Colossal’s premise catches your attention, for better or worse. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) returns to her hometown after boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), frustrated with her drinking and listlessness, throws her out. Gloria tries to get her life together with the help of childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). However, after a drunken night, Gloria discovers that she manifests into a giant reptilian monster that attacks Seoul at exactly 8:05am. Gloria (And the audience) never see it coming.
Colossal is a story of two halves. For the latter half of the film, writer/director Nacho Viglando creates a truly unique “monster” movie that examines what a monster truly is. However, it takes a long time getting there with a sometimes tedious first half that over emphasizes the boring normality of Gloria’s new life.
A Great Premise, Too Much Set Up
Colossal grabs you with its unusual story, but it may lose the folks with its first act. In an attempt to establish the hum drum town Gloria inhabits, the film meanders for a little too long. From late night drinking sessions with Oscar and his friends (Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell) to Gloria’s day to day struggle with an air mattress, the film becomes frustratingly static.
Granted, this may have been a stylistic choice by Viglando, but it is off putting given the outlandish premise. Wall to wall action is not the answer either, as that is equally problematic in this meditative film. But there are times when you are aching for something to happen.
The only thing that breaks up the doldrums of the first act is Anne Hathaway’s performance. Her Gloria is equal parts funny and tragic, not easy traits to balance. The portrayal of her alcoholism is surprisingly nuanced and you genuinely feel for the character. You laugh at her, but only because she makes a funny remark. Hathaway and Viglando create a genuine heroine in those opening moments.
Composer Bear McCreary’s score is another strength of the first act, as well as the rest of the film. He deliberately creates a bombastic “event film” score that is great on its own. Brilliantly, it also adds to the comedy. The soaring music adds a level of melodrama that just makes the proceedings more fun .
The Real Monsters
Gloria’s monstrous form is not cutting edge C.G.I., but it does the job. The artificial look is a nice touch, almost like a tribute to the old school Godzilla-style monsters. Colossal hides its monster for most of the first act, but reveals more of it as the plot unfolds. Oddly enough, that is when the plot becomes much more interesting as it takes some welcome unexpected turns.
First of all, that monster is not the real one. Gloria struggles with the existence of this creature, but her larger struggle is with her own “monsters,” be it alcoholism or her struggle with self worth. Elaborating on this too much would lead to spoiler territory, but suffice to say it is a surprisingly insightful and inspiring outcome. It is one of the most pleasant surprise in the film.
Jason Sudeikis’ Oscar also takes an unexpected turn. He starts out as the typical home town nice guy that might be the “winner” of a typical rom-com triangle. But he changes in a way you never see coming. It would be a jarring change if not for Sudeikis’ great performance. The change is actually hinted at throughout if you pay attention. I will not reveal the change because it is so amazingly done…you have to see it for yourself.
Sudeikis and Hathaway have great chemistry together, creating the film’s core relationship. It is not necessarily a romantic one, but their dynamic is always intriguing. They have funny moments, but when things become serious it is great to watch. Dan Stevens‘ role is pretty small, but his Tim plays an important part in Gloria’s evolution.
Colossal’s ending is perfect, saving the whole film. It brings together all the crazy plot twists into a satisfying conclusion. It almost makes you forget about the slow first half. But not quite. If anything, the conclusion calls attention to the slow opening, dismissing it as stale set up.
Colossal takes on the persona of its main character. Like Gloria, one part is intriguing and charming while the other is destructive…to your attention span. Okay, so my metaphor is imperfect, but hopefully the point comes across. Patient cinephiles will be rewarded with a genuinely surprising experience. But why must they be patient?
Colossal is a good film that could have been great.
SCORE: 7.5 OUT OF 10