Colossal is a Giant, Genre-Mixing Surprise

For a movie whose title implies something massive, Colossal is rather small as films go. That’s not to say that nothing happens in its story; in fact, the events are huge for the characters involved. But, in relation to other monster movies or Hollywood blockbusters about saving the world, the film operates on a minute scale.

The fourth feature from director Nacho Vigalondo is a genre-bending tale about Gloria, a newly single writer forced to move back to her unnamed hometown, where she discovers that she has a mysterious connection to a giant monster that periodically manifests out of thin air in Seoul, wreaking death, and destruction on the city. To say any more about the plot would be a crime. The movie should be seen as fresh as humanly possible; avoid all spoilers. Don’t even watch the trailers, if you can help it.

(Colossal, NEON)

The film is full of twists, turns, and surprises; its script is clever and smart. In some ways, it feels like Vigalondo is playing with the audience’s expectations and he pulls it off to great effect. Even though the movie does mix genres—at times it’s a monster movie; at some points, it feels like a romantic comedy; sometimes it plays like a superhero origin film; at other points, it’s a metaphorical exploration of self-discovery and relationships—it never feels confused or segmented. All the aspects of the story blend together well, and the result is a narrative that’s compelling, cohesive, and funny, sure to hook audiences and leave their eyes glued to the screen.

However, there are a few missteps in the script. The film has a few minor plot holes, and leaps of logic that will raise some questions in the viewer’s mind, though for the most part, audiences should be able to concede those minor issues to the intelligence and originality of the story.

Of bigger concern, is the way that the story uses its supporting characters. It’s not that they’re bad, they just get forgotten by the movie. Only Gloria’s ex-boyfriend (played by Dan Stevens, minus the excess hair he sported in Beauty and the Beast) maintains a presence throughout the film. The other two major supporting players (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson as Joel and Garth, who Gloria meets upon returning home) sort of just disappear at certain points in the film. Without spoiling anything, given their positions in the story, it feels like they could, and should, have had a role in how the events of the movie played out. Instead, audiences are just left to wonder where they went, and why they aren’t around as the film approaches its climax.

Even though their characters are under-utilised, Stowell and Nelson are still good in their roles. In fact, the whole cast is excellent, and they have definite chemistry. Jason Sudeikis is great as Oscar (Gloria’s childhood friend) and he shines in the moments where the film allows the former SNL star to play against his type.

Out of the whole cast, the film truly belongs to Anne Hathaway. She’s absolutely fantastic as Gloria, managing to capture the unlikable traits of the character, while still making the audience feel empathetic towards her. She’s both sad and hilarious, and every emotion Gloria feels is palpable. Right down to her facial expressions, reaction shots, and body language – Hathaway’s performance is a winner.

The film is further bolstered by the score from composer Bear McCreary, who creates lush, memorable themes. It’s used sparingly, only coming in when the scene truly needs it. But when it does come in, it’s a perfect compliment to the action on screen. In the moments where the film feels like a story about a superhero, McCreary’s music feels memorable and heroic against than the bulk of scores written for modern comic book movies; it’s a joy to listen to.

Despite some minor issues, this movie is truly incredible. It’s strikingly original, and extremely well made. Even the film’s small budget doesn’t hold it back; the digital effects on the monster in Seoul don’t feel lacking at all. Even though it’s currently only playing in a limited release, it’s highly recommendable and absolutely worth seeing. Colossal is just what its name implies: a huge success.

Grade: A

(Featured Image: Colossal, NEON)

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