It was Beauty killed the Beast.
A recent surge in cinema has marked the return to popularity for the gargantuan movie monster. Godzilla has been rebooted by Monsters director Gareth Edwards, with Kong: Skull Island tying into the same movie universe full of massively unidentified terrestrial organism (MUTO) for short). Pacific Rim increases the love for film giants by including the massive mecha Jaegers to fight off the Kaiju threat, and the return and remake of the latest Power Rangers movie compounds the notion that our gigantic monsters are here to stay, blotting out the sun as they stride across the skyline.
It is only expected at this point for the mockbusters to milk the popularity for all it’s got, but they have been in the game for quite some time already, with more recent outings including Mega Shark Versus Mecha Shark, which plays into the Kaiju versus Jaeger narrative, Big Ass Spider!, and Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus. The titles become more amusing with each new iteration, and it’s safe to say that by this point, the mockbuster movie-makers know exactly what they are doing, playing into the same market that Roger Corman once and still does. Though this trend will no doubt continue its mutations, it is not unwelcoming for a film to play with the conventions and expectations of a popular genre, as Colossal cleverly does.
Nacho Vigalondo returns after his first feature and native language horror Timecrimes and two segments in both horror anthologies The ABC’s of Death and V/H/S: Viral, to name a few, so independent Canadian/Spanish black comedy Colossal comes as quite a surprising and welcome shock.
Suffering alcoholism, Anne Hathaway’s Gloria has destroyed her writing career and lost her lecturing British boyfriend to her errant behaviour and addiction. Although alcohol abuse is a prevalent theme throughout, the reasons for Gloria’s dependence is never touched upon, and it doesn’t need to be. Circumstances are not the point, here. It is the effect and not the cause Colossal is most concerned with.
Darkly comic laughs are to be had as Hathaway and her gang of go-nowheres learn that she is somehow connected to a reptilian Kaiju that terrorizes Seoul at oddly specific times and evaporates thereafter. Hathaway puts in a great performance of the loveable alcoholic, never indulging too much in the exaggerated swaying and slurring audiences have come to expect from representations of the drunkard. Her jovial demeanor, in fact, gladly pulls the film back when it takes a sharp turn and touches up darker themes of physical and emotional violence, control and blackmail.
Jason Sudeikis lends to Hathaway’s performance, with a character arc that to’s and fro’s in such a way that is considerably confusing until some revelations about his character arrive towards the conclusion of the film. This alternation is a tad confusing on first viewing, we as an audience don’t know whether we should love, detest, or pity until we ascertain what causes his unlikable disposition. The reason, however, is suitable and befitting of the independent black comedy label, and in retrospect the varying nature of Sudeikis as Oscar is imperative to the film.
This brings the second theme of the film, alongside alcoholism, to the fore. Insignificance and feelings of being small rears its monstrous head also, contradicting the nature of the gigantic monster movie genre. Personal, metaphorical monsters are embodied by literal massive monsters, giving the Kaiju and Jaeger reason to exist outside of the more modern destruction-porn. Colossal thus plays with what we view as conventional to a genre, maturely and playfully adjusting our expectations of the monster movie.
All monster-feet-indented roads lead to a satisfying bittersweet climax and an enjoyably ambiguous ending. With striking imagery, a soundtrack that screams independent and a clearly conscious choice to display the literal monsters as briefly as possible to let the personal inner-monsters and human drama breathe, Nacho Vigalondo’s film shatters the mold set by our Kongs, Godzillas and Big Ass Spiders in a delightfully low-key fashion.
strikingly unique and offering a surprising rollercoaster-ride of emotion, Colossal stands tall in playful yet dramatic defiance of the massive monster genre that seems to have once again found its rather large footing.
The Film Fanatic