Review: Colossal Offers An Appealing Meld Of Monsters And Emotions

Marrying the seemingly incompatible forms of indie drama and monster movie, Colossal manages to blend the two genres in an appealing way; buoyed by two strong leads.

The film stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a party girl marooned in her hometown following a break-up. She almost immediately run into her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Happy to see her back in his world, he provides her with some furniture and a job at his seemingly rundown – but actually kickass – bar. So far, well-trod indie movie territory.

But following her first night home, Gloria awakens with a hangover and the news that a giant monster has attacked Seoul, South Korea. She reacts to the story far more than anyone else in her life and soon discovers that she and the monster are connected despite being thousands of miles apart.


Eschewing the look and tone of kaiju movies, writer/director Nacho Vigalondo uses the visual grammar of the indie film, but creates a credible giant monster threat through the use of television news. The headlines themselves are often the source of some of the movies biggest laughs. The jokes also lay seeds of a jeopardy that becomes quite real. Vigalondo milks the mix of genres for much of the comedic and dramatic potential it has to offer. He also deftly utilizes both in a sequence featuring little more than Hathaway’s foot in a playground.

Whether she walks with confidence or stumbles drunk, Hathaway’s performance offers as much validity to the story as Vigalondo’s use of the monster footage on omnipresent televisions. She impresses both as the ne’er-do-well and as the main character in an indie drama realizing a deep internal truth. She also scores some big laughs, like when she first realizes her tie to the monster. It is an elegant, often subdued performance with a number of great punctuation marks. Though the character is on a journey of self-discovery, Hathaway imbues her with a sense of fun, like in the scene when she first visits Oscar’s half-sports/half-western bar.

And like his half-styled bar, Oscar is a complicated character, offering some of the Sudeikis’s boyish charms and revealing an unsettling take on the manchild characters he often plays. In many ways, his performance is a revelation, but to offer examples would spoil the surprise of his work in the film. Though Hathaway does the heavy lifting in Colossal, Sudeikis may find more dramatic work thanks to his role in the film.

Time Blake Nelson and Legion’s Dan Stevens also do fine work in supporting roles as Oscar’s longtime drinking pal and Gloria’s ex-boyfriend, respectively. Both stand decidedly in the indie film strand of the story and round out that world well. Austin Stowell also appears as one of the few to learn about Gloria’s connection to the monster, but he is curiously underdeveloped.

Besides the one partially cooked character, the movie also moves at an odd pace and eventually makes the viewer very aware of its nearly two-hour runtime. It also offers a little too much explanation about the monster, robbing it of some of the quirky charm of its physical appearance.

Despite these flaws, Colossal is a very appealing and satisfying film. It proves character pieces and monster movies can inhabit the same universe, offering one genre interesting insights into the other. It also illustrates how modern life can feel as threatening and as absurd as a Godzilla movie.

Colossal opens today in select cities.

Erik Amaya
Erik Amaya
Host of Tread Perilously and a writer at Monkeys Fighting Robots. Voice of Puppet Tommy on The Room Responds and former host of The Satellite Show. A seeker of the Seastone Chair and the owner of a Legion Flight Ring. Sorted into Gryffindor, which came as some surprise.