[Film Review] Colossal (2016)

Colossal poster

Title: Colossal
Year: 2016
Country: Canada, USA, Spain, South Korea
Language: English, Korean
Genre: Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Director/Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Music: Bear McCreary
Cinematography: Eric Kress
Anne Hathaway
Jason Sudeikis
Austin Stowell
Dan Stevens
Tim Blake Nelson
Hannah Cheramy
Nathan Ellison
Agam Darshi
Rating: 6.7/10

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The fourth feature of Spanish genre-bucking filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo (whose debut film TIMECRIMES 2007 is a mind-boggling wheeze on time-loop), COLOSSAL is a shaggy-dog story which marries a woman’s striving for temperance and getting her life back on track in the middle America with a kaiju’s mysterious manifestation in the hub of Seoul, the telekinetic synchrony of their actions flouts any rationale but it is an ingenious premise to tickle audience’s interest.

Gloria (Hathaway), a jobless writer has a drinking problem, is unceremoniously dumped by her piqued boyfriend Tim (Stevens) and has to move back to her hometown. She touches base with her childhood friend Oscar (Sudeikis), who is congenial enough to offer her a job as a barista in the bar where he has inherited from his father, although it isn’t a perfect option for a woman who tries to dry out, but a woman needs to survive, Gloria takes the offer.

When a Brobdingnagian monster repeatedly materializes in Seoul at the exact same place and same time (8:05 a.m. in Gloria’s time zone) and afterward vaporizes into the thin air, a personal tic triggers off Gloria’s curiosity and following a simple experiment it certifies that the monster is actually her avatar: if she walks into a playground nearby exactly at that time, the monster will simultaneously appear in Seoul and whatever she does during that special spatio-temporal frame, the monster will follow suit, which means it can wreak disproportionate havoc to the city of Seoul. If that is the case, why not staving off from the magic playground at that particular time, everything will be easy-breezy. Nevertheless, the plot thickens when Oscar steps in, it turns out that a giant robot is his remote avatar, Gloria must thereby handle with care of their increasingly passive-aggressive relation especially after she spends a romantic evening with their common friend Joel (Stowell), because it seems that Oscar is enamored with her, or is he?

What follows is a rather unexpected change of gear, the movie’s light-hearted backbone and absurdity subsides when Oscar lets rip his domineering bearing over Gloria by threatening to rampage Seoul if she disobeys, and more upsettingly, there is no specific reason behind his transgression, it is not that he is driven by jealousy or a past grudge, it is just his complexion, a self-hater who takes insidious pleasure in making other’s lives miserable, which essentially stems from his own unhappiness, stuck in a dead-water life in a small town. As a barkeeper, there is not much deal he can bargain, but now, possessed with the destructive superpower, he has the leverage to hector Gloria into subservience, and it is not difficult to detect its mordant connotations pertaining to today’s reality (an egoist’s bullying culture) and a slightly offensive sideswipe at small-town dweller’s low self-esteem.

How can Gloria defeat this man-demon in her own way without a third-party’s involvement (its shoe-string budget doesn’t allow it)? Vigalondo again proves his innovativeness (with a junket trip to Seoul as its rewarding divvy) in the genre storytelling, after a convenient memory recovery of what instigates their avatar’s presence in Seoul in the first place, which happened 25 years ago when both Gloria and Oscar were school-kids (a cheap CGI of thunderclaps is a requisite for the scenario), Gloria outsmarts Oscar with a deus ex machina (which has no logic groundings but story-wise, an emboldening maneuver) and triumphantly humbles her indomitable nemesis. In toto, gingered up by two outstanding performances from Hathaway and Sudeikis, in particular the latter’s gradual metamorphosis from a goody-goody to an obnoxious sadist, COLOSSAL shores up a strong feminist manifesto of a woman’s own freestanding ritual of finding back her mojo, against its built-in limits in rounding out its yarn of incredulity.

referential point: Gareth Edwards’ GODZILLA (2014, 6.4/10)

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