ENTERTAINMENT: Colossal--the film review

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If you haven't noticed in the oversaturated Hollywood of today, kaiju films are making a huge comeback in America. The giant robots of 2013's Pacific Rim; the giant monsters of 2014's Godzilla remake; the giant inhabitants of 2017's Kong: Skull Island... all popcorn blockbusters with only as much depth as the butter on the popcorn. Not to mention, Kong and Godzilla both exist in a shared universe and are slated to face each other in the very near future. All extreme fun, no doubt, but nothing new. From the moment I saw the trailer to Colossal--and I only saw it once--I knew that this was going to be the most original movie I'd see this year.   


Though it was released in 2016, my wife and I didn't give it a shot until this year--and I can't fathom just how refreshing this strange, dark indie science-fiction comedy kaiju-action drama is. It's the Dasani bottle at the bottom of the soda machine that thirsty onlookers need but, when they commit to being consumers, instead stick to the sugary carbonation they know so well. It's hard to crave water, despite the head-knowledge of its benefits... that being said, Colossal, again, is that water. And for what it's worth, it's not perfect, but it is delicious, my dude.

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Anne Hathaway is Gloria, a struggling, alcoholic writer with few prospects other than a rinse-and-repeat spin cycle of overnight party binges. She returns to her small New Hampshire home to start over, reuniting with her childhood friend Oscar, played with odd sincerity by Jason Sudeikis. After acquiring a job as a bartender at Oscar's bar, her drinking habits are only exacerbated, and overtime South Korea is terrorized by a giant kaiju monster, who appears and disappears--and reappears the following days--out of thin air. Gloria soon realizes through experimentation that the monster's physical movements completely coordinate with her own. Upon trusting Oscar with the revelation that she is controlling the monster in Korea, the two embark on a dark journey of addiction and rehabilitation, jealousy and forgiveness, and social wellness and toxicity that endangers both of their lives and the lives of those around them.

The blackness of this comedy is almost always drowned out by Hathaway's mischievous but ever-glowing smile. Her connection to the kaiju as seen through television reports and social media live streams goes unrevealed for the majority of the movie, and Hathaway's Gloria makes sure to take some time to have fun with the simple fact that she is unwittingly in control on this monster. The film's final bar scene will evoke emotions of joy and satisfaction, as well as personal growth and the personal anguish of committing to being healthy and starting life over. 


Sudeikis' Oscar is a chilling character study of reflection and lifelong hostility and regret. You can see the sorrow and envy escalate in his soul as the film advances over his father's death, and his apparent inability to leave New Hampshire. The forces that emerge to manifest his desires and initial pushes toward redemption are quite intertwined with Gloria's kaiju terrorizing South Korea. Even if the final revelation as to how Gloria and her kaiju are connected is slightly weak, it's what they do with it, and how Oscar reacts to it, that gives this film the reluctant push for hope for these two characters who are both in a bad place and live, and maybe will find better with one another, or will destroy themselves with each passing day.

Director Nacho Vigalondo's filmography isn't expansive. In fact he may have only made around eight films, but with his kaiju tribute Colossal he proves that he currently stands as a force to be reckoned with. The monster (monsters?) is (are?) brought to life with CGI, but the CGI is so spectacular and minimal on-screen that in some cases you almost forget there is a giant kaiju destroying buildings on the other side of the planet. Vigalondo forces the audience not only to tangibly experience the destruction of Korean as the monster rampages through it, but also to visualize it in America simply because Gloria is dancing, prancing, or walking. It brings a new meaning to being a danger to oneself.

Some wouldn't agree that Colossal--a film that, as my wife noted after its end, could have been either a sci-fi kaiju actioner, or a dark indie comedy-drama, instead of both--is remotely comprehensible or strong enough to stand during a season of "actual kaiju" powerhouse blockbusters. But I stand with Colossal--it turns the giant monster genre on its head much like Cloverfield before it, and delivers the most unique visuals just to tell an extremely simple human story. The Walking Dead is a zombie show that isn't really about zombies. Alien: Covenant isn't really about aliens. And Colossal's kaiju tale...as the title sequence suggests....isn't really about giant kaiju. It's about something smaller....but more powerful. This film works for me. 
  

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