Conceptually, this movie rocks in promoting the selfsame wacky indie sensibilities Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze brought to the exploration of human emotions back in the 90’s with films like Being John Malkovich. You’ll undoubtedly react bewildered as I explain the plot of this film to you, but you’ll also remark on how cool and original that is, something we seem to lack nowadays. The funny thing about Colossal is that it mostly works on the human scale and begins to lose itself as it transitions from being an intimate portrait of human insecurities into a full-blown monster flick.
Wisely so, Nacho Vigalondo understands the gamble he’s taking on such a bonkers concept and decides to maintain the time we spend with the giant reptilian beast limited and well-worth. That being said, problems do sprout whenever Vigalondo is forced into exposing the monster with no emotional motivation, such as when he has to delve into his backstory or present him for the sake of reminding us this isn’t just another indie film examining the silly insecurities we suffer, but also an epic kaiju film of sorts. The problem lies in Vigalondo’s urge to justify or over-explain the why behind this entire project, as the sole act of justifying marks the film with a sigil of insecurity.
As I stated before, this film thrives whenever it concentrates on humans over monsters, exploring how a human can get to attributed the title “monster.” In a world where a giant reptilian creature emerges out of thin air and begins to devastate Seoul it’s silly to consider we’d be more interested by the drunken losers living in Maine than the huge monster, but the fact of the matter is that those very losers represent the crux of our story. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) are both equally pathetic drunk jerks, maybe they took different paths to end up where they are but they’re both there now and Colossal is all a matter of who is able to crawl out of the pit of self-agony and who’ll be left behind to be devoured by his brutal insecurity. As of the film’s beginning we get a pretty clear picture of where Gloria’s life is at, after having destroyed her life in NYC because of a seemingly endless partying spree that reflects in her eye-bags and the hungover look that’s imprinted on her face, she’s forced to move back to her rural hometown under the illusion of recovery, but really, the state of defeat. As for Oscar, he seems to be on the winning side of things, he owns the town’s bar and with the arrival of defeat in what he takes to be his town, he can present himself as an artificial triumph with the hope of remedying his broken ego.
And that’s when things get interesting, although Oscar’s swerve from Mr. Nice Guy to prideful, manipulative psycho feels rushed it makes sense once you consider how a failure would act if the hope of success were presented before him and most importantly, how he’d act in order to preserve that successfulness in order to distance himself as far away as he possibly can from the swamp of nonfulfillment where he used to reside. The arrival of Gloria gives Oscar’s spirit of nonfulfillment and fractured self-esteem a prey, they might not verbally admit to it, but Gloria’s misery means Oscar’s contentment and vice versa. Vigalondo is an expert of the emotional war-field these guys are stuck in and as a result, that’s where Colossal truly shines. The problem is, as great as this exploration of human conflict sounds, one must remember this element of the story simply represents an emotional playground that being contrasted to the magnitude of devastation of Seoul. There’s most definitely a forced attempt at bridging the gaps but its sad to consider a movie that could be about an epic kaiju showdown ends up being no more than a drunken brawl in a playground.
As I finalize my review, I must praise Vigalondo for having the balls to direct such a wacky premise in this sad wasteland of conventionality we’re living in. Despite its triumph on the human side of things, Vigalondo’s annexed monster side of the spectrum feels lackluster in comparison, denying the film the immense success it could’ve had if the two pieces had been properly balanced. Sadly, Colossal aims to high and lands to low, making an epic thrill ride feel extremely underwhelming.