Review: Colossal

Perennial trainwreck Anne Hathaway breaks up with her fed-up and embarrassed boyfriend (Dan Stevens), and heads back to her small hometown after many years away in New York that were seemingly mostly devoted to getting drunk to the point of blacking out. Meanwhile Seoul, South Korea appears to be enduring the wrath of a “Krampus”-looking kaiju (giant monster). Being self-absorbed an in a bad mental and emotional place, Hathaway doesn’t think too much of it while she runs into a guy she went to elementary school with (Jason Sudeikis), now running a not terribly flourishing local bar. He introduces her to barfly Tim Blake Nelson and the younger, handsome Austin Stowell, who Hathaway takes an immediate superficial interest in, though it’s clear Sudeikis has a thing for her. Things get weird when Hathaway learns that through some kind of unexplained weirdness, she has a destructive connection to the monster devastation going on in Seoul. Meanwhile, Sudeikis slowly starts to reveal a dark, rather sad side to himself that also has disastrous consequences to the poor, seemingly defenceless people of Seoul. Are these monstrous events literally playing out or just a projection of the screwed up psyche of the very human characters here? Let’s just say I think you’d best enjoy the film by not asking such a question at all.

Star/Executive Producer Anne Hathaway was apparently pretty passionate about this project, but when I read about this 2017 effort from writer-director Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes”) I have to confess I was expecting another “No Such Thing” quirky indie genre hybrid disaster. Although I fully understand why it flopped at the box-office, I needn’t have worried about this film because this is a true original. A completely off-the-wall, dark, very clever genre hybrid that really surprised the hell out of me.

Early on Hathaway makes for an amusing fuck-up, and whilst I loathe the concept of drinking to excess, being in a relationship with the ultra-boring Dan Stevens might just drive anyone to the demon drink. However, I was a little worried when I found out Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis were meant to play people who went to elementary school together. The problem? She’s two years younger than me and he’s five years older than me (and looks even older). Yep, he’s 7 years older than her but they apparently went to elementary school together? Very, very unlikely and they don’t even look close to the same age, either. Once I got over that hurdle though, I had a really good, disarming time with this one. There’s a funny bit where the monster scratches its head like Hathaway does, and it’s from that moment on that you see just what is going on here and I don’t think I’ve seen a film quite like it. Then, just as you’re enjoying this unique storyline, a genuinely funny twist comes in after about 40 minutes that is even crazier, and just as clever. I mean sure, the best way to resolve this situation is to not step into the dirt and cause more mayhem, but then the film would be very short. I think the writer-director at least manages to find interesting and somewhat valid reasons for more chaos to be unleashed before arriving at the conclusion. Sure, it seems weird that South Korea don’t come up with an evacuation plan after about two or three attacks, but once again it’s a movie (Also there’s the whole y’know, Japan…Godzilla…50+ years of destruction. Just sayin’, OK?)

Basically, at its core this is a relationship movie (albeit quite a dark one) about two screw ups, it just happens to have an extra level of sci-fi/monster movie stuff that the character drama also plays out on. In that sense it reminded me a little of how the terrific “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” chose the world of a video game to play out what was essentially a Gen-Y romcom (And video games/comic book culture was the perfect choice for that story, I might add). I think it’s a little too cute that the title refers to both giant monsters and the general state of Hathaway’s life up until this point, but it does fit the film nonetheless.

The still underrated Hathaway is perfect playing this messed-up character, and although too old for the role, Sudeikis has never been better. I’m not a fan, but his ability to seamlessly play good guys and smarmy jerks with relative ease both come into play here as a guy too embittered to be the good guy he’s potentially capable of being. Things haven’t gone his way and he finds it much easier to just be a total arsehole about it and have a pity party for himself. The man has simply lost the ability to give any fucks, and that’s pretty much at the start of the film. The music score by Bear McCreary (the terrible “Knights of Badassdom”) is good, and rather foreboding even in scenes that don’t involve monster destruction. I also must commend Vigalondo for coming up with a pretty perfect conclusion, succeeding where a lot of filmmakers often fail (I love you, Joe Dante but we know endings are your Achilles heel).

One of the more unusual, daring, and just plain weird films to come out in a long time and manage to attract name actors. “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla” meets “Being John Malkovich”, this one’s a lot of disarming, dark fun, especially if you like monster movies and Anne Hathaway. Easily one of my favourite films of 2017, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Rating: B


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