Monster movies tend to focus on the destructive power of the particular monster and the fight of humans to prevent said destruction and, hopefully, destroy the monster in the end. But what if a human was the monster who unknowingly was the cause of destruction on the other side of the world?
That’s literally the case in the out-there Colossal, a film that tackles human issues in unexpected ways. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is having a bit of a midlife crisis, with a drinking problem compelling a break-up with her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens). She moves back to her hometown, and in the process restarts a friendship with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), with whom she went to school.
Several drunken nights followed by reports of a monster raising havoc in Seoul, South Korea, lead Gloria to the horrified realization that she is somehow connected to the monster. When she steps into a particular spot on a playground at a certain time of day, the monster instantly appears in Seoul, repeating whatever movements she does.
Were this your normal type of film, this revelation might make the story veer into action movie territory. Instead, the movie stays small, glimpsing the monster mostly from afar through video footage, while Gloria struggles with her mysterious powers and consequences of her unintended actions. She must also deal with her confused state, something that isn’t helped by the words and deeds of Tim and Oscar.
Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo seems uninterested in conventional filmmaking, often veering left when you expect him to go right. This is good, in that unpredictability is usually a sign of quality storytelling, offering up something audiences haven’t seen. But the flip side of that coin is that you have to connect the dots in different ways, something Vigalondo doesn’t always do in this film.
Once the stakes are established, the story meanders at times, taking the long road toward a point that could have been made earlier. And Gloria’s addled mental state makes her interactions with the various people around her extra confusing, as she is unclear what exactly she wants to do or how she wants to do it.
But Hathaway’s performance keeps the film moving. She makes Gloria compelling even when the character doesn’t fully deserve our attention. Sudeikis plays his usual smarmy role, one that works well here even if it would be nice if he could show a different dimension. Stevens, who’s having a heck of a year with starring roles in Legion and Beauty and the Beast, doesn’t have as much to do here, but his presence is enjoyable nonetheless.
Colossal is not your usual type of monster movie, but its out-of-the-ordinary nature is what makes it worth seeing. It takes a different kind of toll on the humans in its story, one that makes it much more personal and real.