Disguised in the clothing of a Kaiju film, Colossal draws you in with its mystery surrounding the massive monster threatening Seoul and the connection those events have on the main character currently residing within the USA. As you get deeper into the film, it becomes clear that the film belies its initial form and utilises the genre to push forward a totally different story. Yet at the same time, it keeps the “monster” theme central to the identity of the film. As each twist leaves you re-examining your perception of the story and it’s characters, you find yourself becoming engrossed by how such a genre can be distorted into one conveying themes filled with relevance, meaning and depth. Colossal is undeniably a colossal film that utilises its elements creatively to convey a powerful message.
At its core, the driving force behind the film are the characters and the story connecting them. Gloria, an unemployed writer who heads back to her hometown to try to sort out her alcoholism issues dragging her relationship with her boyfriend down and Oscar, an old school friend of Gloria’s who helps her out with settling in when she heads back to her hometown. And then there is the boyfriend who while in love with Gloria becomes frustrated at her lack of ownership over her mistakes. Gloria eventually comes to find out the connection she has to the events happening within Seoul. It is through that realisation and the acceptance of her actions having consequences that Gloria come to terms with her alcoholism and the weight it has on her life. The guilt of unknowingly causing harm to others drives Gloria to enduring giving up alcohol and pursuing a change in lifestyle.
Initially the film conveys itself as a light-hearted take on the monster genre, seemingly focusing on the comical nature of having the power to level a city. During this time death and destruction are kept away from the focus to avoid distracting the audience from Gloria’s story in those moments. It is only until a certain character reveals their true character, that the whole ambience of the film is completely twisted around. The films dynamics change and turns what appeared to be hollow take on the monster genre into a thriller dipped in darkness and relevance. The timing of the twist also arrives at an optimal time with the wonderment of the audience hungry to latch onto something else as the mystery surrounding the story begins to wane. Overarching the entire shift is Gloria and her struggle to take ownership over her actions and the subsequent consequences.
The shift in focus towards a darker tone feels natural thanks to the subtle build up surrounding the characters situations and the overall movement of the story towards Gloria’s growth. With each twist, the characters become more multi-dimensional and through those characters the story expands. A story that dives deep into the psyche of the characters with the intent on examining why they act the way they do. You relate and connect with the characters and in turn care about what they do, especially with Seoul in danger of being destroyed.
The moment in which this film really took a hold of my attention wholeheartedly was when a certain character drunk on their ‘power’ abuses it in order to satisfy a void created by their own insecurities and vulnerabilities. During that moment the focus was not on the destruction but on the act being committed. As disconnected as that sounds, the emotional impact of that scene as Gloria watches powerlessly while the destruction is taking place with the sounds of the victims in the background was agonisingly impacting. A line was drawn, crossed and bent in that moment.
Anne Hathaway is brilliant as Gloria, her portrayal of a broken character reliant on alcohol to get by was solid. She reflected perfectly how a guilty party reluctant to change has the tendency to dodge questions and manufacture excuses when looking to avoid responsibility. It is Anne Hathaway’s performance that makes the shift in story focus from light to dark so seamless. You believe Anne when she regrets her actions and you believe her when she resolves to make the effort to change her life. This in turn leads to the Gloria we see at the end who has accepted responsibility for her actions and is taking steps to rectifying her mistakes. In the end I could not think of Anne Hathaway as anything other than badass; an inspiring hero who liberated herself from herself.
Colossal will twist your expectations and challenge your perception in how you approach what you see. It may not always be successful in its ambition but overall the film will surprise and entertain. Even after the credits roll, you will still be invigorated by thoughts of Colossal and what you felt while watching it. Anne Hathaway’s performance in particular will leave a striking impact on you. I definitely recommend this film.
Enjoyment level: 8.5/10