Colossal is a must-see, low-budget sci-fi drama/thriller that pays homage to the kaiju film genre.
In Colossal, Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, an unemployed writer who struggles with alcoholism and has been recently kicked out by her ex-boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens). After she’s been kicked out, Gloria moves back to her childhood home—where she meets an old classmate Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Discovering that she is down on her luck, Oscar offers her a job at his bar.
Not long after Gloria moves back home, she discovers online that a huge monster-like figure is magically appearing in Seoul, South Korea and roaming through the city. The monster’s appearance and actions cause people to think why it has suddenly appeared. The South Korea’s army has prepared a defense just in case the monster comes back and threatens the people of the city. Gloria, looking at the news footage, begins to realize that the monster’s gestures mirror her own. She learns that she’s the monster. As she learns more about how she can control the kaiju-like figure, she keeps asking herself: How and why did I acquire these powers?
Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, Colossal is the third feature-length film in his filmography. He directed films before and even directed a segment for V/H/S: Viral. Through his experience, Vigalondo has honed his skills in special and visual effects, which shows in the monster scenes of the film. As a result, Colossal is a must-see, low-budget sci-fi drama/thriller that pays homage to the kaiju film genre.
Some film buffs will probably see Colossal and call it a rip-off of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim or Gareth Edward’s Godzilla and/or Monsters. However, that is not the case. Writer/director Vigalondo uses these films (and other kaiju films) as inspiration to tell an original story that’s full of sharp satire.
Script-wise, Colossal is arguably one of the most unique films of the year. While the implementation of borrowed elements (read: tall kaiju-like monster attacking an Asian country) may come across as cliché, Colossal’s spin on these well-known genre tropes is effective. Set in the modern era, the film successfully holds up a magnifying glass to our culture and satirizes how people would react in these unique circumstances. It’s a wise choice on Vigalondo’s part to include these scenes, as they often provide a lot of humor in the film.
Speaking of humor, one of the film’s strengths is its balance of comedy, drama, and thriller. Whereas modern films force humor in scenes to keep the film (e.g. Captain America: Civil War) from getting dark, Colossal is funny and dark in the right moments.
Unfortunately, Colossal’s biggest problem is its lack of characterization for supporting players. While Gloria has a complete character arc—and is played well by actress Anne Hathaway—the minor characters (Oscar, Joel, and Garth) are short-changed, by comparison. Co-workers Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) are set up well in the first act, but are then used in the second and third act to drive the plot forward. Despite the solid performances from Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson, their characters become less meaningful as the film rolls along. Oscar likewise is compelling to watch, but lacks enough nuance that would have made his character more dynamic. Sudeikis, who plays Oscar, gives a good performance as the character and proves that his range extends beyond comedy.
From a directorial perspective, Vigalondo and cinematographer Eric Kress successfully blend the visual/special effects in with practical environments. Scenes of the monster look convincingly real. Admittedly, the effects used to create the monster don’t measure up to the more refined effects found in blockbuster films, but they are impressive in their own right—considering that this film was made on a modest budget of 15 million.
Colossal is a unique sci-fi drama/thriller with comedic elements and effective satire. The film has underdeveloped characters, but it holds your attention with its engaging narrative.
As mentioned before, Vigalondo has proven with Colossal that he’s good with special effects. It won’t be surprising if Hollywood comes knocking on his door to direct bigger budget-films. Gareth Edwards of Monsters incorporated convincing monster effects in this low-budget film. From doing that film, he was chosen to direct 2014’s Godzilla and Star Wars: Rogue One. Vigalondo has the talent. All he needs is the opportunity.
Rating: 4 out of 5