There are many times throughout recent hollywood history where films of similar plots, or plot devices come out in close proximity to one another. Examples such as Deep Impact and Armageddon, spring forth to most people’s minds when thinking about this phenomenon. With a King Kong movie recently leaving theaters, a film like Colossal could easily be seen as attempting to piggyback off of a renewed beloved monster franchise. Thankfully however, Colossal bucks all of the trends, and creates an original concept, and turns the Kaiju genre on its head.
Colossal stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a down on her luck, and absolute train wreck of a woman, who is forced to move back to her childhood home in order to sort her life out. If this sounds like a typical run of the mill indie drama, that’s because at its heart, it’s just that. Gloria encounters all of the typical characters you would expect in an indy movie of this ilk, the judgemental ex-boyfriend who doesn’t believe she can really change, the local townies who have their own issues to deal with, and the childhood friend who harbored a not so secret crush for all of his adult life. The pieces are all there, and each plays their part more or less how you would expect, however the introduction of a monster attacking South Korea takes everything you expect this movie to be, and throws it out the window. Once the monster is introduced it adds an unexpected wrinkle to the dynamic between characters that the film had built until that point, and the story becomes more interesting than it had been. As the trailers have revealed, Gloria has a connection to the monster, and watching her figures this out, is enjoyable to watch. Going into too much detail about the plot from this point on would reveal too much, because as many would assume, there is more to this story, which when revealed, is something not to be spoiled. The remaining portion of the film is different from any indy, or monster movie that has come before, and is genuinely interesting to watch it all unfold. Given that it has elements of a monster movie, the film does take on a darker tone, which at times is beneficial, though there are times where this tonal shift, makes the film tough to watch.
The trailers paint this movie as being more straight up comedy, and given the cast, it’s not a stretch to assume this would be funny, however the film ends up being a much more serious film. The characters are not really fun-loving, and while there are funny moments, there is an underlying tension throughout the film. A majority of the tension stems from the fact that Gloria never even attempts to get herself together. The tension helps ease the transition into the shift that takes place later on, but it still feels almost like two different movies, smashed together in the middle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just something different than the marketing materials made it out to be.
The cast of this film is strong, and each actor plays their respective roles in an entertaining manner. Hathaway perfectly embodies the mess that Gloria is, and the character is written extremely well. Her mannerisms while lying, and trying to hide the fact that she keeps screwing up, are all in line with how somebody like that would act. Hathaway ad subtleties to her performance that accentuate the characteristics of Gloria. Her scenes with ex-boyfriend Tim, played by Dan Stevens, are both funny and sad, as Tim both wants what’s best for her, but is also fed up with her hard party lifestyle. Stevens does a good job of being correct in his assertion that she better herself, while also being a huge jerk in his execution of it. Most of the characters in this movie are pretty big jerks, chief among them is Jason Sudeikis. His character Oscar is the childhood friend of Gloria, and treats her more as a possession, given his feelings, rather than as an actual person. While he has moments of dorky charm, Sudeikis plays against type, but his rapport with Hathaway in the films lighter moments, as well as their scenes together in the latter half of the film, are quite good. The two supporting characters played by Tim Blake Nelson, and Austin Stowell are both fine, but both are largely insignificant to the story, except for a couple important scenes later in the film.
As with any film involving a giant monster, the execution of the monster elements is a large part of the success of failure of the film. In this instance, Colossal delivers on some aspects, while leaving a bit to be desired. The look of the monster is cool, and watching the monster mimic the actions of Gloria is pretty entertaining, as it’s not often you get to see a giant monster dancing like an idiot. The film unfortunately does not go into the history of the monster, which means there are many unanswered questions which could have fleshed out the story a bit more. The connection between Gloria and the monster is explained, but again it is only a brief explanation, and is more a loose end to wrap up, rather than a significant part of the story.
In the end Colossal is a decent film, that to its detriment, does not go far enough with its unique premise. Since the two halves of the film are so different, it lacks a cohesive element that could have made this something truly memorable. As it is, the film is good, but could have been much better than the final product. There is enough here for a worthwhile film, and the concept is genuinely something cool, so thankfully the cast and story do enough not to drag the film down, but nothing elevates it either.