Both of the poses pictured above by lead actors in this film, Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway perfectly encapsulate how I felt watching this movie: A mixture of not wanting to look away and “what the fuck?!” going on.
Colossal is a film that I watched with my family the day that I am writing this (yesterday from the posting date of this article) and a film that I left my folks’ place completely confused, disappointed and downright mystified, for multiple reasons. The major thing I’m shocked about however isn’t the film itself, but the critic scores of the film. On Metacritic, it’s currently at a 70, on Rotten Tomatoes it’s at 79%. It’s normal for me to be less than happy with a “critically acclaimed” film, but usually in these cases, there are others who watched the film and loved it. In this case, no one that watched it with me, which were my parents and my girlfriend, who is the kind of person who pulls out nothing but positives from everything, all three of them agreed with my general opinions on the film.
What are they, you ask? Well I’m not saying Colossal is a bad movie per se, but it’s definitely a film that suffers from either trying to do too much in one film, or just employing a staff who couldn’t handle writing the complex story the film was clearly trying to tell. The film upon viewing to me felt like a film that didn’t know what it was and just couldn’t stick to anything. It’s a film that feels more like a jumbled mess that has some potential with its interesting concepts and ideas for the story.
Speaking of which…
***WARNING!!! FULL SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW!!!***
The film starts off feeling very light-hearted, a story about a girl down on her luck. Anne Hathaway’s character, Gloria is a woman who has a severe drinking problem and is an unemployed writer. Her boyfriend kicks her out of his apartment and she’s forced back to a beautiful home in her old Middle American hometown. Poor girl, right? She meets up with an old friend from school, Jason Sudeikis’ character in Oscar and they start to hang out and start rekindling what we’re led to believe is an old, forgotten friendship.
However, this is rudely interrupted by the sudden appearance of a giant monster in Seoul, South Korea, which scares the shit out of everyone around the world and turns the movie on its head for the first time, thus the start of the film not knowing what it is. As we go further in, we discover that Gloria is actually the monster, or that if she steps in a certain place (a playground) at exactly 8:05am, the monster manifests in Seoul. Even beyond that, Oscar we discover is also capable of manifesting a robot in Seoul as well and this turns into quite the pickle, as Gloria is guilt-ridden because people have died, been injured and lost their homes because of them. Oscar, on the other hand, well…this is where things get complicated.
The problem that I have with this film truly stems in the fact that it does a horrendous job at explaining the motivations of the characters, specifically Oscar and on top of that, the reasons for why these two can step in a certain place at a certain time and wreak havoc on a city miles and miles away from them is also completely unexplained. What’s that you say? They do explain it? I’ll get to that in a moment.
What we’re given at the halfway mark is a film that starts off very light-hearted and employs a random kaiju monster cliche in the film and then suddenly turns into a film about men being controlling abusive assholes, which I’ll get into a little later after I go through this rather confusing plot twist. After Gloria hooks up with a friend of Oscar, he descends into this giant supervillain-level douchebag who goes from the funny and friendly best friend to the biggest anti-woman asshole at the drop of a pin. I understand what the movie is doing, we’re told that Oscar had always had a crush on Gloria ever since they were little, but it appears he grew jealous and angry at her because she was better than him at essentially everything and she never acknowledged/reciprocated his love. So when she “cheats on him”, he suddenly turns into King Douchebag and becomes a controlling asshole that uses his newfound power as a way to keep Gloria from going back home with her ex-boyfriend who suddenly shows up as well and is also a douchebag who wants Gloria to go in the direction he wants her life to go.
So the film has suddenly changed its tone dramatically from what seemed like a comedy at first, to a dark, depressing film about a woman being abused by two different men, both mentally and physically, as Oscar at one point beats her to the point of giving her a black eye and then follows up by stomping around on the playground, thus destroying more of Seoul and killing more people. By the way, that scene of her crying as she can’t stop him from stomping around on a playground, it looks extremely stupid, both with and without the context of the film. The film has literally changed into a story about girl power, because you know exactly where the film is going to go after this.
Sure enough, as we head towards the film’s end, we see that the two got their “powers” because one day the two were walking together towards the school bus, holding dioramas when Gloria’s gets blown into the forest. Oscar goes to retrieve it and Gloria follows, preparing to thank him. However, she sees him instead stomp on her diorama and she gets angry, thus a lightning bolt curves all over the place to hit her directly on top of her head (the same spot she scratches as a nervous tick) and Oscar as well. They were both coincidentally holding figures, Gloria a kaiju monster, Oscar a robot and the diorama he crushed that was hers was of Seoul and this happened at 8:05am. And that’s the explanation for how they can step on a playground at 8:05am and form monsters and robots in Seoul that act on their movements onthe playground. I’m not fucking kidding, that’s all the film gives you.
The film leaves so many plot holes about this event. What is this force that causes such a thing to happen in the first place? Why is the playground the only place they can do this? How is it that the two seemingly look like friends one second and then the moment he crushes her diorama, she suddenly hates him like she wants him dead? What even happens to the two after he crushed her diorama? Nothing is explained, you’re just expected to accept this extremely random and poorly executed reason for how all this insanity is being caused. It makes zero sense.
