Colossal Movie Review
Gloria has a little problem.
Well, the fact is, she’s got several big potholes in her life, but it all boils down to one teensy little issue: She’s kinda, sorta, in a way, an … alcoholic.
Her drinking habit began as just a little innocent fun with her friends. But soon it became a stagger-in-drunk-and-lie-your-face-off-’cause-you-can’t-really-remember-what-happened-last-night kind of thing. First, she lost her job. A few weeks later, her judgy boyfriend, Tim, actually packed up all her stuff and told her to get out of their Manhattan apartment.
What is wrong with everybody?
After that, Gloria only has one choice. She has to go back to her small hometown, find the key to her parents’ currently empty house and hole up there for a while until she can figure out what to do next.
It just so happens, though, that she immediately runs into an old friend named Oscar. He’s always nurtured something of a crush on Gloria, and he secretly wishes he’d been able to live a glamorous, big-city life like her. Seeing Gloria back in town just sends him over the moon.
That’s good, really, because for one thing, catching up with Oscar gives Gloria something to take her mind off her own troubles. Second, Oscar gives her a few useful items, like a TV and a futon, that make her stay a little more comfortable. And third, he offers her a job.
Of course, the fact that Oscar’s place of business is a local bar, well, that’s not so good. ‘Cause Gloria’s got this little problem, you’ll remember. (And it turns out Oscar and some of his friends have addiction issues, too.)
But then something happens on the other side of the world that takes Gloria’s mind off her troubles. Again. A gigantic monster materializes and destroys part of Seoul, Korea. I kid you not: It’s a huge thing with horns and scaly skin. It pops up in the morning for short stretches, wreaks havoc on the buildings and populace, then mysteriously submerges itself again.
“You ever notice,” says Oscar’s friend Garth “how it just keeps moving, destroying everything in its path, but it never looks down? It’s like it’s being operated by remote control.”
The funny thing is, Gloria has noticed that. She’s also noted that that gigantic city destroyer has, well, some of her nervous ticks. Like, the habit of scratching her head when she gets a little frustrated. In fact, the more she looks at this monster attacking humanity on the other side of the world, the more something starts to dawn on Gloria.
She has a pretty big problem: She may just be a monster.
On one level, Colossal is a cautionary tale that illustrates how alcohol (and drug) abuse is very destructive, something that can sneak up on us. It can also lead to other abusive behaviors that hurt those around us.
We see Gloria take steps to pull back from her bad choices and their aftereffects. We also see her symbolically cast off a relationship that becomes physically harmful.
Once Gloria realizes that she and the Seoul-smashing monster are somehow linked, she does everything she can to spare the innocent lives on the other side of the world (including delivering a message of apology and fighting to keep another monster at bay).
The link between Gloria and her monster (along with the appearance of another monster in the mix a bit later) is revealed to be linked to an abusive relationship in her past. There’s an unexplained magical-but-nonsensical connection between these two utterly dissimilar things.
While slightly inebriated, Gloria seduces a handsome guy, kisses him and then wakes up in bed beside him the next morning. Both are partially dressed and fully covered.
We’re shown scenes of Godzilla-like destruction, with monsters thumping through a city, crumbling large buildings and sending crowds of people screaming for safety. It’s implied that hundreds, if not thousands, of people might have been killed, though we never see anyone die up close. In the process, aircraft explode, cars crash and buildings burn.
In a booze-fueled huff, Oscar purposely sets off a large firework in his bar, smashing bottles and mirrors and setting parts of the bar on fire. Elsewhere, a monster picks up a screaming Oscar in its huge fist and roars at him.
A young Gloria is tormented by a bully.
[Spoiler Warning] At one point, Gloria’s monster is joined by a giant robot who is being controlled by none other than Oscar. Here in America, Gloria tries to keep Oscar from causing death in Korea by physically pushing, slapping and punching him—even biting his hand when they wrestle to the ground. But he forges on (his real-world thumping footsteps accompanied by screams of death and terror on the other side of the globe). Oscar uses the threat of massive robotic destruction as a way to threaten and control Gloria. Eventually they fight again, shoving one another and hitting each other with furniture. Then Oscar gets even more painfully physical with Gloria, slapping her around, pushing her down and brutally punching her in the face while in a rage. (We see her later with a darkly bruised face and blood in her eye.)
CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE
Nearly 20 f-words and 20 s-words are joined by a handful of uses of “a–” and “h—.” Jesus’ name is misused half a dozen times, while God’s name is abused five times. Someone spits out the Yiddish vulgarity “schmuck.”
DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT
Gloria is nothing short of an alcoholic, and it appears that Oscar is an addict, too. They put their booze-swilling addictions on display repeatedly. Nearly every scene is littered with empty and full bottles of hard alcohol or beer. It’s suggested that someone regularly slips away to snort coke (though that character denies it). A group of Gloria’s friends show up wafting clouds of marijuana smoke and carrying bottles of liquor.
OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
Gloria lies repeatedly about her choices. And she and Oscar tend to be very dark and different people when they drink. We discover that both Tim and Oscar are somewhat abusive and manipulative individuals. Oscar breaks into Gloria’s house and threatens her.
Sci-fi monster movies have, of course, always been about more than just those rampaging monsters. Most of those big-screen city crushers were created to symbolically nudge an audience’s thoughts toward other potential real-world disasters—whether that was the advent of the atomic bomb, the terrors of world war, or perhaps something like an environmental catastrophe.
Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo has now pushed that monstery message-delivery symbolism in a new direction. He’s crafted something very fresh by blending Japanese monster-mash clichés with comedy, pop-culture winks, dramatic character-driven self-discovery, reflections on rage and addiction, and a farcical sci-fi twist. The end result is a creative film that comes complete with a dose of pick-your-poison social commentary.
Colossal is certainly making statements about modern Millennial dysfunction. It growls about today’s young adult penchant to party one’s cares away until that festive behemoth swallows you whole. But there’s also a very powerful message here about alcohol-fueled anger and abusive relationships—twin monsters that can tear anyone’s world to rubble.
Unfortunately, viewers who venture into this entertaining Godzilla-like send-up will also be singed by the pic’s fiery breath. They’ll get hit with an abundance of foul and profane language, misogynistic pummeling, drunken swilling and other behavioral beasties. Those things are all a natural part of the world that Vigalondo wants to wade through with his green, scaly cinematic feet. But it’s sharp-clawed stuff nonetheless.
Anne Hathaway as Gloria; Jason Sudeikis as Oscar; Dan Stevens as Tim; Austin Stowell as Joel; Tim Blake Nelson as Garth
April 21, 2017