Directed by Nacho Vigalondo.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, and Tim Blake Nelson.
A young woman discovers that when she walks through a certain park in her hometown a monster appears in downtown Seoul mimicking her every movement.
When a high-concept comedy delivers on its premise, it can be a truly wonderful thing. Successful examples that spring to mind include Groundhog Day, Bruce Almighty, Stranger Than Fiction, and I would even argue Snakes on a Plane! Colossal has an undeniably original premise (it’s essentially Godzilla meets Being John Malkovich), but despite the best efforts of the cast it’s a sadly unfocused and unsatisfying effort.
Having been unemployed for a year, Anne Hathaway’s character Gloria has been getting drunk more and more often as a way of coping. One day her boozy antics and increasing unreliability become too much for her very British boyfriend (Dan Stevens) to deal with, so he breaks up with her and she’s forced to move back to her hometown. She then bumps into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) a childhood friend who offers her a job in his bar and some furniture for the bare house she’s living in. She soon discovers that every time she walks through a local playground at 8:05am a giant monster materialises in Seoul and mimics everything she does. When she tells Oscar about this, they also discover that every time he enters the playground a giant robot appears!
As I said before, the best thing about this film is the main cast (although I feel really sorry Tim Blake Nelson, whose character is excised from the story as soon as a revaluation about a secret cocaine addiction makes him interesting). Anne Hathaway’s likability makes Gloria just-about tolerable, which is some achievement considering how determined the script seems to be to make us dislike her – when she accidentally makes the monster fall over whilst dancing she kills a couple of hundred innocent Korean civilians and manages to forgives herself for it pretty darn quickly. Jason Sudeikis gives a performance that is impressive simply because of how different it is to what we’re used to from him – when he discovers that Gloria slept with one of his friends, Oscar goes from being a goofy nice guy (the kind of character Sudeikis usually plays) to a jealous violent psychopath. The change is certainly surprising, but it’s also too extreme to be believable – neither is it believable that Gloria would forgive him for the terrible things he does, nor that their friends would do nothing to stop the carnage when they’re aware it’s Gloria and Oscar who are controlling the creatures.
The link between the two main characters and the creatures is explained away in a colour-drained flashback where the two of them were struck by lightning as kids after Oscar stomped on a diorama of Korea that Gloria made, something which both of them have inexplicably forgotten all about as adults (there’s probably a deleted scene where grown-up Gloria parts her fringe to reveal the scar from this event, but I suspect it was removed to avoid Harry Potter similarities). As flawed as Nacho Vigalondo’s writing is, his direction at least has some redeeming qualities. The special effects are well done for a low(ish) budget film, and there are a couple of memorable shots – never has a grown man stomping around a playground in slow motion been so chilling. However, it’s not enough to make you overlook the fact that none of the characters in the film are sympathetic (they either kill people or stand idly by while people get killed), the rules of the phenomenon are never explained (despite having no money Gloria travels to Korea where she can somehow still ‘see’ Oscar in the playground back in America?) and it ends with a sitcom-esque joke that nullifies any potential the film had to be a metaphor for facing your demons or understanding of the consequences of your actions.
I really wanted to like this film since original films are in such short supply these days (apart from La La Land and Free Fire, this is literally the only film I’ve seen so far this year that wasn’t based on pre-existing material), but for me it failed to satisfy the criteria that I judge any film by – i.e. did it have a solid plot with a semblance of internal logic, and did it have interesting and relatable characters. No on both counts. There’s potentially a great film that could be made out of this wacky premise, but this sadly isn’t it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★