It’s been a long time since a movie surprised me as much as “Colossal” did. Won over by the quirky trailer and a crazy but fascinating premise, I was expecting a quirky exploration of the characters exploring their ‘inner demons’ in a very external manner. Instead, Nacho Vigalondo’s dark sci-fi fantasy delivered something much darker: an ambiguous exploration of what a real monster can do.
Unemployed, alcoholic and dumped by her boyfriend, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) returns to her family’s vacant rental home. There she meets Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old school friend and local bar owner who helps her get back on her feet. But when a monster attacks Seoul, Gloria finds she has a startling connection to the creature.
There’s a lightness of tone, despite the downward spiralling direction of Gloria’s life, in the early stages of the movie, a gentleness which lulls you into a false sense of security and familiarity. Vigalondo wants you to feel comfortable and reassured because it makes what comes later much more effective and potent. Hathaway is superb in the role of Gloria, imbuing her with a self-absorbed self-destructiveness coupled with a vulnerability that leaves her open to being exploited, especially by the men in her life who, throughout the film reveal themselves to be a twisted version of Greek mythology: the three Furies of toxic masculinity. Tim (Dan Stevens), Gloria’s ex-boyfriend sets parameters of behaviour and decorum he expects her to adhere to, Joel (Austin Stowell) is a craven frat boy who, having had his way with Gloria, turns his back on her in the most cowardly way while Oscar himself emerges as the most toxic of them all, a hateful, narcissistic and violent man who becomes the second most notorious man to threaten and terrorise the population of Korea from the safety of US soil; his discovery that he too can manifest a monstrous avatar changes the dynamic of everything.
“Colossal” is a low-key fable of a woman, victimised and controlled by the men in her life, discovering her own strength to stand up to and reject the control, overcoming her own demons as she deals with the city-stomping monsters.
Despite its intriguing through-line and an over abundance of imagination and ideas, “Colossal” never feels fully formed, almost like it’s juggling a little too much and can’t give everything the time and focus it deserves. The ending may feel controversial to some, depending on where they stand on the philosophy that ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one’ or whether they believe omelettes can be made without breaking any eggs but it still feels like there’s more to be explored, from the competing unreliable narrators of Gloria and Oscar to the metaphysical origins of the giant Kaiju terrorising the South Korean capital.
It has all the hallmarks of a cult favourite of the future and it may yet grow on me after repeated viewings but on first experience, it feels slightly off target; a miss to be sure, but a very close one.