Nacho Vigalondo can never be accused of being a director short on ideas. Having made his name with inventive twists of Timecrimes, he went onto UFO invasions in Extraterrestrial, before staging a found footage thriller seen through a multitude of desktop windows in Open Windows. The Spanish-born director returns with another off-the-wall idea in Colossal, this time putting a fresh spin on the modern monster movie by mixing in a little bit of alcoholism, childhood trauma and a dash of toxic masculinity.
Vigalondo is never afraid to embrace clichéd B-movie fundamentals to form the shell of his narrative constructs, relying on his characters to root out the deeper themes at play. In that regard Colossal is no different, positioning two fragile characters in the shadow of a Seoul based Kaiju battle. An amusingly off-kilter opening tows the absurd storyline along, sustained largely by the performances of Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. Just when you are hoping it will deliver on its promise, the story comes apart at the seams, demonstrating how weak the material was to start with.
Gloria (Hathaway) is a functioning alcoholic, whose non-stop partying finally ends her relationship with boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). Hoping to clear her head she returns to her Middle America hometown, rekindling her childhood friendship with Oscar (Sudeikis). Gloria accepts the offer to work at Oscar’s bar in a bid to get her life back together, but in the blink of an eye she is up to her old tricks, drinking night after night with Oscar and his two barfly buddies. Yet that is the least of her worries. It turns out that an over-sized amphibian mysteriously appearing in Seoul is psychically connected with Gloria. Somehow, she can control its every move, as long as she standing in her old childhood playground at exactly 8.05 am in the morning.
Using a giant monster as an allegory to delve into the human subconscious has a rich cinematic past, which means Vigalondo’s oddball approach is not as strange as it first appears. What he struggles with is a way to tie the two together, without affecting the development of the characters and tone of the film. Of course, the monsters represent the darker side of Gloria and Oscar's psychological and substance issues but merely showing us the scale of their problems in a very literal sense isn't really enough to explain how troubled they both are. Be it abusive relationships, alcoholism or facing up to the past, the script throws a number of ideas into the air, without ever having the nerve to grab one by the scruff of the neck.
Both Hathaway’s and Sudeikis’ performances are worthy of better material than this and for the most part these are two characters you can support, despite their surreal alter egos. Turning one into a bitter loser and the other into a triumphant victor of sorts is a cop out that effectively throws them both under the bus. It’s also worth noting how exceptionally fresh they both continue to look following endless hours of hardcore drinking. Perhaps it would’ve worked out better if one of them had just woken up to discover it was all a horrible dream.
Aside from Timecrimes, each of the films written and directed by Vigalondo have fallen victim to same issue of poorly written characters failing to compliment the larger worlds he creates around them. The point of his latest release remains elusive, as it falls somewhere in-between a creature-feature, comedy and psychodrama, while never being scary, funny or incisive enough to successfully hit any of those marks. Once the concept has been revealed, it quickly runs out of legs and ends up being a film without very much to say at all.
Colossal is out today in UK cinemas