‘Colossal’ (2017) Review – Monstrous Emotional Baggage

Colossal

Kaiju movies have it hard: when there’s not enough monsters, old-school genre fans throw a bitch fit. When there’s not enough humanized characters, general audiences and critics dismiss the movie as brainless. Colossal challenges this stigma by doing both, and the results are something to behold.

In Colossal, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) just hit rock bottom. After losing her job, boyfriend and residence in New York City, Gloria retreats to her childhood hometown to find herself. It’s back here where Gloria discovers that for some reason, she controls a gigantic monster that appears over Seoul, South Korea every time she gets drunk. Together with some old friends, Gloria tries to learn the reasons behind her monstrous connection and how to control it.

Colossal may look like a high-concept comedy that was written while high, but it’s nothing like a circle-jerk that glorifies alcoholism and hedonism – such as anything Seth Rogen farts into existence. Instead, Colossal is one of the most unique films to ever hit the big screen and one that exists on its own plane of being.

A Monster Named Gloria

None of the absurdity in Colossal would have been plausible if not for the acting, and this is one of the movie’s biggest strengths. Colossal not only has Anne Hathaway making one hell of a comeback after a relative hiatus following her award-winning turn in the severely overrated Les Miserables, but Colossal boasts one of her best performances to date that’s backed up by an impressive cast of supporting characters.

At worst, some of the minor players are unceremoniously dropped by the movie’s end, though their absence does little to affect the story’s conclusion because their arcs were already wrapped up prior. A short epilogue for some of them would’ve been greatly appreciated, though.

It’s through these expertly directed and executed performances that Colossal hits all of its emotional beats with perfect timing, even if the movie shifts genres and moods as often as a misogynistic, self-proclaimed Alpha-Male president who makes violent yet ridiculously empty threats to anyone who dares disagree with him.

Colossal  may open as a quirky comedy, but there is depth beneath its premise and the movie pulls off this tough balancing act with flying colors. Underneath Gloria’s abused liver and alcohol-induced Kaiju shenanigans is a compelling story about everyday life’s fuck-ups, and the real monsters we encounter on a daily basis: other people.

Minimalist Monsters

Given the presence of giant monsters rampaging all over the birth place of K-Pop music, it would be easy to expect Colossal to be a bloated CGI display, where the property damage takes priority over the people at the center of the story. Don’t get me wrong, the giant monster on the movie’s poster does fuck shit up in cinematic fashion. And yet, Colossal is surprisingly minimalist in terms of its story and style.

At the heart of Colossal are flawed and realistic characters who struggle to make heads or tails with the world-changing events unfolding before them, all the while trying to get their shitty lives back on track. Colossal does such a good job at balancing multiple genres that a heated fight between childhood friends can be more intense than a monster crushing helpless Koreans in Seoul. It’s through a giant creature fucking up an Asian city that the characters’ best and worst are exposed, and this serves as the narrative spine of Colossal. 

Without spoiling anything by accident, things go from bad to incredibly fucked up when the ramifications of an unstable person controlling a giant monster are explored. The movie even tackles personal matters like abuse, betrayal, and the sins of entitlement with the monsters and other sci-fi story elements serving as towering metaphors for built-up rage and repressed emotions. All of these are done in a respectful and mature way,  leading to the socially awkward Gloria and her 50ft reptilian avatar being as well-rounded and feminist as the badass Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in the adrenaline-fueled ride that is Mad Max: Fury Road. 

No, really. I am not fucking joking.

There Be Human Monsters

The worst things Colossal does is overlook a few small details, such as the lack of permanent evacuations in Seoul despite the Kaiju’s multiple appearances or a stronger military response against said behemoth.

But since Colossal stars a directionless, burnt out girl who controls a giant fucking monster when she gets shitfaced drunk, considering the lack of more thought in these background departments as major flaws would be pretentious nitpicking on par with a debate in some article’s comments section.

This movie is what you get when a talented independent director is given a blockbuster movie’s budget, along with a studio’s trust afforded to such expensive features. The best of both styles of filmmaking (i.e. the raw emotions and the entertainment value) are present, with none of the pretension, pandering and vapidness commonly associated with them anywhere in sight.

Colossal is a fun yet oftentimes heart-wrenching movie about humanity’s imperfections as told by B-grade, Godzilla rejects that bring the smackdown to the land of the Gangnam Style. It’s a very original movie with a lot of heart to it, and it’s something that you should watch if you simply like movies.


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