Colossal is one of those movies whose trailer you see in the theatre before another release and go, “wait, what?”. Always enthused to go and see a film that isn’t a remake, adaptation, sequel or prequel (a truly rare feat in today’s cinematic landscape), I was excited to see if the weird and wonderful premise of the Canadian/Spanish collaboration with Hollywood star power could deliver the wacky, innovative story that it promised.
Turns out, it could, plus a whole lot more. Colossal tells the story of Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an unemployed woman with a messy personal life and borderline drinking problem who, in a fantastical turn of events, discovers she can control a monster who is terrorising the South Korean city of Seoul. Dumped by her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), Gloria moves back to her hometown where she reconnects with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), and over the course of several drunken nights, the pair discover that visiting a particular spot in town leads to giant monsters manifesting across the world and replicating their movements to devastating effect. However, what the audience assumes is going to be a straight up, weird monster movie with an added element of romance soon becomes a masterclass in metaphor, exploring themes like abusive relationships and toxic masculinity.
It’s hard to talk about exactly why Colossal works so well without giving away too much of the plot. In very much the same way as Get Out (though one could argue not to such a polished extent), the film combines a fun, mainstream genre with a much deeper, more sinister subtext to really impressive effect. Though not filled with laugh out loud comedy, the narrative is certainly peppered with a humorously dark edge that works incredibly well with both the literal and metaphorical subject matters. It becomes clear very early on that the film isn’t going to be the kind of picture that the trailer might lead you to expect, and this surprise catches you off guard in a refreshing and pleasing way. For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t predict what the outcome of the picture was going to be, and was genuinely surprised by several twists and turns that the plot takes. Colossal feels a lot shorter than its 1 hour 47 minute running time, in a good way. Forgiving a few passages of quite heavy exposition, the film is economic in its story telling and does not waste time in building suspense or mystery around its central premise. In this particular narrative, it is not that Gloria can control the monster that is the focal point, it is what this power means to her and how it affects everybody involved in the discovery. With minimal special effects sequences considering the nature of the plot, the film feels much more like an interesting character study of the humans involved than a Godzilla type thrill ride showing off the supernatural events in Seoul. People wanting a balls to the wall action monster movie won’t find it here, but what they will find is a really innovative and unique indie dramedy with a twist that offers so much more than the majority of summer releases this year will be able to.
As protagonist Gloria, Anne Hathaway channels some of her old Rachel Getting Married vibes here, providing the audience with a quintessential hot mess with a heart. Throughout her career Hathaway has been particularly good at playing flawed characters who somehow are still likeable, and Gloria, a woman seemingly set on the path of self destruction before this insane discovery turns her life upside down, very much fits in to that category. The actress might not have been the first name on my life for a quirky, unconventional movie like this, but I can’t say that she puts a foot wrong. Cast very much against type, Jason Sudeikis as Oscar is certainly the character that audiences will remember. Like I said, to say too much would be to spoil, so let’s just say that fans of Sudeikis’ trademark affability and ‘guy next door-ishness’ will be initially satiated and subsequently shocked. Again, this type of role would not normally be associated with the actor you see on screen, but in the case of Oscar, the casting of Sudeikis feels completely inspired. Dan Steven’s makes intermittent, effective appearances as Gloria’s ex-boyfriend Tim, an annoyingly British man with annoyingly striking eyes and annoyingly great hair. The two men in Gloria’s life couldn’t be any more different, but what the audience comes to see is that they treat her in similarly negative ways through drastically different means, giving that part of the plot a satisfying thematic balance.
Overall, Colossal is a great little surprise of a film. In this day and age, I applaud any original property that can make it on to the big screen, let alone one that provides such an interesting twist on two genres that hardly ever meet, science fiction and black comedy. Anne Hathaway lends some star power to the proceedings, making the film feel much more mainstream than its content might suggest. With a summer full of franchise instalments and remakes to come, Colossal is a refreshing reminder of just how great it can be to experience something completely new in the world of cinema.