Colossal - Pacific Rim, But with Feelings and Likable Characters

In which I throw colossal amounts of shade at Big Bob for his taste in movies.

Written by: Nacho Vigalondo
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens
Runtime: doesn’t matter
Country of origin: Canada/Spain

I’ve never really been into hip hop. There’s never been a shortage of rap fans trying to get me into the stuff; I’ve tried Jay-Z, Kanye, 50 Cent, and the truly execrable Beastie Boys; none of ‘em did a thing for me. Every once in awhile something good would slip through the cracks, like Public Enemy, but for the most part I’ve disliked rap – but not all rap. To say that all hip hop is just a bunch of guys talking fast, somewhat rhythmically, occasionally rhyming, about money/drugs/hoes is a broad, sweeping generalization that I try to avoid when discussing any subject, let alone music. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I just haven’t listened to enough rap. I will freely admit my unpopular opinion turned completely around when I heard Eminem’s (not his real name) magnum opus: Stan. Finally, a song that sheds the mildewy overcoat of masculine excess that rap has been donning, a song that expresses the harm we can inadvertently due to others, a song that confronts fanatic psychosis, a song that makes you feel something, dammit!

Wait, sorry, I meant to write that for another piece I’m working on. Let me start over.

I’ve never really been into kaiju movies. There’s never been a shortage of giant monster movie fans trying to get me into the stuff; I’ve tried Godzilla, Gorgo, Yongary, and the truly execrable Gamera; none of ‘em did a thing for me. Every once in awhile something good would slip through the cracks, like King Kong, but for the most part I’ve disliked kaiju flicks – but not all kaiju flicks. To say that all giant monster movies are just a bunch of Japanese people running in fear from some sweaty guy in a rubber lizard suit destroying a model version of Tokyo is a broad, sweeping generalization that I try to avoid when discussing any subject, let alone films. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I just haven’t watched enough kaiju movies. I will freely admit my unpopular opinion turned completely around when I saw Nacho Vigalondo’s (real name) magnum opus: Colossal. Finally, a movie that sheds the unwashed brassiere of mindless mass destruction that giant monster movies have been wearing, a movie that confronts the demons within ourselves, a movie that portrays sociopathy in a way rarely seen, a movie that makes you feel something, dammit!

Colossal is the poorly-named movie that set the kaiju community (it exists) ablaze with its charming trailer, involving Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an unemployed alcoholic who seems to over-rely on others. Case-in-point: her British boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), kicks her out of his New York apartment, where she settles in at her parents’ abandoned house in her (unnamed) hometown. From there, she relies on her childhood friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), to get her a job as a waitress at his bar. One day she awakens to discover a giant monster has attacked Seoul. It’s about as jarring a tonal shift as that transition made it seem. Gloria eventually learns she’s inadvertently controlling the monstrosity, and she has to figure out what to do about it.

One of the taglines is “There’s a monster in all of us,” and that’s really more indicative of the tone of Colossal than the other, “All she could do was save the world.” This is a movie about interpersonal relationships, our weaknesses, our pain, how we confront that pain, how we confront each other. This film wouldn’t work if it was just about two big ol’ monsters fighting each other; it has far too much on its mind. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying things get even more complicated when Jason Sudeikis’s kaiju shows up – though I really cannot reveal the nature of his character. Whatever you do, please avoid reading anything (except this review) before you watch this movie; even minor plot details give away a lot. While not quite like the first Godzilla movie (an inept attempt at a parable decrying nuclear weapons), there are some vague similarities to the Godzilla franchise and the way we view Godzilla today, such as when Gloria has to- but well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

The beginning of Colossal isn’t exactly a slog, but I wouldn’t call it a slow burn. It’s more like the user manual for a set of illegal Mexican fireworks. While the monster is revealed at the very start of the movie, we’re then introduced to our main characters – and that means an extended absence from our main monster. This is a necessary part of the movie – remember, it’s more about them than the monsters – but hardcore kaiju fans who just want to see a giant robot fight a giant lizard may find this tedious. There is a point to all of this. It needs to happen. Sit down, shut up, and pay attention for your own edification.

