When you’re a movie lover you can sometimes feel like you’ve seen everything before. It reaches the point that you kind of trick yourself into thinking that there’s nothing new that can be made. That you’ve seen every story done in every way it possibly could. But then something glorious happens. You come across a movie that’s so incredibly original, and does something so shocking with plot and genre expectations that it revitalizes your faith in the movies. And when this happens, it’s a magical experience. To find something new and original doesn’t happen every day, and when it does it needs to be cherished. So you can imagine my pleasure when I first heard about Colossal. Like a lot of great movies I first heard rumblings of it during a Fantastic Fest where it seemed to blow just about everyone away. Because just that central premise, and that wonderful trailer, shows you that this movie was going to be something different. It was going to be something special. And, shockingly, when you actually sit down and watch Colossal you find something amazing. It’s even crazier, even darker, and even more inventive than you possibly could have imagined. This is a movie that I highly recommend seeing, but I also recommend going in as blind as possible. Because this movie is a hell of a trip.
Colossal revolves around a woman named Gloria whose life has completely fallen apart. She’s been fired from her job as a writer, she’s an alcoholic, and her boyfriend Tim has just kicked her out of their apartment. So, with no other alternatives, Gloria moves back to her hometown and into her parents old house. And, almost immediately, she runs into a guy named Oscar that she knew when they were kids. Oscar is very friendly to Gloria, and takes her to the bar that he owns, that used to be his fathers The two catch up, get drunk, and in the morning Gloria shuffles back to her sad little house. And when she wakes up the next morning she finds that something horrible has happened. A giant monster materialized in Seoul, South Korea, and it destroyed some buildings before vanishing without a trace. This is obviously all the people in the town can talk about, and Gloria gets dragged into many conversations about the creature. She also gets offered a job at Oscar’s bar, to help her get back on her feet, which she accepts. So Gloria begins working at the bar, and almost every day the creature reappears in Seoul, causing more damage. And as Gloria becomes obsessed with the monster she realizes something. It has the same mannerisms as her. So she begins doing some experiments, and finds something ridiculous. When she walks through a playground in town at 8:05 in the morning, she controls the monster. Somehow she is the monster. So she of course shows Oscar and some of the guys from the bar this astonishing ability that she has. However, while showing off she suddenly starts to panic when she realizes that she’s killing innocent people by proxy, and she falls down. She wakes up the next morning, and finds something shocking. When she fell Oscar jumped into the playground too, and that caused a giant robot to appear in Seoul. Oscar has the curse too.
Gloria realizes that she’s causing serious damage, and manages to make her monster give a message to the people of Seoul, telling them that she’s sorry and will never do it again. And everything seems okay at that point. Until Gloria drunkenly sleeps with one of Oscar’s friends. When he finds out, something snaps in Oscar. He drops his nice-guy act, and a much darker person emerges. Oscar becomes angry and vindictive, deciding to go around and cause havoc in Seoul as the giant robot. Gloria tries to stand up to him, but Oscar kind of has the perfect threat. He promises that if she leaves, if she does anything to irritate him, he’ll destroy more of Seoul, and she’ll be responsible. It’s at this point that we learn that Oscar is a complete creep. All of his life he’s been resentful for Gloria’s success, and when she came back to town he was thrilled that her life became as pathetic as his. Now he wants to keep things that way, and will threaten the lives of unknown amounts of people to get it done. Gloria tries to talk sense into Oscar, but he’s too far off the deep end, and she realizes that there’s only one thing to do. Go to Seoul, find the corresponding area there, and attack Oscar as a kaiju. And it works. She flies to Seoul, and as Oscar’s robot is about to attack the city she causes her monster to appear in the small town, grabbing Oscar and defeating him and his robot. She’s then free of her burden, and has to figure out what to do with her life.
This movie is a hell of an experience. I had heard great things, but it really exceeded all of my expectations. The sheer premise of the movie, a woman finding herself while also realizing that she sometimes controls a massive monster that’s destroying a city, is so completely bizarre and wonderful, I knew that I was always going to like the movie. But then things got even crazier, with the Oscar reveals, both the robot and his true intentions, and the movie just got better and better. It threw me thought a loop, having me have no idea where it was going. Which can be a rarity. This movie was anything but predicable, and really became one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a theater this year. It’s a wonderfully crafted film that is somehow able to weave between what feels like a grounded tale of a person finding her place in the world, a big kaiju film, and what essentially becomes a horror movie. And it doesn’t feel wrong. It spins all of those plates, and effortlessly weaves between them. Plus we get two legitimately terrific performances, possibly each actor’s best. Anne Hathaway has had a wide variety of roles, but this is legitimately the most interesting and believable performance that I’ve seen from her, and I absolutely loved her in this. But the person that I came away most shocked about had to be Jason Sudeikis. I’ve always been a fan of the guy, and the first half of the movie had him exactly in his wheel-house, as a lovable loser. But then the twist happens, and his performance goes into over-drive. I had no idea that Sudeikis had this in him, and it’s a pleasure to see him get as dark and twisted as possible.
Because there’s a lot of darkness in this movie. Which stands to reason, since it’s ostensibly about a woman dealing with her alcoholism and the crushing reality that her stupid actions are killing innocent people. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very funny movie too, but at its heart is a really dark and compelling movie about something that almost everyone can relate to. That keeping your issues bottled up can hurt those around you. In this case things get very literal, with Gloria’s alcoholism and Oscar’s inferiority complex manifesting physical forms that for real hurt people, but that message still comes through loud and clear. Both Gloria and Oscar have legitimate problems that they’re just ignoring instead of confronting. Gloria’s alcoholism and general apathy towards life is slowly destroying everything around her, hurting her friends and family, and she just keeps letting it happen. It’s not until her drunken antics literally kill people that she starts to take stock of her life, and tries to better herself. Which is when Oscar’s issues come up. He’s apparently spent his entire life being bitter, thinking that someone else’s life is better than his, and it’s their fault that his life is boring. He blames everyone for his problems, and becomes an angry and resentful person as a result. And when he doesn’t deal with that, he starts lashing out, hurting people. We all have emotional baggage, and ignoring it leads to nothing but chaos. We end up hurting ourselves and those around us. It’s a very human idea. Which makes it even crazier to see it handled with giant monsters and robots.
Colossal was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo and released by Neon, 2017.