Colossal (2016)

“What’s the most irresponsible thing I can do in this bar?”

As far as I”m concerned, saying that a film is Nacho Vigalondo‘s latest effort is more than enough reason to see it.

Back in 2005, he suddenly thrust himself on the film world with his incredible, Oscar-nominated short film, 7:35 in the Morning which reveals with incredible clarity just how creepy the musical really is.

Since then he’s released a consistently interesting series of feature films:  a twisty time travel thriller (Time Crimes); a romantic comedy set during an alien “invasion” (Extraterrestrial); and a cyberpunkish supercriminal thriller that played out in real time on a computer screen (Open Windows).  In all of them, he seems to have found some truly unique approach to familiar genre territory.

Colossal is no exception.

At first glance you might think this is a giant monster movie.  After all, we have a classic Kaiju wading through Seoul, South Korea.  But this is a beast of a different color altogether, as the focus is on a young woman who moves back home after her boyfriend throws her out because she refuses to take any responsibility for her life — and not on the monster.

Well…sorta.

Instead of the usual themes we expect from this sort of film — nuclear war, or how other nations got tossed around in the struggle between superpowers, or how powerless we are before the might of nature — the underlying theme here is taking responsibility for one’s life and actions.  Gloria (Anne Hathaway) suddenly sees the connection between her drunken behavior and its terrible — if unintended — consequences.  And the real villain of the piece – her appalling boss, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) makes this even clearer when, to make a rather unpleasant point,  he does the single most irresponsible thing he could do.

Mind you, the monsters are a lot of fun — particularly the rather sad and solemn Gloria monster.  It really is hard to say just where they came from:  one might interpret their origin as a psychic projection, or as tapping into some existing power.  It could be a science fictional display of psionic power or the summoning of an interdimensional being  — or it might just be pure fantasy.   In a way, it really doesn’t matter.  At least not to Nacho, who merely shows us what happened without bothering to offer an unsatisfactory explanation.  We’ve seen quite a few Kaiju Eiga where there is some intimate connection between the monster and a human ally (as often as not, a child), so we’re not exactly talking something new…

Or are we?  Certainly we never saw a creature “controlled” quite this way before.

Well, who cares?  It’s wicked fun, but it also has a bit of emotional depth, wrapping its monster on monster violence around a character’s redemptive arc — and it manages to do something that the old Toho classics couldn’t do:  make the human story wrapped around the guys in the rubber Kaiju suits as interesting as the monsters themselves.

And the final battle achieves a gloriously batty Vigalondo-esque height that few other giant monster epics have ever approached.

Oh, just watch it already.  You’ll love it.

(Former member of Mark’s Wish List)

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