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Colossal - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B+

There is so much to unpack in Colossal, I hardly know where to begin. I guess I'll start with the marketing, about which it's easy to be of two minds, once you've seen the movie. The trailer is deliberately deceptive, making the movie look much more farcical than it really is. Some people -- particularly certain straight men, given the film's surprisingly feminist angle on how men wield their power over women -- might even feel betrayed by it. On the other hand, having a movie offer a lot of genuine surprises not even hinted at in the marketing is these days a truly unusual tactic worthy of respect.

It's tempting to say that Colossal is the kind of movie the world needs more of, but even that slightly sidesteps the point. This movie is unique, so very much its own thing, getting more of "its kind" would diminish its impact. What the world needs more of is movies of such singular vision.

That's not to say that it's perfect. Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo offers up a broad metaphor here that is a little on the nose, a blatantly obvious representation of patriarchal, fear-based control over women. That is to say, this may be heavier stuff than you prepared for. There's a lot going on. Some light flourishes of humor, sure, but also a story a bit preoccupied with its own allegory.

But these are still vital issues, and if only we lived in a world where so many movies tackled them with such fresh perspective as to render a movie like Colossal as insignificant as it should be! Alas, we don't live in that world. In all likelihood, this movie will not age well. If it doesn't, then the world is moving in the right direction. It's a strange irony, the idea of a movie not aging well being a good thing. In a just world, in twenty years viewers will look back on this and say "Um. Duh." with a roll of the eyes.

This is now, though, of course, and we're in a sociopolitical climate that gives vitality to what might be seen as overwrought moralizing in this story, which is much deeper than it seems at first glance. This isn't just about a young woman (Anne Hathaway, taking a welcome left turn in the trajectory of her career) who goes to visit her small hometown only to discover she's the unwitting puppet master of the giant creature terrorizing Seoul, South Korea.

Where is that small town, anyway? Upstate New York? New Jersey? New York City is where she's coming back home from. So, why Seoul, while we're on the subject? The most logical idea -- not that the story here contains much logic -- would be that it's the direct opposite point on the globe, except that spot from the New York area is in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles southwest of Australia. The opposite point from Seoul? Just off the coasts of Argentina and Uruguay. I guess Seoul is just an amusingly Asian city for a Godzilla-type creature to terrorize. Maybe Vigalondo thought Japan was overdone.

But, okay, whatever. These details miss the point. Colossal has completely worthy things to say and it takes thoroughly illogical ways to get there. Best not to tear it apart and ruin what makes it work. Should the same be said of the couple of scenes that don't quite work? Unnecessarily lengthy monologues filled with uncomfortable tension that could have been much more succinctly conveyed? Am I just nitpicking?

The thing is, as fun as it can be, Collosal also goes to places that are deeply uncomfortable to experience. I dare say it could even be triggering for survivors of domestic abuse. The fact that it might make viewers uncomfortable, however, is what makes it good and worthy. This movie is flawed, lacking a certain polish in its writing, yet winds up offering an inspired message of female empowerment. And it does it using giant monsters and monster movie tropes, all rolled into one.

Toxic, codependent relationships and their collateral damage are literally manifest as monsters in this movie. How this can be is immaterial; that it exists is the important thing. It should also be noted that a clearly small budget is at work here, and the special effects team impresses with limited resources in ways today's massive blockbusters almost never achieve. There's no need to dazzle when just enough to serve the story, which is here far more impressive, is needed.

You might expect to be able to watch Colossal as mere escapist entertainment, but that would be nearly impossible. You're going to have to think about what everything means, whether you like it or not. And that's why you should see this movie.

Anne Hathaway is not the monster you think she is in COLOSSAL.

Overall: B+
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