Even worse, the ending gets even dumber. After being beaten by Oscar, Gloria somehow comes up with the idea to just fly to Seoul, which is amazing for someone we’re told is essentially broke. She just goes to Seoul and the robot just happens to show up very close to where she is, so she walks over to it. Thus the monster she controls forms in her hometown, right in front of Oscar. Not only that, but she’s somehow able to (on the first fucking try!) reach down and perfectly grab Oscar, even though she can’t see exactly where he is and could’ve just as easily hit him or crush him in her hand without knowing it. And then we see him balling and begging for his life, but then calls her a bitch, so she throws him across the world, presumably to his death. I wish I was making this up, this is how the film ends. She just gets the idea suddenly to go to Seoul, manages to perfectly arrive in the right place to confront him, is able to summon her monster in her hometown, even though she had zero knowledge that it would work the opposite way and then manages to perfectly take a hold of him, even though she had no way of knowing where he was exactly and then the hero of the film, the “lovable hero” of the film, presumably hears him call her a bitch and thus that’s a good enough reason to kill him without hesitation.
The film ends with her walking into a bar and about to tell the story to a woman tending the bar and she’s offered a drink, to which she scoffs. My face pretty much matches Anne Hathaway’s look picture above. I did not understand what I watched one bit. I perfectly understood what the film was trying to do, but I did not understand how the film actually ended up doing it. As I said previously, the film’s concepts and ideas are clear, but the story is so poorly executed and explained that so much harm is done to what could’ve ended up being a very good film.
Colossal in short is about an alcoholic girl who moves to a small town and while discovering the insane power she has that manifests a monster halfway around the world, she ends up dealing with a rekindled relationship gone bad and overcomes a psychotic, controlling douchebag of a man. There’s a very interesting story in this film, the wrong person was hired to tell it. For me, the two main issues stem from the lack of explanations in both how Gloria and Oscar’s powers are truly created, there’s way too many plot holes in that. The other issue that isn’t well-explained is the unbelievable character transformation we watch Oscar go through in a matter of minutes. There’s no gradual descent to his psychotic breakdown, he literally goes from cool guy to drink a beer with, to insane supervillain that randomly lights a giant firework in the bar he owns, to prove a point that makes zero sense! And the reason Gloria comes to as to why he’s like this? He hates himself. That’s it, that’s the only thing she comes up with. Not that she never acknowledged him, not that he was constantly jealous of her being with any other man than him, nothing that could really expand his motivations, he just hates himself. That’s all. That’s fucking all.
So this movie has very favourable reviews, huh? A 70 on Metacritic and 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. I know I shouldn’t be taking sites like Metacritic seriously and I honestly don’t, but this is one of those cases where I am shocked about how loved this film is, when it’s the only film I have ever watched and every single person in the room with me thought it was stupid and those three people were not people with similar tastes like me. Four person combined with different tastes all thought this movie was terribly put together, yet apparently almost 80% of critics loved it?! I have to question that just a little bit, y’know?
So while I hate doing this, but I have to question what made critics really enjoy this movie? Once again, I’m not saying this movie is horrible (it’s just poorly executed), but the critic scores and such are just so high that I cannot comprehend it. So I have two separate ideas as to why this film got over well with critics:
#1 – It’s a film critics film, as it was a Toronto International Film Festival debut film
Naturally, films that begin in a film critic environment have a pretty good chance with critics to be successful in terms of their ratings of the film in question. I truly believe that this film goes through the same way a lot of films we enjoy ourselves do. You psyche yourself up for a film that matches who you are, of course a movie that you go in excited about has an increased chance of being really good. Why? Because you’re already pre-disposing your brain to liking the film, it’s why you have bad films, games and others that have the two extremes, those who hate it because it broke their trust, or those who vehemently defend it because they’ve convinced themselves it’s really good. In this case, I think a lot of film critics went into the film pre-disposed to like it, because it’s come from a film festival, so it’s supposedly “high quality”. I truly do believe there’s a snobbery when it comes to critics of all forms of media, so a film that was made with their crowd in mind, they’ll immediately attach to it, because it’s for them and not the peasants that enjoy “fun” films like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and The Fate of the Furious, both which have lower ratings, Guardians especially, which is a universally loved film by the average film watcher and yet only has a 67 rating on Metacritic, though it does beat Colossal on Rotten Tomatoes with an 81% rating.
So perhaps a large part of the film’s high ratings is due to the people actually watching this movie (considering it only made $2.9 million at the box office) being those who the film is directly aimed at, film critics. And they’re the ones who trigger the scores on sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes.
#2 – It’s a very pro-feminism/girl power film
Obviously being pro-women is a prerequisite to be “liked” and “acceptable” on the internet, so a film like Colossal that definitely is about a woman overcoming a lot, including abusive men, it’s got to be a difficult to film to slam if you’re a film critic. In this day and age of reviews, there’s no grey area in anything and when it comes to feminism, there’s certainly none there. You either respect women, or you’re a sexist, misogynistic pig, or at least that’s how it seems nowadays.
It’s weird to me though that this film has that girl power message, yet y’know for a movement about equality, there really doesn’t seem to be anyone having a problem with Gloria just straight up murdering a guy. Sure, was he a douche? Absolutely. Did he need his clock cleaned? Hell yeah. Did he need to be thrown like trash to his death? Ehhh…might be pushing that one. But again, you can’t say anything disparaging about a film where a women overcomes anything, right? That doesn’t make me want to say a ton of disparaging things at all about the film. Ghostbusters, anyone?
Anyways, at the end of the day, I didn’t leave Colossal thinking it was a pile of trash, a movie that shouldn’t exist. But it’s certainly a movie that I have to call out for being poorly written and poorly executed. It’s a movie that on paper has a ton of promise and potential, but the staff on the film could not have done a worse job bringing this very interesting idea to life. The acting is really good too, Hathaway and Sudeikis do a very good job with their characters, but the actual story of the movie is so convoluted, nothing can save it. It’s an absolute mess and as far as I’m concerned does not deserve even remotely close to the praise it’s gotten and the scores it’s gotten.