Colossal – movie review

Colossal is one bizarre film, and this low budget effort serves us a weird mash-up of sci-fi, Korean kaiju style monster movie, romantic comedy and domestic drama.

Gloria (played by Anne Hathaway) is an insecure and self-destructive alcoholic on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Following her breakup with her increasingly frustrated career-obsessed boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) she moves away from New York and returns to her small home town, hoping to get a fresh start. She moves back into her parents’ empty house and gains work as a waitress in the bar run by Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a former childhood friend. But she continues her out of control drinking. Soon afterwards a giant Godzilla-like creature begins wreaking havoc on downtown Seoul, half a world away. Gloria begins to suspect that she is somehow connected to these events as her addiction manifests itself in the form of a giant monster.

Gloria learns that this creature only appears under certain specific conditions. She has to confront her own personal demons and change her ways if she is to save the world by battling a giant killer robot that has also mysteriously appeared on the scene and is also terrorising Seoul.

Colossal offers up an unusual, surreal concept and is a vastly different take on the monster picture that has regained some traction recently with Monsters, Godzilla and Pacific Rim. The film is something of an allegory addressing a number of social issues, but it also offers up a cynical comment on the usual tropes of the Hollywood romantic comedy. The film also offers up some perceptive insights into the flawed human characters, and explores themes of toxic masculinity, dysfunctional relationships, jealousy, addiction, how our actions always have consequences. Some audiences may find a couple of scenes problematic.

Colossal has been written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, who gave us the thriller Open Windows and also directed one of the segments in the horror anthology The ABCs of Death, and his films have often been audacious in concept. This is his most ambitious film to date, and it defies easy categorisation as it subverts the usual tropes of the monster genre. While it is not completely successful it does manage to intrigue the audience. However, Vigalondo handles the tonal shifts quite effectively. He brings an intimacy to those personal dramas playing out here.

Hathaway delivers a great performance as the deeply flawed, troubled and complex Gloria, and she captures her vulnerability as well as her confused emotional journey as a woman constantly on the edge. Her monstrous Gloria will remind audiences of the deeply troubled character she played in the independent drama Rachel Getting Married in 2008. In a rare straight dramatic role Sudeikis is cast against type, and he brings a smug style, a creepy edge and a dark and nasty streak to his portrayal of Oscar. They create an interesting dynamic as a bickering pair of messy drunks who share a rather dark history.

Some of the special effects that create the key monsters though are a little bit underwhelming and give the material the look and feel of an old-fashioned B-grade creature feature. The film is also a little too long, and becomes unnecessarily bogged down in the middle sections. Colossal is certainly not a movie for everyone and it does require a willing suspension of disbelief. Those attuned to Vigalondo’s wavelength though may find plenty to enjoy.

Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Dan Stevens, Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis
Release Date: 13 April 2017
Rating: M

Greg King