Right off the bat, Colossal isn’t what it seems. With a trailer that teases a genre bending mashup of quirky laughs and giant monster thrills, the real thing’s even harder to categorise, and at its best when its true colours show. Once the dust has settled, Colossal is an honest, sometimes devastating examination of addiction, depression, and abuse, with a giant, head scratching monster to pull it all together.
With her self destructive lifestyle finally caught up to her, it’s rock bottom for Hathaway’s Gloria. Left stranded in an empty house, in a sleepy town she left behind decades ago, this intimate space is where we spend most of Colossal, and where we meet Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis, an old childhood friend who scoops her up in this time of need like a furniture dispensing prince charming, even giving her a job at his bar.
Speaking of big, there’s that other thing. The giant monster that materializes over Seoul every time Gloria drunkenly takes a shortcut through the local park. She’s out of control, and the monster magnifies this struggle to a catastrophic global scale. Every move Gloria makes, the monster follows, and every building it stomps, whether or not she knew it at the time, that was her foot too. This isn’t a case of taming the beast, it’s herself that she has to come to terms with. It’s also no coincidence when Oscar’s own park projection takes the form of a giant robot, sworn enemy of giant monsters.
It’s Colossal’s polarity that comes as it’s biggest strength and weakness. Once it hits its stride, the interplay between the two worlds, huge, and tiny, is fully realised and unpredictable. Gloria’s drunken stumbles create headlines, and personal conflicts manifest beat for beat as massive kaiju battles that leave the world reeling, and cheering. Unfortunately, not every piece of this genre puzzle fits together so perfectly, taking its sweet time to pin down a clear internal logic, or give us a good reason why Gloria can’t just stay out of the damn park.
Colossal is, despite its flaws, no small feat. And it’s by embracing the small, really digging deep into characters who are, even in their own worlds, small, that Vigalondo’s huge pixel punchouts are enriched with a gut wrenching weight and fist pumping emotionality absent from your usual blockbuster’s city stomp romps. Because we know there’s people in those cities, people just like Gloria and Oscar. Don’t trust appearances, Colossal is a fascinating, if uneven look into regular people’s regular struggles in a suddenly irregular world. And yes, it’s funny too.