Movie Review – Colossal

Colossal (2016)
Written & Directed by Nacho Vigalondo

You might think you know where this movie is going, but it will surprise you in the third act and venture into a wild new direction. I have loved Nacho Vigalondo’s work since I first saw Timecrimes so many years ago. I had circled Colossal hesitantly for the last few years because reviews were so mixed. The concept was intriguing, but I could also see how it could possibly fall flat. I think the trailer and descriptions did an excellent job of hiding what the picture was actually about, and that’s what made that third act twist so satisfying and suddenly injected the movie with life.

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has just moved back to her hometown after a messy breakup with her boyfriend following unemployment and alcohol struggles. While walking around the neighborhood one morning, she runs into her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudekis). Oscar happens to own the old bar they and their friends hung out in, and so Gloria finds herself around alcohol once again. 

After late-night sessions shooting the shit with Oscar and his pals, Gloria ends up sleeping it off at a park bench. Then she discovers that while she was stumbling drunk through the park, a monster has appeared in Seoul, South Korea, destroying buildings and creating chaos. Slowly but surely, Gloria realizes that when she is in the park, the monster appears and that she is controlling it. Something happened one afternoon in that area between her and Oscar that led to this strange phenomenon, and it just keeps getting stranger.

Nacho Vigalondo has excellent talent at taking science fiction tropes and repurposing them into devices to tell very human stories. Here the kaiju subgenre becomes intertwined with past traumas. Pent up anger over things that have messed up your life explodes as a monster throwing a temper tantrum stomping on a city. This requires a deft hand to balance Gloria’s story and her relationships and decide when to show the spectacle of the monster. We don’t get too much of the latter, but just enough that it helps elevate that main personal story. The plot doesn’t meander too long and gets right to Gloria’s connection to the monster reasonably quickly.

Like me, you will probably think you know where the story is going. Vigalondo understands film tropes and plays on those making the audience believe they know the decision Gloria will make. He then introduces some new elements into the narrative, exploring Gloria’s past trauma a little deeper. Suddenly, a seemingly friendly character takes on a more sinister role, and the whole movie is flipped on its head in the best of ways. This doesn’t mean the picture is a grand slam. 

I think the monster element could have done with more exploration, not as having more special effects moments but examining how we often take our anger out on people who have nothing to do with it. Gloria feels guilt about the damage she’s caused, but there was definitely much much more that could be explored in this area. This is most certainly not a movie for hardcore kaiju fans; instead, people who enjoy genre tropes blended with character-centered stories would absolutely love this film.

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