The first film we screened at SXSW 2017 started the festival out in a weird, BIG way – pun intended. Colossal, the new film from director Nacho Vigalondo, stars Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis in a movie with a premise almost too bizarre to really explain, but I’m going to try anyway. The most important thing to know is the Vigalondo has created something wholly unique, with a terrificly dark sense of humor that never really makes sense of all of its bits and pieces but is still an extremely satisfying and creative film.
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a party girl who just got booted from her apartment by her boyfriend (Legion‘s Dan Stevens) and finds herself returning to her hometown to figure out what to do with her life. While stumbling back into town she runs into childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and the two quickly rekindle their friendship. This may sound like the beginning of a traditional rom-com, but as Gloria begins to settle back into small town life, a giant, lizard like monster begins to attack Seoul, South Korea – and Gloria discovers she can somehow control the actions of the monster.
Colossal is full of twists and turns and is best experienced if audiences enter the theater knowing very little about the film other than the absurd premise. The film is anchored by two impressively solid performances from Hathaway and Sudeikis with both actors making the audience buy into the surreal events. Hathaway is the clear lead, and without her performance the film just wouldn’t work – but make no mistake about it, this is Jason Sudeikis’s film. The character of Oscar is played beautifully by the usually comedic actor and Oscar has a character arc that is very crucial to the plot, and fairly surprising at it all unfolds.
The human elements of this film are obviously a success, but what of the promised monster action that surely has to take place for the story to advance? This is indeed an arthouse-type indie film, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much actual giant Kaiju destruction and mayhem Colossal was able to deliver. Early shots of the beast are strategically placed by Vigalondo and his cinematographer, but as events progress the movie does actually let loose with the monster in sometimes comedic, sometimes horrifying fashion.
While Colossal is full of great performances and plenty of big and small entertaining moments, it’s not without its flaws, including some pretty paper-thin plot elements. Obviously you have to just go along for the ride on movie like this, but Colossal mixes in childhood scenes throughout, hinting at an origin story for Gloria’s connection to the monster. The final reveal is beyond vague as far as giving this “connection” or “power” a real explanation and kicks off a third act ripe with logic leaps even within the already broad narrative. Also, Gloria as the heroine is dangerously close a few times to becoming completely unlikable and irredeemable, but thankfully Hathaway’s performance and Vigalondo’s direction never allow that to happen.
This quirky mashup of Kaiju cinema and indie comedy is an innovative and refreshing surprise that is extremely difficult to compare to any other film. Vidalongo obviously has an incredibly vibrant and unique imagination and he gets some fine work out of his cast. Colossal is a rewarding film experience that is as darkly funny as it is weird and surprising.