Raise your hand if you hated Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

Anne Hathaway gives a stellar performance, as expected. The Academy Award winner is one of the very best at her job, and she nails the adorably pathetic, genuinely flawed, charmingly real Gloria in a way no one else possibly could. Her personal journey is so much fun to watch, and it’s even better when you can tell Hathaway is spicing up the script. The dialogue is a little flat in Colossal, but AH gives it a significant punch-up in her inimitable style – it really adds a lot to a movie that’s already quite good. Sidebar: can we talk about that strange period where everyone hated Anne Hathaway? What the fuck was up with that? I think it was right after her performance in Love & Other Drugs, which puts the year right around The Dark Knight Rises and Les Miserables that everyone decided they hated Anne Hathaway. No one has ever given me a satisfactory explanation of why they hated her, but it never made a lick of sense to me. Then again, no one’s ever properly explained everyone’s obsession with Jennifer Lawrence, either.

Jason Sudeikis (数独 sūdaykiss?, digit-single) (Description: Listeni/suːˈdoʊkuː/, /-ˈdɒ-/, /sə-/, originally called Number Place)[1] is a logic-based,[2][3]combinatorial[4] number-placement puzzle. The objective is to fill a 9×9 grid wi-

The real meat of Colossal is found in Oscar. Again – I cannot reveal the nature of his character, for fearing of giving a lot away, but he’s the one I always had my eye on, and for very good reason. He’s reminiscent of John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. I suppose the key difference is that Oscar is better written, while Goodman’s character relies much more on his performance. Sudeikis won’t be winning any awards for this movie, but it’s a performance that’s going to be caught in my craw for all time. You won’t be able to see him quite the same in his comedic performances after watching this movie.

Colossal’s writing excels more for Sudeikis than Hathaway, and as for everyone else it’s pretty uneven too. Tim’s decently written, sometimes grating, but that’s the intent – he’s never really someone Gloria is trying to win back, like the unfathomable conceit of Drop Dead Fred. Oscar’s friends, Garth (Tim Blake Nelson, looking like a coked-out Seth Green) and Some Dickhead Who Doesn’t Matter (the disarmingly handsome Austin Stowell) are hardly-present supporting characters – Garth is enjoyably relatable, while Some Dickhead Who Doesn’t Matter never says anything worthwhile nor prevents anything bad from happening. Writing is about more than dialogue, though – it’s about setting up the scenery, describing the action, relating what our characters are feeling, even if it’s without words. There’s a reason the giant monsters aren’t shown hitting each other – or are they? Pay attention to the excellent camerawork by Eric Kress – there’s a reason he’s shooting it like this.

A brief note, while we’re on the subject of writing: the penultimate line sucks. It’s badly written, and completely self-indulgent. I’m not giving anything away here: the line is “Do you want to hear an amazing story?” C’mon, that’s M. Night Shyamalan-tier. If your story is any good, you don’t need to say things like that. Luckily, the movie is saved by Gloria’s final line.

I think I’ve been mostly clear that Colossal is not just a good movie, but a great movie – though perhaps not excellent. It’s certainly not the masterpiece that Your Name was, but much like Your Name, it is the pinnacle of its genre. Colossal is the best kaiju movie ever made, and it’s all because it has a little bit of dignity. You will likely never see a kaiju movie quite like this ever again (up to now the movie hasn’t come close to recouping its $15 million budget, meaning executives are likely to pass on movies inspired by Colossal), and that’s a damned shame. I’m not saying I’m any less excited for King Kong teaming up with Godzilla to slam Ghidora through a table, but I wouldn’t mind it if someone took notice of what this movie means to the genre. The difference between Colossal and Your Name is that Colossal breaks so many rules, the only thing it has in common with its genre is that there is a giant monster that destroys stuff. Just like Eminem made a song in which he raps – and broke every other rule by showing a bit of vulnerability for a change.

“But I wanted to know more about the monster!” said the audience member who spent the entire movie on his phone.

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