“Colossal” Movie Review

And I thought that kaiju monster movies were done and finished these days. Guess I was wrong on that count. This sci-fi romantic comedy-drama was had a lengthy festival run from Toronto to Sundance before garnering a limited release on April 7th, 2017. The $15 million production is the first official theatrical release for the newly formed distributor, NEON. And they remind me of Pixar because there’s a hilarious short film that plays just before this one. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a struggling alcoholic who is dumped and kicked out of her New York apartment by her ex-boyfriend. After moving back to her small hometown in the Midwest, she discovers that she has a strange psychological connection with a massive kaiju that is attacking Seoul. With that premise alone, you already know that this is going to be a very tongue-in-cheek tribute to old monster movies, specifically the early years of the Godzilla franchise. And writer-director Nacho Vigalondo certainly throws his audience a figurative bone every now and again. But for the most part, he focuses on the characters and the story. During the opening 20 minutes of this film, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it yet because some of the writing felt a bit rushed and uneven. But as soon as the kaiju started attacking Seoul, I was treated to some pretty entertaining stuff. Anne Hathaway started her career in romantic comedies before she transitioned to big-budget Hollywood films and serious dramas. This felt like a happy medium for her, going back to her roots while still retaining her current (and totally attractive) image. Her awkward nature matches her character’s down-to-Earth personality and absolutely weird condition and set of circumstances. However, for a while, her utter beauty made it hard to buy her as an alcoholic. Supporting players include Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell, and Downton Abbey‘s own Dan Stevens all of whom do a respectable job. However, Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis is a total scene-stealer in this film. He begins as his regular, funny self, giving the impression of that guy you would love to hang out with at the park. But soon, he turns a complete 180 and becomes a menacing creep who is unfulfilled by his standing in his small, inconsequential life. But his transition in character felt extremely jarring and conflicting with the tone that was set up at the beginning. The tone of the story is easily the biggest problem with Colossal, as it felt very inconsistent. In fact, I would blame the marketing because it’s not as funny as the trailer suggests. There are some scenes that will make the audience laugh out loud, for sure. But the opening 20 minutes are a little misleading as to what kind of movie you’re really in for. And the psychic monster aspects were far more interesting and memorable than the romantic-comedy it sets itself out as at the beginning of the film. Think of it as something like several pieces of a pie that are pretty good, but not one whole pie that is just great. On the topic of the monster, the visual effects are rather impressive for a relatively low-budget film like this one. The fact that he doesn’t appear onscreen too often is probably the reason why, as focusing on him too much would have likely not turned out well at all. Indeed, the majority of the 110-minute film is spent in the bar of this small town, where the main characters converse either on the events unfolding on television or just whatever comes to their mind. In that, Vigalondo has written the movie pretty and rather realistically, at least given the circumstances given. Underneath all of the laugh-induced drinking and far away city destruction, however, Colossal is a story about escaping abusive relationships. Much like last year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, the main character in this movie, Gloria, finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Her previous boyfriend didn’t work out at all and the new one she finds is less than cooperative, especially after he discovers her strange connection to the kaiju in Seoul. The monster must be a metaphor for her self-empowerment getting a personification. As she learns to control the monster more, she starts growing more confident in herself. The meaning of it all shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with recent developments in the news. There is an actual musical score in this film, provided by the prolific, if underrated Bear McCreary. He foregoes the moody and grim leitmotifs from his work on shows like The Walking Dead and the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica and instead goes for something a little more grand in scale. Full-fled orchestras sound off during the final act when all the pieces start coming together. And boy, what a finale that was. Colossal may be a little too ambitious for its own good and underwhelming at times, but it’s the original concept and Anne Hathaway’s lead performance that elevate it above mediocrity. While it’s certainly not a movie for everyone, it promises great things for the future of Nacho Vigalondo. And NEON.

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