Colossal (2017)

Colossal is a movie with an absurdist plot that is totally unique. Mix in a cast who have proven themselves to be charming and strong actors, and you’ve got a recipe for a potentially great movie. I don’t think anyone was expecting this to be a full-on horror movie, but as a kaiju movie, it’s kind of grandfathered into the horror-ish or horror-adjacent camp. Check out the trailer, and then continue on down to find out if the movie lives up to its potential. But be careful, there are spoilers.

Reviewed by: Jack

 
 

Plot Synopsis

Anne Hathaway plays our protagonist Gloria, an early thirties burnout living with her successful boyfriend in New York City. Sounds tough. She’s struggling with alcohol and her endless partying frustrates her boyfriend to the point that he kicks her out. Dejected and aimless, Gloria is forced to move back to her hometown to reevaluate her life.

Luckily for Gloria, her struggle isn’t all that much of a struggle because, instead of having to move in with her parents or get a cheap apartment, she just happens to have access to a good sized and beautiful home, which, surprise (!) is perfectly maintained save for a thin layer of dust.

 
 “Oh my god! How am I expected to live in this four-bedroom house with beautiful crown-molding and hardwood floors?!”

“Oh my god! How am I expected to live in this four-bedroom house with beautiful crown-molding and hardwood floors?!”

 

Gloria reconnects with childhood acquaintance Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis, who first presents himself as a nice guy who never left the small town and took over his dad’s bar. That leads to Gloria drinking too much and sleeping one off on a park bench. When she wakes up she stumbles into a park, and, wouldn’t you know it, a giant monster appears in Seoul, South Korea at the very same time.

Through some sleuthing, Gloria discovers that the monster appears whenever she sets foot in this playground between 8:05 and 8:10 AM her time and mirrors her exact movements, because why not? She discloses this to Oscar and his crew, and demonstrates by doing a crotch-oriented dance. If it were a touchdown dance, it would probably draw a flag.

 
 If you’re trying to claim this wouldn’t be your first instinct too, then get right the fuck out of town.

If you’re trying to claim this wouldn’t be your first instinct too, then get right the fuck out of town.

 

And then things go south. It turns out that Oscar is in a similar situation to Gloria, except that instead of a monster, he controls a giant robot. When Gloria beds Oscar’s sexy buddy, Oscar promptly turns into a straight up sociopath. Talk about relatable problems...

Oscar starts to use the threat of destroying Seoul to control Gloria, and starts physically abusing her too. We come to learn through flashbacks that they inherited these abilities (?) when, as kids, Gloria made a model of Seoul which Oscar destroyed through bullying and then they got struck by lightning and also had action figures of their respective Kaijus. If that seemed like incoherent nonsense, rest assured that it was actually more coherent than the movie’s explanation.

As Oscar turns full-on terrorist and starts smashing up Seoul, Gloria decides that the best course of action is to fly to Seoul which will make her Kaiju appear in the playground because ... the writers got lazy I guess?. This works, and her Kaiju throws Oscar off to the horizon which presumably sends the giant robot smashing straight into a different heavily populated area. Yay?


What the Movie Does Right

. . . Not a whole hell of a lot, honestly. While the cast is very strong, the bizarre shifts in character make the performances seem very odd. Anne Hathaway does a great job, Jason Sudeikis turns in a good show too, but they’re both betrayed by the writing.

Also the monsters look good for what they’re supposed to be. They’re all CGI and look pretty goofy, but they’re supposed to. Is it a good sign when the best stuff in a movie can be described as “hey, at least it wasn’t worse?”


What the Movie Does Wrong

The story. The way almost every male character shifts abruptly from seemingly normal guy, if with a few faults, to legitimate sociopathic monster is ridiculous. And also, there are plenty of absurdist stories where the writers wave their hands and say “don’t worry too much about how this works” and I’m happy to oblige. Doctor Who is a really good example of that. But that doesn’t work here. There’s something about this movie that makes that not work. Think about this for a second: the monster exists because Gloria made a model of a city and had an action figure and got struck by lightning. If they had given me the vibe of don’t worry about it, I wouldn’t, but the vibe of this movie emphasized the origin story and it’s nonsense. The movie comes off like it thinks it has done a good job of explaining itself, when it has really only served up a platter of warm nonsense.

And about that lightning. It looks bad. It’s the worst lightning I’ve seen since Mortal Kombat. It’s not good. At least the lightning in Hell Raiser was made overnight by a drunken Clive Barker. I don’t think this movie can claim the same excuse.

 
 For the record, A-Z is a decidedly pro Mortal Kombat website.

For the record, A-Z is a decidedly pro Mortal Kombat website.

 

Ratings (1-10)

Story: 3 - It’s a novel story, to be sure. I just needed some of the goddamn character arcs to make sense. And, like I mentioned above, they don’t do a good job of letting it just be absurdity for absurdity’s sake.

World-Building / Immersion: 3 - The acting is good, and the first little part is very charming before Oscar goes full bananas. The rest is just an exercise in frustration.

Scare-Factor: 3 - I guess it’s scary that someone you think is for friend could be one of history’s greatest monsters (see what I did there?), but I don’t think that was the intent and horror-ish movies aren’t really trying to be scary.

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 5 - I guess? The monsters serve their purpose fine, but the lightning is really bad. This is kind of a cop out rating.

Overall: 3 - This movie isn’t unwatchable or anything, but holy diver I do not understand the high ratings for this thing across the internet. It’s honestly a pretty baffling film, and not one I can recommend. Maybe if it had been the comedy the trailers promised . . .