Gloria faces a difficult chapter in her life: her drinking habits have shattered her relationship and taken away her job. Looking to put the pieces together, she escapes from New York to her hometown, where she faces a reunion with her childhood friend Oscar and his crew. Taking up a barmaid job and indulging in drunken nights out, she’s trying to rebuild her life while enjoying the quietness of a small town – but only to realise that the monster raiding Seoul is connected to her, and the playground that she stumbles upon.
Almost everybody wanted a remote-controlled toy, a robot or a car, when they were a kid. Now, children probably bully their parents into buying them something that reminisces of a drone – but what would happen if your childhood wishes grew into something that has the ability to shake up the world on a colossal scale? In this instance, you don’t have to be careful what you wish for – Nacho Vagalondo’s got you.
The Spanish director puts a clever spin on a traditional monster movie, setting it off as an indie drama where the beasts serve as poignant symbols rather than pointless destructors. The creatures raiding the cities and destroying them are connected to emotions that feel very real here, opening up the pool of infinite interpretation possibilities. We’ve got adults with deep insecurities, stemming from jealousy, feelings of inadequacy and underachievement – and these demons at the back of their heads are destroying material things, giving our heroes another reason to rethink the consequences of things that seem as trivial as a quarrel or a fit of envy. These tangible effects of destruction act as a poignant, hard-hitting metaphor, adding weight to the outcomes of their actions.
The main premise of the film that borrows from video games comes full circle when we realise how it works. Steering away from the classic world dominance trope, we return to desires of an individual and their impact. There’s no villain or a hero in a classic sense here, but the portraits of our characters ensure that they’re human and relatable, and they ditch the labels to show that every stick has two ends, and there’s always more than one side to blame. Soon we start to discover that she might be prone to addiction, giving in to controlling people and self-destruction because of something that lies further than skin-deep.
What’s fascinating about this film is that the personal problems of an individual in a small town grow into a security issue in a city a world away. But this is how depression feels – even the little things grow into the size of an issue that is difficult to bear. Looking at the abuse that the main characters serve each other, we wonder if they’re ever able to rise above their issues: even thousands of kilometres away from each other, they’re still able to wreak havoc while fighting something that bonded them.
That’s why the final scene leaves us with a cliff-hanger: what will our heroine do? Did her strength to walk out of an abusive situation translate to a solution in the longer run? The finale is truly worthy of a superheroine – although there’s no typical battle that would put the film into a full VFX swing for a couple of minutes, the final resolution makes the protagonist claim the victory over her problems (and save South Korean capital, too).
It’s difficult not to develop a love-hate relationship with complicated, messy Gloria. Masterfully played by Anne Hathaway, she depicts vulnerability when she tries to figure out what she needs in life. And it’s also a wonderful rise of the female protagonist: she is struggling at the beginning, trying to understand that she needs to start from the bottom again, to regain power and act under the weight of new responsibility which gives her life meaning again. Jason Sudeikis is also splendid as two-faced Oscar who hides behind his pleasant façade to reveal his hostility and jealousy when it overgrows him. He manages to gain audience’s respect, and when the tables turn, he leaves us totally surprised at the direction his character has taken.
With interesting character creations from Hathaway and Sudeikis supported by a story interlaced with so many symbols and layers that the audience is set to uncover, Colossal is a thought-provoking indie film to kick off the summer season. Setting the bar high for the other releases, it might be one of the best films this summer, albeit without a blockbuster status and with monsters that make it worthy of one.