Giant monsters raging across an Asian city is certainly nothing new, Godzilla has been it doing for over sixty years now, but in Nacho Vigalondo’s genre-busting film Colossal things get a little weird as he manages not only to make an original kaiju film but one that is also a romantic comedy, albeit on that contains a large helping of dark drama that is all tied up in a sci-fi horror premise. That Vigalondo is able to juggle all these elements, and still provide a clear and concise movie, is a testament to his skill as a writer/director.
The film’s protagonist is an alcoholic party girl named Gloria (Anne Hathaway), she is an unemployed writer in New York and whose drunken antics have finally reached last straw levels with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) thus resulting in him kicking her out of his apartment. With no job and no place to live Gloria is forced to retreat to her old hometown and the barren house that belonged to her late parents. It’s while lugging home an inflatable mattress that she runs into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) an old childhood friend and he offers her a job at the bar that was once run by his now deceased father. This is not the best idea. Working in a bar when you are an alcoholic is all kinds of bad but Gloria is the queen of bad ideas, and so she takes the job and spends her after-hours time with Oscar and his two friends, Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell), drinking herself into oblivion. When she awakes from one particular nasty bender she is shocked to learn that a giant monster had appeared out of nowhere in Seoul, South Korea.
This first act is certainly not your standard set-up to a typical kaiju film, think Cloverfield meets Rachel Getting Married, but then things get even weirder when we get the startling revelation that Gloria is somehow connected to the monster. When she sees footage of the creature scratching the top of its head, in much the same way she does her own, she slowly realizes that her drunken wandering through the local park each morning was completely mimicked by the monster in its rampage through Seoul. Excited by this discovery she shares this news with her drinking buddies and they obviously don’t believe her, but then during a demonstration, her motions cause her monstrous analog to destroys a helicopter and flatten some buildings, this is when the full nature of the situation hits her like a ton of bricks. She is responsible for the death and destruction unfolding on television. People have died because of her. We then get an even bigger wrinkle in the story when Oscar steps into the picture and we see that he also has a monstrous analog in Seoul only this one is in the form of a giant robot.
I will go no further in discussing the plot of this film as it truly is something one must see to properly experience, Anne Hathaway is simply brilliant as this flawed yet sympathetic woman who through these strange events learns to battle all of her demons, big and small. That Hathaway has the ability to give us such a well-rounded and fascinating character is almost to be expected, she has become one of the most well-respected actors out there, but then we have Jason Sudeikis as the old childhood friend, who in the straight romantic comedy version of this film would’ve been played by Harry Connick Jr, shows us some serious dramatic chops as his character goes from affable guy to something quite dark.
Colossal may be light on citywide monster destruction, much of it just seen briefly through news broadcasts, but the film is loaded with so much more that it is hardly missed, and with both Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis giving stellar performances it’s a raises the genre to a new level.
The crazy premise of a New York City party girl strangely puppeteering a giant monster on the far side of the world may not be for everyone but the dark direction the film slowly slides into will have any audience member riveted. This may be a monster movie but not all of the monsters are one hundred stories tall.
Director Nacho Vigalondo takes the kaiju genre into strange and dark waters in a film that will surprise many of its viewers.