Colossal is a film about monsters, both literal and metaphorical. Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, perhaps most famous for his sci-fi dark comedy Timecrimes, it stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a young woman with a lot of problems. In an attempt to recharge, she goes back to her home town, which is small, nondescript and somewhere in the Midwest of America. She reconnects with a childhood friend, and slowly starts to get back on her feet, when suddenly news breaks out of a giant monster terrorising the city of Seoul in South Korea. Amazing! We soon find out that through some strange force Gloria actually controls this giant monster when she stands at a particular spot in the playground at a particular time of day. And then a robot appears as well! Even more amazing!
Amidst this odd revelation all the issues that plague Gloria still rage on. Alcoholism, the reason she went back to her home town in the first place. Relationships, both dysfunctional and downright abusive. The general disorientation of life. Which means that yes, the giant monster attacking Seoul is in fact a giant monster attacking her soul. The entire film hangs its premise on a pun. You’ve got to admire that.
While some moments are dragged down a bit by clumsy writing and acting, most of the film breezes along. That said, there’s a real depressive mood to Colossal, something that caught me a little off-guard. Once I recalibrated, however, I appreciated this downbeat vibe quite a lot. Gloria is struggling with a lot of issues and the film’s pace and atmosphere mimic that really well. Some might find the metaphor a little trite, but I thought it was quite a clever and unusual way of dealing with personal traumas. The monster and robot are less of the focus and more of a surrealist addition to the main narrative – and it works.
If you’re going into Colossal expecting an explosive robot vs monster action fest, you’re going into the wrong film. This is a subdued, personal character study that just so happens to have a giant monster. Both literal and metaphorical.
Written by Ben Volchock