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Colossal is the Citizen Kane of Monster Movies

Don't read this review. Sorry, I don't mean to tell you what to do, but one of the true joys of cinema I have had this year was watching "Colossal" without knowing anything about it. As the plot continued to escalate and become darker and entirely unpredictable, I realized I was watching one of the best movies of the year. So put down the newspaper and go see this movie right now, without knowing anything specific. This is your last chance.

"Colossal" tells the story of Gloria (a perfect Anne Hathaway), an alcoholic failed writer living in New York with her frustrated boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). After Tim has finally had enough of her drunken shenanigans, he kicks her out of their apartment, forcing her to move back to her hometown somewhere in Middle America.

Depressed and lonely, Gloria runs into her childhood friend Oscar (a very good Jason Sudeikis), who is warm and kind to her, even offering her a job at the bar he owns. Every night after the bar closes, Oscar and Gloria and Oscar's friends drink until the sun comes up. She then usually sleeps it off on a bench in a playground near her house.

Meanwhile, a massive reptilian monster (or kaiju in the proper parlance) appears in Seoul, South Korea, and destroys part of the city, killing many people. After several drunken nights and some deductive reasoning, Gloria figures out that if she steps into the park at 8:05a.m., then she controls the kaiju's movements and is responsible for all that death and destruction.

That's only the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, and it doesn't remotely go where you think it will, based on that description. "Colossal" isn't just a giant monster movie and shouldn't be classified as one. Instead, it's something much more serious and, dare I say, profound. Thematically, everything related to the giant monster is a metaphor but writer/director Nacho Vigalando (the filmmaker behind the also quite brilliant "Timecrimes") never smashes the audience over the head with them.

The ideas Vigalando wants to explore are so densely packed into the film that it will take multiple viewings to even catch all of them, like hard-to-find-Pokemon. Gloria's alcoholism caused her to drunkenly stumble through the playground without thought, causing all of the destruction halfway across the world. The script and direction allows us to decide whether we should interpret that as American imperialism raining destruction down on a country most will never see, or if the mayhem happening is symbolic of Gloria's alcoholism affecting complete strangers.

Gloria is also controlled by the men in her life, constantly trying to "help" her or shape how she lives. The modern woman fighting for control of her own agency is a thematic concern threaded throughout the entire film — quite heady for a giant monster movie.

I'm sorry you read all this. You shouldn't have. Now you know too much. Even if you think sci-fi or monster movies are stupid, this is unlike any film that has ever been made before. In history. How often does that happen? This is the "Citizen Kane" of giant monster movies. What a time to be alive.


Dir. Nacho Vigalando

Grade: A

Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Tin Pan Theater, Sisters Movie House

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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