It’s very important to recognize that the Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo is making worthy inroads into Hollywood by staying original and true to his passion for science-fiction. In 2012, we spoke to him about his sci-fi/screwball comedy Extraterrestrial, his second film and his first to hint at the sense of humor and genre interest that fuels his second English language movie, Colossal. After working with Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey on the mixedly received and more serious thriller Open Windows (2014), Vigalondo returns to humor and sci-fi with even bigger Hollywood names, with Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis leading the cast. Along with the Kaiju sub-plot, this should make for an exciting mix. That it falters due to some fundamental issues is a huge disappointment.
I’m never one to gripe about logic in movies. Film is not about logic or recreating reality. It is, however, as Roger Ebert once said, “an empathy machine.” That the foul-mouthed, ramshackle drunken losers at the center of Colossal’s plot fail to generate empathy does not come from the film’s concern for sci-fi plot over character development. It’s just plain weak writing. Gloria (Hathaway) is a party girl who can’t hold down a job in New York. Her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) has had enough of her mooching ways, so he kicks her out. She takes a bus back to the small town from whence she came where she bumps into her old schoolmate Oscar (Sudeikis). He offers her work in the family business he has inherited: a bar. Meanwhile, many miles away in South Korea, news breaks that a giant monster has materialized to destroy Seoul.
By happenstance, and a few distinct tics Gloria possesses, Oscar and Gloria, plus a couple of other losers who drink with them (Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell), come to learn she has control of the beast. There’s not much that these alcoholics can do about it, but go with its flow, and in time a rift develops between Oscar and Gloria, as old traumas begin to rise that the egotistical Gloria never made much about but Oscar has begrudged her internally. It turns out Oscar is a sociopath out to exact revenge on Gloria. It’s a revelation that comes way to late in the drama to make sense, especially since he turns brutally abusive. That he comes to learn he too controls a giant creature in Seoul adds another dimension to the antagonistic relationship.
If only these roles would have been written better, then this film wouldn’t feel like such a chore of connect-the-dots. It’s fine that the story is science fiction and the connection between Gloria and Oscar and their creatures is never rationalized, but that does not account for extreme inconsistencies in character behavior between the humans at the heart of the story. No flashes of special effects can make up for it, much less cover up plot holes in logic, such as why the inhabitants of Seoul still continue their daily lives in the overpopulated metropolis when a giant monster keeps appearing to smash buildings, night after night. That it all builds to a showdown between “old friends” whose past missteps have turned them psychotic amounts to a humdrum experience within a film that should have been much more compelling.
Colossal runs 110 minutes and is rated R. It opens wide in our Miami-Dade area on Friday, April 21 at the following movie theaters:
- Aventura 24 with IMAX & Dolby Cinema
- Oakwood 18 in Hollywood
- Brickell City Centre Cinema in Miami
- Regal South Beach 18 in Miami Beach
- Sunset Place 24 with IMAX in South Miami
For screenings in other parts of the U.S., visit this link. Neon Films invited us to a preview screening for the purpose of this review.