Colossal just might be one of the best Kaiju movies ever made. Full disclosure, though. I’ve never really been a fan of monster movies. Kong: Skull Island is aggressively mediocre, Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro’s least interesting film (yes, I’ve watched Crimson Peak), and I’m very sure the moaning couple sitting two seats away from me had more action in between them than the entire two hours of Godzilla. With that said, let me rephrase: Colossal is undoubtedly the ONLY Kaiju movie I actually like.
This is a damn good movie. But, don’t expect it to have:
Monsters and mayhem.
On the surface, Colossal is a head scratcher. A movie about an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in the big city, only to discover that she’s somehow telepathically connected to a giant monster? I wonder how many different drugs Nacho Vigalondo was on when he came up with this idea. And who’s the crazy studio head the greenlit this project?
This nonsensical-sounding premise is just what’s on the surface, though. Colossal tells two stories that almost seamlessly intertwines midway through. I’ll try my best not to spoil anything, for half the fun of this movie is discovering where it’s going to take you. The first tale follows an alcohol addict, battling her inner demons. The second discusses themes like reclaiming power and emotional blackmail. These stories are told wondrously by Nacho Vigalondo, who also penned the script. Seriously, how many balls does this man have? I can guarantee you, it’s more than two. It takes a level of bravery and sheer audacity to even attempt a movie like this, what more pull it off successfully.
Does Colossal have a giant monster? Yes. Does it have death and destruction? Sure. But just like Arrival earlier this year, the movie is less about the extra-terrestrials and more about the human characters. Here, the monster(s) are hyperbolic representations of the characters and destruction, the consequences of one’s behaviour. In fact, the Kaiju is hardly even in the movie. But you can bet, if it shows up, it shows up with a purpose. In one scene, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is fish drunk. She dances and jokes around without a care in the world. She’s clearly out of it. As a result, the Kaiju in which she’s telepathically connected to causes major destruction, killing hundreds of people in the process.
In an age where original ideas are constantly shoved aside to make room for sequels, prequels, reboots and giant universes, this is a gem. Colossal is originality on steroids. This is also one of the most uniquely directed films I’ve seen in recent memory. It takes someone truly talented to be able to juggle dark humour, a profound story and over the top ridiculousness. Here, Vigalondo proves he will most likely have a long, fruitful career.
Gloria’s small suburban town and the sardine packed city of Seoul is connected through interesting usage of sound. When Gloria and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) waltz around their neighbourhood playground at exactly 8.05am, we hear the screams of the people in Seoul, running for their lives as the Kaiju destroys all in his path. The characters may not know what’s going on yet, but we do. And it’s painful to watch. Vigalondo also uses what many would consider “basic filmmaking techniques,” like high and low angles to perfection. He makes the characters look big in a kid’s playground. The camera follows a character’s feet as he stomps around the sandbox. We don’t hear the soft shuffles of a human’s footsteps, but rather a monstrous thud. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. Simple? Sure. But it works because of how emotionally invested we are in the film at this point.
Party chicks and control freaks.
Colossal stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a party animal, who consumes more alcohol than a stereotypical Indian guy who got arrested for beating his wife. She slurs her words and can’t for the life of her remember what happened last night (this happens every day). Anne Hathaway is amazing in this role. But that isn’t really saying much since she’s awesome in pretty much every role. We’ve seen her find the right balance between comedy and drama in movies like The Intern, The Devil Wears Prada and Love and Other Drugs. She’s good in those movies. She’s better here. This isn’t slapstick comedy. This is a weird mash of outlandish and witty. Hathaway is convincing. When she cries, you cry. When she says or does something crazy, you laugh hard.
The real surprise here is Jason Sudeikis, who’s famous for his roles in We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses and his appearances on Saturday Night Live. So, of course, he nails the comedy. But the emotional weight he brings to his character, Oscar deserves a special shoutout. It’s always interesting to watch comedians step away from their comfort zone and tap into something really dark. Remember Steve Carell’s masterful work in Foxcatcher and The Big Short? No, I’m not saying Sudeikis delivers a performance as memorable as Carell’s, but he’s still brilliant nonetheless. I shall not delve any deeper into his character as it would most definitely contain spoilers. But I can tell you this: This is Sudeikis’ most nuanced performance to date.
The rest of the cast like Dan Stevens – who plays Gloria’s ex – and Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson, both who play Oscar’s best friends, do a fine job as well.
So, is this movie perfect? Not quite. As the:
Pacing is a little off
The movie should have been longer, or maybe even split into two (not saying I want that). Earlier in the article, I said the movie “almost intertwines seamlessly.” There is a point where the movie switches from the first story to the second story, but it feels kinda rushed. And perhaps the escalation of Oscar especially felt like it should have been a little drawn out. And, while this isn’t a major issue, it isn’t a nitpick either. I just can’t help but feel Colossal could have been much better had it been 15 minutes longer. But hey, it’s better to wish a movie longer than wish for it to be shorter.
Colossal is both wacky and emotional and Nacho Vigalondo tackles it far better than anyone could have ever expected. Colossal is a unique beast! There is an important lesson to be learned here. Giant monsters, giant robots or giant monsters fighting giant robots, all don’t matter; what matters is a beautifully woven screenplay with well-written characters. Oh who am I kidding, Transformers: The Last Knight is gonna make a billion dollars and shove one up my a*s.