Colossal is a movie that made my head spin. Not only does it manage to pack more ideas into its $15 million budget and 110 minute running time than the (interminable) ten and a half hours of Transformers (so far), it wraps them up, ties a bow on them and makes you punch the air with joy when you unwrap them.
Anne Hathaway is Gloria, a washed up blogger with more interest in getting wasted than moving her life forward. When she’s kicked out of her New York apartment by her exasperated boyfriend (Dan Stevens), she returns to her family home in somewhere in sleepy, small-town, USA. Any fleeting thoughts of sorting her life out are soon dismissed when she’s reacquainted with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a bar owner with a penchant for after hours drinking with his pals. Oscar offers her a job, helps furbish her house, supplies her with emotional support and enables her boozy proclivities.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world (Seoul, South Korea to be precise) a giant creature appears and tramples its way across the city, destroyed buildings and crushed bodies left in its uncaring wake. Slowly, Gloria comes to understand that she and the monster are somehow connected and what begins as fun soon takes a dark turn as she realises she is responsible for countless deaths.
And then a giant robot turns up as well…
And that robot is a lot closer to Gloria than is comfortable…
*I’m trying not to get into ***SPOILER*** territory, but what follows may well stray (as obliquely as I can manage) into that mine-strewn landscape, so please be aware.*
Colossal is not only beautifully and thoughtfully written; directed with economy and gut punching impact; features some career best work from Hathaway and (especially) Sudeikis; but explores themes so far removed from Kaiju and Mecha tropes (whilst still employing them) that it creates something utterly alien yet terrifyingly close to home.
The most obvious theme here is “Control”: about losing it, using it and abusing it. But Colossal is also interested in empathy, those who have it and those who don’t. The mecha is the ultimate internet troll, it posseses no empathy and doesn’t care what it destroys because that which is on the other side of the world/other side of the screen is unseen and unknown to it and it has no interest in caring, just destroying and controlling. And the same goes for the character that controls it. Take from it what you will that the “evil” character is a giant robot, any resemblance to other giant robot/destruction-porn movies is purely coincidental… Probably.
It’s a movie about giants that’s really a movie about domestic abuse and male entitlement. And that’s something really special.