Colossal may not be the giant monster movie we need, but it is one we deserve. Detractors of the current wave of giant wmonster movies cite the inherent lack of humanity as a negative criticism. Therefore, we’re left with a 110 metaphor about mistakes. A massive degree of talented actors work with director Nacho Vigalondo to try and make an overtly unique film. Unfortunately, the resulting product is a narratively insufficient drama sometimes featuring a massive creature.
Nacho Vigalondo showed his flair for the horror/science fiction genre with 2007’s Timecrimes which was a tautly made time travel caper engineered with an alarming amount of intelligence. The same level of ingenuity cannot be said to exist for Colossal. The premise centers around Anne Hathaway’s Gloria spiraling downwards back to her hometown. After a few nights showing her problems with alcohol, the film shows her problem with controlling a massive bipedal lizard that habitually destroys Seoul, South Korea. The premise itself is curious enough for a short film but fails to hold up the running time. Although the supporting cast, including a surprisingly villainous turn by Jason Sudeikis, alleviate the downtime between monster attacks, the overall effect is disjointed.
Once Gloria begins figuring out the mystery of why she controls a monster that inadvertently kills thousands of people, the film begins to stumble. The ingredients are there, and Vigalondo is talented enough to make a mildly weird concept work, but the film simply doesn’t work. Beyond the overtly illogical sci-fi twist that keeps Gloria connected with her monster, the film constantly asks the audience to believe in its incredulities. Without getting into spoiler territory, Gloria and her friends drink every morning in a children’s park. No one ever calls the police on them even though they’re completely visible in a neighborhood setting. When a giant lizard beast appearing in Seoul seems less illogical, the film has a problem. Vigalondo taking the easy way out as a writer/director through sloppy storytelling. Instead of using certain situations to his advantage, he ignores them.
Colossal’s need to be more than its genre conventions end up hurting the tone of the film. Not so much a spoiler but spoon-fed metaphor, Gloria’s monster is a representation of her mistakes being too big for her. Think Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck meets a VHS copy of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Halfway through the film, Gloria begins to turn her ways around but never truly seems to come into her own. Hathaway fully realizes the part of Gloria through her acting, but the film doesn’t let the character truly grow. In one of the most confusing scenes, the film posits that Gloria’s catharsis is through a memory of her as a child. This arbitrary connection becomes one of those missteps that tries to bend its own narrative rules.
Colossal spends so much of its effort trying to be this genre-defying blend of movie tropes that it never fully comes into its own. The clunky storytelling and overt seriousness seem needlessly trite when the dashes of monster battle are sprinkled in. The film is one that tries to be cult-movie status without the cult of appreciation. In the future, here’s to hoping that we don’t humanize giant monsters to the point the human characters are as stiff and dated as an actor in a Godzilla suit.