I watch, I drink, I spit hot fire. Yup, you guessed it, spoilers ahead.
Colossal checked off a lot of boxes for what I would theoretically enjoy in a movie. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, it is often funny, surprisingly dark, and an inventive new take on kaiju movies. I like all those things. The lead, Gloria, is easy to root for as played by star Anne Hathaway. And Jason Sudeikis impresses as Gloria’s friend and eventual foil, Oscar. For about half of the movie, I found this all very enjoyable.
Gloria is an out-of-work alcoholic forced to move back home to find some kind of meaning in her life. She does not. She instead finds Oscar, an old school chum, whom we quickly learn has some unrequited feelings for her. He also happens to own his father’s bar, and he gives Gloria a job as a waitress. Probably not a good look, but we’re moving along.
Then one morning, after Gloria stumbles away from a late night bout of drinking with Oscar and the boys, a kaiju manifests out of thin air in South Korea to cause seemingly incidental mass destruction and force the Koreans into a state of emergency. If you saw the trailer, you’ve probably gathered that Gloria eventually figures out that she somehow controls this monster. It appears in South Korea whenever she visits her childhood playground at dawn, and that’s usually when she’s drunk.
The origin story of how this came to be is absurd, but if I can watch a space raccoon battle an immortal mini-planet with a baby tree as a sidekick without batting an eye, I can roll with this. Things start going wrong for our lovable Gloria, however, when she decides to show off her newfound powers to Oscar and the boys at the bar. While doing so, she falls because she’s a clumsy drunk, and accidentally kills dozens, if not hundreds, of Koreans via her kaiju self.
She feels terrible about it. But after some positive vibes sent her way from the gang, Gloria decides it’s okay to drink again, but now Oscar wants in on the action and he finds out, well, somehow he appears in Korea, too. As a giant, destructive robot. At this point, the story takes on a very noticeable shift in tone, and suddenly we’re watching an entirely different, much darker movie.
When Gloria denies Oscar, he doesn’t take no for an answer, and he doesn’t give a shit about how many Koreans he kills to get his way. Dude goes from sidekick to villain real quick. Not that I can’t get down with a Something Wild-type jump to the dark side, but this is also where the movie starts getting exposed like it’s on a Kyrie Irving iso.
Sudeikis plays Oscar DARK. It’s sudden and it’s mesmerizing. Honestly, it’s his best work. There is some motivation for Oscar’s turn: Gloria sleeps with someone in town, and it isn’t Oscar. It’s one of his boys, so Oscar is jealous, but there is still no backstory for why Oscar is a psychotically abusive sadist. Sudeikis, to his credit, plays the character so offbeat and deranged, I almost bought it.
Oscar’s change, however, renders his character development to this point pretty meaningless. Both he and Gloria become massive cardboard cutouts for broader ideas, Oscar in one corner representing toxic masculinity, and Gloria in the other for feminism. Gloria has to stop Oscar from destroying South Korea, but she can’t really beat him physically. She needs to find a way to use her power (the kaiju) to stop him. Which sounds pretty cool, if not for the completely nonsensical logic of their bystanders.
All of the main story line takes place in a matter of weeks. And, in that time, the Koreans on the receiving end of rampant and capricious wrath from these white monsters keep coming back to ground zero. As opposed to evacuating the area; even after everyone in the world seems to have figured out that the monsters return in the same general location every time.
Whatever homes and buildings have been demolished by kaiju, the industrious Koreans quickly rebuild for their return like some kind live-action Stacraft. If it were a matter of years — even months — I could understand. People need to get on with their lives and rebuild. But weeks? You’re back to work at your bar in weeks since the giant monster never-before-seen by humankind just destroyed your neighborhood, and then did it again, and then again with a buddy?
Furthermore, when the monsters appear, the Koreans gather around to watch the damned thing. Very bold for a population in which ostensibly hundreds were killed by what they could at best perceive as two good-spirited, but very clumsy monsters. Why are they still there? Why do they keep coming back? Is it a Korean thing?
No, no it isn’t. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: an American-centric movie didn’t bother to consider people of color as anything more than a backdrop for grandiose whiteness. We’re set up, knocked down, then set up again for little more than to further dramatize Gloria’s battle with toxic masculinity. We are props, masquerading as nostalgia, battered by unapologetic white feminism.
If the Koreans in this movie were actually humans, they would have had some common sense and gotten the fuck out of Dodge. Gloria, nevertheless, figures out a way to save them by going to South Korea, and she does so in front of thousands of adoring Korean fans who don’t at all consider that she might somehow be connected to all of this destruction somehow. She soaks it in, she’s a hero.
Gloria has done it, she has taken her stand against Oscar and won. And after vanquishing her foe, she goes to a bar nearby, which for whatever the fuck reason the bartender is still there. And she decides, you know what, after my alcoholism and shameless sense of entitlement basically caused all this madness in the first place, I’m gonna go ahead and have another drink. LOLOL 🙌 we won, right?