Colossal

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”  – Stephen King

From Godzilla to King Kong, the monster movie has been a mainstay in the canon of world-wide and Hollywood productions over the past century. Different directors and writers have added their own touch to this familiar genre. Some have taken it seriously and have attempted to make a statement with their creature, but the most successful examples remain in the realm of pure camp. With his tongue squarely in his cheek, Spanish writer and director Nacho Vigalondo (Open Windows) has added a new twist to the city-crushing behemoth: what if it is linked to an unaware human.

The human in this case is Gloria (Anne Hathaway) who is going through a rough patch in life. Along with being out of work, she shows all of the signs of alcohol abuse and on top of it all, the party girl has been kicked out of her boyfriend’s (Dan Stevens) New York City apartment. With no money or family support, she determines that her only option is to move back to her hometown and live in the uninhabited family home. Upon her arrival in the small town, she runs into a former classmate, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who tries to give her a hand up during this difficult time by offering her a job at his bar. With her old friend at her side and while she tries to get her feet back on solid ground, a catastrophic event occurs in Seoul, South Korea. An event that will inexplicably change her life.

A giant creature materialises in the Asian metropolis and causes death and destruction  during its brief appearance and then just as quickly, it disappears. While watching this bizarre phenomenon, Gloria comes to the realisation that she has a supernatural link to the monster. As she comes to terms with this extraordinary connection and tries to determine how to protect the Korean people from future creature events, a huge robot appears and threatens the city. She must determine what she is going to do to help the people of Seoul  while trying to figure out the reason behind her strange connection with the beast.

Colossal proves to be unique within the realm of creature features. Vigalondo delivers a fresh and humorous spin to this largely familiar genre. The concept of a existential connection between Anne Hathaway’s character and the city levelling monster makes for hilarious situations and an opportunity to even ponder the deeper psychological implications. He provides a look into the moral considerations of the monster and the person who controls it. Even with some of Gloria’s dark history and her addiction, the monstrous inclusion provides an uncommon opportunity to deal with these challenging human experiences. Hathaway manages to display the necessary vulnerabilities of her character to draw pity for her while allowing the audience to laugh at her situation. With the addition of the comedic talents of Jason Sudeikis and Tim Blake (O, Brother Where Art Thou), Vigalondo sets up an exceptional comedy combination. Which leads the story down a fun and a fascinating study of the consequences of people’s actions, but then the Spanish director seems unable to bring things home to a satisfying conclusion.

This original concept has a few gremlins that undermine the effectiveness of the production. One little beast that fails to lift this film’s over all viewing experience is the monster special effects. They are not good enough to be considered groundbreaking and they are not bad enough to make them qualify as a campy or potentially give it cult status. This weakness could be pardoned if the story wrapped up well. As Gloria’s backstory unfolds, there are a multitude of explanations for the monsters existence. Unfortunately, Vigalondo tries to incorporate twists that have no real link to the original concept and turns it into a predictable and unfulfilling resolution. It is disappointing, because Colossal is worth seeing for the sake of experiencing a fresh and fun outing, but the ending fails to support the originality of the opening concept. Just like the creature that reeks havoc on Seoul, the monstrous impact of this new idea disappears as without any satisfactory explanation or conclusion.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

The moral conundrum that is experienced by Anne Hathaway’s character in Colossal causes some bigger questions to be considered. What should she do when she knows she is the cause of destruction on the other side of the world?

There are two solutions for consideration. One is purely action. To do something about the situation and to communicate to others the need to fix the problem within her influence and abilities. The second would be something outside of the realm of the film. A solution that is relegated to those who have a belief in God. The consideration is to pray. Asking for help and assistance from someone that can have a supernatural influence in this scenario. Which for many would be the first choice. There are other things for people to consider , but this is a great place to start.

  1. Does the Bible have anything to say about addiction? (1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:12-15, 4:7)
  2. How should we respond to violent acts against others? (Psalm 11:5, Matthew 5:38-39)
  3. Can we control our thoughts? (Mark 7:20-22, Philippians 4:8)

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.