At the heart of “Colossal” is a fresh, unique concept. A young woman, Gloria (Anne Hathaway), learns that she is connected to a giant Kaiju directly on the other side of the earth like a cosmic puppeteer. This core concept is brilliant, and a number of great scenes stem from it. But in an ironic twist, the movie itself begins to stumble under the monstrous weight of its (questionable) morality tale and heavy-handed metaphors.
We are first introduced to Gloria as she stumbles into her boyfriend’s NYC apartment in the morning after yet another excessive night of drinking. Her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), has had enough of her immaturity and tells her to leave before he returns from work. Her few bags of possessions already packed, Gloria returns to her small, rural hometown.
Besides her empty childhood home that her parents left to her, Gloria has nothing. No car, no job, no furniture, and no friends. She does come across an old school acquaintance, Oscar(Jason Sudeikis) who apparently was always far more interested in her than she was in him. “How’s your mother?” she asks, to which he replies, “She’s dead. She passed away before you left. You were even at the funeral.”
Oscar is very attentive to her needs, but an undercurrent of tension is present from the start. He seems fragile, and it’s already been made clear to the audience that Gloria isn’t exactly a nice person. In fact, none of the main characters in this film are very likeable people. It’s hard to care about anyone in the movie when they all have toxic personalities. This is where the uneven tone of the film begins to take it’s toll. Moments of whimsy and humor are abruptly contrasted with excessive darkness. Seeing the Colossal creature dance under Gloria’s control is funny, until you realize that a simple mistake just caused the death of 100 people. It’s an obvious metaphor for alcoholism and irresponsibility while under the influence, but as an audience, how are we supposed to react? Are we supposed to laugh at the humor, even though we understand the consequences that may result? Do you laugh along with the drunk party guy when he gets behind the wheel of a vehicle?
This metaphor grows to include feelings of inadequacy, control, and abuse in the second half of the film, darkening the tone even more. Characters begin to abruptly behave in ways the script requires, defying basic logic. Even during the final scenes of the movie, when we are supposed to believe Gloria has grown as an individual, we have a nagging feeling that she is still an incredibly selfish person. (Regardless of what she says about the casualties in Seoul)
The moments when “Colossal” works, it shines, but there aren’t enough of these moments to elevate it above the cynical, melodramatic characters, heavy-handed metaphors, and uneven tone.