Contains minor spoilers.
I remember when I first saw the trailer for this film in the cinema; a film apparently about a woman facing some serious life problems who then goes on to realise that she’s essentially controlling a giant monster that’s terrorising downtown Seoul. I immediately thought that the idea surely must have come to the writer in a dream since it was so out there and even halfway through the film I was currently watching, I recalled the trailer but wondered if I had actually seen it or whether I had dreamt it.
But Colossal does indeed exist, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, and is about Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an alcoholic writer who is dumped by her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) after he can no longer put up with her hard partying ways. Moving back to her hometown, she meets up with childhood acquaintance Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), getting a waitressing job at his bar, and soon comes to hear of a giant monster who tramples through Seoul at the same time every night. Gloria soon realises that she is directly linked to the creature and goes about making things right while at the same time, struggling to deal with an increasingly controlling and unhinged Oscar.
It can’t be denied that Colossal is unique and original and, kind of like The Lobster I guess, is one of those films that does its own thing and tries something a bit different in the world of big cinema blockbusters and whatnot. While it doesn’t always make perfect sense (much of the time, the themes and overall purpose of the film completely eluded me and still actually do), it attempts to tell the story of a young woman trapped in several abusive relationships, compelled to take responsibility for her life and to overcome her personal problems, including her alcoholism. The fantasy elements are a welcome touch, keeping the film interesting and providing that unique edge as well as some very effective set pieces, much like A Monster Calls has also done recently.
And on that note, the scenes involving the monster (and later on, a robot) are quite wonderful to look at and the final sequence is properly exciting and extraordinary.
While it is commendable that Colossal forges its own path, the film doesn’t really go anywhere and is too much of a struggle to figure out just what’s going on and what message the film is attempting to convey. The narrative doesn’t flow too smoothly, much of the dialogue somehow hits the ear wrong and character motivations, particularly that of Sudeikis’ Oscar, are a sometimes a bit unclear and though his reason for being is clarified towards the end, his character is inconsistent and it is a bit difficult to grasp just why he does what he does.
There’s a serviceable amount of humour in the film, though Anne Hathaway’s dancing scene (as seen in the trailer) is probably the only properly funny part in the whole film – it certainly got me smiling. As well as the slight humour, the film also gets properly dark in many places, especially in scenes where Gloria is being psychologically tormented by both Oscar and Tim and also in a brutal fight scene set in a playground.
In the leading role, Anne Hathaway is perfectly sweet and likeable; it’s probably not her best role ever but it is easy to support her throughout, she effectively displays a wide range of genuine emotions and her character develops very well, going from being a bit of a goof to a far more confident version of herself, determined to defend the inhabitants of Seoul and standing up to the controlling, abusive men in her life. Elsewhere, Jason Sudeikis is a little monotone in the role of Oscar but effectively conveys a sense of hidden bitterness and eventually becomes a properly nasty, irredeemably evil villain, genuinely getting me uneasy, hating his guts.
Elsewhere, Dan Stevens is effectively smarmy as Gloria’s ex-boyfriend Tim, Austin Stowell is fine but is simply in the film’s love interest, and Tim Blake Nelson is appropriately charismatic and decent, though his role as Garth, “the friend”, is wholly thankless.
So on the whole, Colossal is certainly like nothing we’ve seen before and its nice to see something a bit different once in a while but it’s only an okay film as it often outstays its welcome and the storyline is a bit too muddled and uneven. It’s ultimately too difficult to fathom just what “the lesson” is and it is all perhaps too ambitious for its own good.
But it’s probably a film that demands a repeat viewing and may very well be destined for cult film status.