(MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: Colossal is the kind of movie where some things have been already spoiled in the previews, but the motives behind them haven’t, really, so go away if you intend to see this one. I am going to spoil bits of it simply because I can. It’s my blog, see?)
Allow me to get this out of the way — I’m not crazy about Anne Hathaway, but I do get the appeal. She’s sort of an Audrey Hepburn of the times. She’s pretty, relatable, stylish, quirky, and she can cry on command. Basically, she’s the kind of movie actress we can deal with for a couple of hours and then immediately forget about not long after the movie is over. Hollywood has tried to give her an edge once in awhile, but the roles, they hadn’t really suited her. For instance, she was awfully vanilla as Selena Kyle/Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, and she seemed too constrained in the role of a girl fresh out of rehab in Rachel Getting Married. It’s almost as if all of her direction has been centered on Anne Hathaway playing…well…Anne Hathaway, even when the role was so far removed from anything remotely Anne Hathaway.
Colossal‘s Anne Hathaway, on the other hand, wasn’t anything I’d seen before. Maybe it was the heavy bangs, the untamed hair, the oddly placed tattoos, the sloppy urbanite gear. It’s often amazing what a simple change in appearance will do onscreen, and I’m convinced once actors are outfitted well, they tend to change accordingly. Yet again, the Catwoman costume hadn’t done much for her (admit it — Michelle Pfeiffer had put all of her successors out in the freezing cold), and the hair chop job she had in Rachel Getting Married only made her a gloomier version of herself.
Maybe the get-up helped, but maybe not.
Honestly, I think I enjoyed Hathaway in the film because she was finally in a raw mess of a character, one who was, eventually, forced to become truly heroic — and not the saving-her-relationship-by-quitting-her-horrible-fashionista-job heroic, but the silently and painfully saving- the-world heroic that goes unrecognized by everyone except for, perhaps, a handful of people, discounting the viewers.
Nacho Vigalondo’s imaginative script helped, too, of course. I flat out loved the movie itself, all Anne Hathaway aside.
Colossal‘s story centers around party girl Gloria (A.H.) who, as we find out through pieces of dialogue, has been out of work in the city for quite awhile. After yet another drunken night out with her friends, Gloria comes home only to face her disgusted boyfriend (Dan Stevens), who promptly boots her out of his apartment. Left with nowhere else in the city to go (so much for her so-called friends), she reluctantly returns to her hometown, back to the creaky, empty childhood home she’d left behind long ago.
Enter nice guy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an acquaintance from Gloria’s long-forgotten elementary school days, who happens to see her out lugging a bulky sack with an air mattress over her shoulder, tromping back to her empty house. At the start, it feels like something of a “meet-cute” — something normally Anne Hathaway and dry toast — when the two of them connect, at least one-sided from Oscar’s end. Oscar latches onto her plight and invites her to have some drinks and hang out at his dad’s old bar, a place he now owns and runs since his father’s death. He later even offers her a part-time job as a waitress at the bar.
After an all-nighter with potential new friends at the bar, Gloria heads home, sack in tow and on her cell with her now-ex, in the wee morning hours. She staggers across a small playground on her way back. It’s a place she’s barely familiar with, but the area, with its housing development across the street and sidewalk to school nearby, reminds her that childhood days still matter. As she eventually comes to learn, this park, with its pyramid-shaped jungle gym and lonely monkeybars, redolent of all things nostalgic, is the one place where her own childhood had once taken a strange, dark turn.
Meanwhile, all the way on the other side of the world, in Seoul of all places, a skyscraper-high creature thunder-crashes its way through the city, scraping the sides of whole buildings, creating craters in the streets, with an invisible sack slung over its shoulder and an invisible cell phone to its ear.
Then it just vanishes.
Of course, Gloria inevitably learns to her horror, and then to a bit of smug amusement, that whenever she steps onto that playground at a particular hour in the morning, the creature — her monstrous parallel — appears in Seoul at that time, too.
Naturally, our party girl can’t resist showing off this trick to her new friends…
I think what I loved most about Colossal is that it isn’t a standard…oh, what are the kids calling it…a standard “kaiju” (Japanese for “strange beast”) movie like a Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, Yo Gabba Gabba kind of movie. At its darkest core, Colossal is a movie about self-entitlement, resentment, and the bitter ties that bind us. While showing her trick to the bar boys, Gloria suddenly feels a sharp pain, and the guys reveal to her, while watching the action happening in Seoul on their cells and smartpad, that military operatives in helicopters are shooting at the creature. And as soon Oscar steps onto the playground to check on her, a gigantic robot appears beside the monolithic creature in Seoul, the robot’s movements directly parallel to Oscar’s.
This, of course, inevitably changes the friendly acquaintance (and seeming white knight) dynamic between Gloria and Oscar as it slowly unravels much of the truth about Oscar’s hateful side, for while Gloria is determined not to have the creature cause any more death and destruction in Seoul, Oscar takes it upon himself to keep Gloria — the only one, he reminds her, to have left the drudgery of their hometown — conveniently around town by emotionally blackmailing her to stay. As the poster tagline appropriately hints “There’s a monster in all of us.” The only way Gloria can keep Oscar, and his robot, from committing mass genocide in Seoul is to remain under his thumb there, disgraced and humiliated much to his whiskey-swigging satisfaction.
Vigalondo was also quite adept at showing rather than telling the viewer much about Oscar’s background and psychological state. Oscar briefly mentions his parents’ deaths when he first runs into Gloria. However, there’s a scene much later in the film in which Gloria confronts a haggard, bathrobed Oscar at his family’s house, and the place is a hoarder’s dream, filled with old furnishings, clutter, and knick knacks everywhere. Dirty dishes are piled up in the kitchen, and the framed family photographs around show his mother’s face having been scratched out of every one of them.
In between the present moments involving Gloria and Oscar, we get glimpses of their kid selves from the past, and there’s a key moment between them that shows us what Gloria had apparently forgotten until then, a moment that showed us what we were slowly learning about “nice” guy Oscar, and why they’d been having this supernatural occurrence happening at one particular place and time.
But…well…hey, I’ve revealed much more than I ought to have, so I won’t spoil the rest, or even what happens in the end (it’s crazily awesome). Just see the damned movie for yourself, even if you’re like me and don’t care for Anne Hathaway. You may be inclined to change your mind anyway. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and refreshingly adult…for a silly creature feature.