When we think of monster movies, we think of giant monsters who destroy their surroundings, usually putting humans in danger. And in that regard, Colossal is a monster movie. But it’s also a different kind of monster movie: a look at the monsters we has humans create within ourselves and each other. In the process, it manages to also be a very effective dramedy that also tackles (and decimates) tropes of other genres. All while showing a battle between a giant monster and a giant robot over Seoul. Win-win.
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an unemployed writer and current alcoholic, who’s been kicked out of the apartment she shares with her boyfriend (Dan Stevens). With nowhere to turn, she moves back to her hometown, into the empty house her parents own, with nothing but a suitcase and an air mattress she has to drag across town. She soon reconnects with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend who owns a bar. Oscar offers Gloria a job, and the two spend time with a couple of Oscar’s friends getting plastered and having random conversations about anything.
Very soon, though, attention within the bar and across the globe centers around a series of giant monster attacks in South Korea. No one knows where the monster comes from, but it appears and disappears at the same time every night. To Gloria’s horror, she soon realizes that the monster happens to appear at the same time she crosses over a park on her way home from the bar in the morning – and that the monster has some curious moves that mimic her own peculiar movements. At first, she shows her bar buddies what she’s capable of, with her drunken stumbling resulting in smashed buildings on the other side of the world. But as she begins to realize the (quite literal, now) impact of her decisions, Gloria struggles to fix things.
There’s more to the story, but it’s better not to spoil where the film goes. Because it goes. It moves in some shocking and unsettling directions.
Colossal benefits greatly from its cast, namely Hathaway and Sudeikis, who have both formed careers based on playing likable characters. Gloria is not a likable character, and Oscar has his own flaws, but because Hathaway and Sudeikis are playing them, it’s still easy to want to like them. It gives the twists that the film takes more weight, and makes for something more substantial than the admittedly amusing premise offered by the trailers.
On that note: audiences expecting a lot of Godzilla-like action will be sorely disappointed. There’s a solid amount of it, but the film is more focused on the dynamics of the human relationships than what’s going on over in Seoul. It’s the hybridization of the forms, though, and how they play off each other, that make Colossal something fresh and original. It’s well worth seeing.