Little Box of Horrors: Colossal
This time I go to the surest of surefire bad-good movie genres: Giant Monsters. Could this be the flick that does the trick?
It’s been a hectic weekend. Family up to visit. Potential kitties to adopt. New beers to try out. With such a whirlwind schedule, I decided to use that as this go around’s theme: movies that breezed right in and out of theaters. Let’s see who had me saying “Hello” because of how quickly movie-goers said “Good-Bye”. A Colossal undertaking, indeed.
- The Dinner (2017): I was intrigued by the premise: an extremely tense dinner date between two couples with very different ideologies. In the wake of the Trump election, this film seemed like it was going to rustle all the jimmies. But before I could see it, it disappeared faster than “The Mooch”.
- Free Fire (2016): This movie had one hook. Sharlto Copley. Neil loves him for Hardcore Henry. I really enjoyed his work in the PlayStation exclusive series Powers. Apparently no one else has that same catnip. This movie wanted to be a cinematic explosion, but theater patrons considered it a quiet fart.
- Colossal (2016): Another movie that pinged our radar hard, then went deep, deep underwater. It has Kaijus, dark humor, copious amounts of alcohol, and Anne Hathaway, whom I have enjoyed in just about everything I’ve seen her in. But much like the residents of Tokyo when Godzilla comes to visit, movie-goers ran shrieking.
I also tried to broaden my definition of what a bad-good movie was. For all three films, the potential for them to be awful was strong. The Dinner and Free Fire rely on holding tension in one venue for an extended period of time. Imagine if just about any iconic scene from Reservoir Dogs had tried to go on for an hour or more. Yeah. For Colossal, the blend of monster movie/ironic hipster slice of life could either be the next Being John Malkovich… or be a pretentious snore. I was looking for a movie that could thread that needle, skirt its issues and come out on top. That being said…
There can be only one….
Gloria is a New York journalist stuck in a rut. A 100 proof, no chaser rut. Having been fired for stirring the office pot, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has decided to just drink herself through life. Understandably, her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens doing his best impression of PewDiePie) is rather miffed and kicks her out. She then returns to her hometown, and happens to run into her childhood bestie Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Oscar now runs his deceased father’s bar and offers Gloria a job there (talk about enabling). Gloria settles into her new life of drinking PBR… until one night she drunkenly stumbles across a local school’s jungle gym. She wakes up the next morning, not remembering a whit of her gallivanting across the playground….
Go Go Godzilla?
When she finally comes out of alcoholic torpor she finds that everyone in her hometown (as well as the world) has a new worry. A giant monster has randomly appeared in Seoul, South Korea. It doesn’t seem to want to kill humanity, but its movements are wrecking buildings and stomping the local populace anyway. After a few nights of the monster’s traipsing, Gloria comes to a realization: the monster moves just like she does. It has all her nervous tics, and it behaves alarmingly like how her friends describe Gloria to be when drunk.
A little detective work reveals that Gloria is basically remote controlling the Colossal Titan, and that when she walks through the playground IT walks through Seoul. At first she is thrilled: she’s finally a BIG deal. But when her coming out party results in hundreds of deaths in Korea, she learns that actions do have consequences. She also learns that she is not alone: Oscar can summon his own behemoth within the playground.
The acting in this movie is really good. Hathaway and Sudeikis in particular. They can turn on a dime, going from funny to somber to blithe. It really helps get you into the heads of these people. They don’t play tropes, which is the number one thing I was dreading in a movie that was basically trying to be Sex In The City with a Kaiju. It is also incredibly impressive given that the screenplay is trying to hamstring them all throughout the film.
Dungeons and Kaijus
If one thing bugs me more than Ironic Slice of Life movies, it is a thriller that drags you by the nose. Nacho Vigalondo both wrote and directed this movie, and his lack of faith in the viewer is… disturbing. He is so intent on crafting a story that gets you to feel or think what he wants you to feel or think that it comes across as patronizing. Plot reveals come exactly when you need them. Even worse, they show you additional parts of a previous reveal, nullifying or massively altering what he wanted you to see beforehand.
Vigalondo would make a horrible Dungeon Master:
-“You enter a room. Blah Blah Blah, there is a book that you REALLY should look at in the corner. Will you read it?”
-“The book tells you a story of a wizard who is kind and good. It also tells you to go down the hallway and enter the third door to your right. You REALLY should follow those instructions. Will you?”
-“It turns out there is writing on the wall that tells you that the Wizard is actually a dick. You REALLY should believe this. Will you kill the Wizard?”
-“You know what? Fuck this and fuck you.”
The acting is wasted when the story asks you to believe: Gloria is bad and her boyfriend is good; Gloria is bad and Oscar is good; Oscar is bad and Gloria is kinda okay; her boyfriend is bad and Gloria is even more okay; and Oscar is REALLY bad and Gloria is good. Nacho thinks he is so much smarter than us and we need to be spoon fed his mind blowing story. A Colossal mistake.
A Colossal Amount of Bait with No Hook
Oh yeah, there are monsters in this, right? The conceit of this film is that Gloria’s monster is central to the story. It isn’t. This could be a regular story of broken people bouncing off each other and it could have spared Korea the damage. Gloria’s monster never serves as a metaphor. Not for her alcoholism. Not her frustrations. Not even for her need to feel empowered. It was just a kitschy thing to get the movie some extra press.
At the end of the day this movie is about a deeply flawed woman dealing with horrible men who are looking to exploit that. The monster doesn’t really do much to amplify or add nuance. The only time it does (and I almost guarantee that Vigalondo thought that this was the most important thing, EVER) was at the end, and by then I was checked out and had written a million better endings. Even the genesis of the monster(s) was lame and robbed power from any connection they could have had to their hosts.
Stick a Needle in Your Eye
Colossal wasn’t boring. The acting kept me going all the way through. The way that the monster is used in the beginning was mildly interesting. But while it wasn’t boring, Colossal was insulting. It insulted your intelligence. It insulted the people who did their very best to bring this world to life.
This movie failed to thread its needle. It really didn’t even realize where the needle was. Colossal had very little camp, or drama, or pathos. It just moved like a giant monster: aimlessly to its conclusion. I didn’t hate this movie. But I can’t recommend it. I almost hope to see Hathaway and Sudeikis together in something again. Maybe next time it won’t be a Colossal waste of time.