Hyde type performance that is unlike anything he’s done prior, but is effective nonetheless. Sudeikis shakes aside the perennial “nice guy” image and taps into something as well and emerges as a very effective antagonist (Oscar) as tidbits are revealed about his true character and the nature of his relationship with Hathaway’s.
This film is very much about the feelings of uncertainty we all experience about life and the regrets of the past. The feeling so many have about determinative decisions we all make and the path we did or did not take, how past mistakes inevitably shape future events.
There’s a scene in the later half of the film where Gloria and Oscar are in her childhood home and all the sins of the past so to speak come to fruition. The realization that their relationship has largely been about her inability to let go of the past and his willingness to inflict his self loathing and smallness onto her becomes a moment of clarity, her metamorphosis. It’s here we find out so much of Sudeikis’s character is about non-fulfillment and his myopic point of view from having never left his hometown.
These cathartic scenes are interwoven with the sci-fi camp and Asian cinema style action scenes that keep you off-balance, almost a sliding doors scenario at times. But by the time she finds her courage and determines her self-worth, after a violent encounter with Sudeikis, you realize you’re watching a movie less about monsters and more about how childhood trauma can impact us as adults.
Colossal is more than a monster movie, that much is certain, and I hope it finds a wider audience. Again, much like Swiss Army Man, there are layers here that if given the time to appreciate will pay off.
Till next time…