Returning to her childhood home, Gloria is forced to grow up and start a new life. Things soon become complicated, however, when personal relationships and a connection to a monster rampaging in South Korea turn her world upside down.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Anne Hathway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson
Run Time: 109 Minutes
Release Date: May 19 (UK)
It’s not often that a movie that isn’t the latest offering from Marvel Studios, Disney or Warner Bros. creates as much of a buzz as Nacho Vigalondo’s unique monster movie has. First coming to light – as long-time listeners of The Geek Show will be aware – back in May 2015, the following two years saw a lawsuit with Japanese company Toho over unauthorised usage of Godzilla images and a quick filming schedule. And then nothing.
Until some eleven months later when the film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, then later at Sundance. Early reviews praised the nature of Vigalondo’s unique take on the monster genre. By the time critics saw it at Sundance, Neon had taken on distribution rights and a US release had been confirmed. The first trailer got people’s attention, combined with the star power of Hathaway and familiarity of Sudeikis, and a clamouring began on both sides of the pond for its release and to see whether the captivating – and yet confusing – first trailer wasn’t just a fluke and this actually was something worth waiting for.
I am happy to report – in this humble reviewer’s opinion, of course – that it was worth the wait. Of course, it won’t appeal to some and those walking into this looking for a monster movie in the vein of Kong: Skull Island or Godzilla may come away disappointed, however if you are interested in a well-told story of human emotion and relationships, female empowerment, often-dark themes of mental and physical abuse, and with a sprinkling of kaiju thrown in, you will be more than happy.
Hathaway being in the lead role will always guarantee a level of interest in the film, and that interest is rewarded with a sterling performance as Gloria that encompasses captivating and care-free in one total package. She has many critics, however, she excels here, and her history in rom-coms somehow working perfectly in this setting. Her acting style and ability also lends to the twists and turns that the film takes, both in story and tone. As the early part of the film progresses, it seemingly hurtles down a ‘hometown-girl-come-good/childhood-friends-fall-for-each-other route, before a sharp and dark turn changes things completely. Throughout, Hathaway adapts and maintains a strong link with the viewer.
Sudeikis, also, deserves praise for his portrayal of Gloria’s childhood friend Oscar, and much like the film’s tone, he also changes dramatically as the tale goes on. Mainly known for comedy in his previous films, his ability to switch to a darker character element as the story progresses is virtually unknown and more than a pleasant surprise, and one has to think that it could open doors to different kinds of movies that he could expand into. Especially, his work in the final act, in which his character is so totally and tonally different to how he began the movie, is superb. He and Hathaway really do hold this film together when the monster is put aside and the human element is pushed to the forefront. That isn’t to say that Vigalondo’s script doesn’t do them any favours, as it is generally solid throughout, however, the ambitiousness of the project does occasionally result in elements that don’t fully work together. It’s hard to criticise a director for trying something out of the box, attempting to tell a serious tale that ultimately revolves around a giant monster terrorising Seoul.
So, the monster. Gleefully shown off in the trailers, no doubt designed by the marketers to raise expectation and questions for the movie leading into its release, it strangely only acts as an occasional side story to the main feature. The monster genre is a road so often travelled down these days, what with Universal’s emerging MonsterVerse and the well-received Kong movie earlier this year, however what Vigalondo has managed to do is devise a story that involves a giant monster strangely materialising in a foreign country and somehow make it totally different to any other ‘monster’ tale seen before. Yes, the final act falters in places and the dramatic shifts in tone throughout can be slightly jarring, however, the setup, and reveal, of the movie’s big secret is superb.
COLOSSAL is highlighted as an original and unique take on the monster genre, and it is that. The final scenes play out so well in the framework of the story, and you will be left wishing there was more to come. There will inevitably be bigger budget monster movies that come and go, but this one is different; helmed by a confident, ambitious and fearless director, this movie is not only up there with the best monster movies, this one is easily going to end up in mine – and I sense many others’ – top films of the year.