A Marvel-ous Indie Movie

Well!!  I’ve been really surprised (in a good way) by two films this year, and both have involved monsters (the first being “A Monster Calls” back in January).

It’s really difficult to categorise “Colossal” – imdb classes it as a “Comedy, Action, Drama”. Comedy? Yes, but it’s a very dark comedy indeed. Action?  Hmm, not really…  if you go to this expecting ‘Godzilla 2’ or some polished Marvel-style film (not that I was!) you will be sorely disappointed. Drama? This is probably the nearest match, since at its heart this is a clever study on the people and relationships at the heart of a bizarre Sci-Fi event.

The morning after the night before. Hathaway awaking with a monster hangover.

Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) stars as Gloria, a borderline alcoholic-waster sponging off the good-natured but controlling Tim (Dan Stevens, “Beauty and the Beast”) in his New York apartment. When Tim’s patience finally runs out, Gloria returns to her hometown to an empty house and the attentions of a former school friend, bar owner Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who clearly holds an unhealthy fascination with her. Borrowing an idea from “A Monster Calls”, at a specific time in the US morning a huge monster appears from thin air in Seoul, South Korea, killing people and smashing buildings in a seemingly uncoordinated and random way. Bizarrely, this only happens when Gloria is standing at a particular spot in a particular kid’s playground. Could the two events possibly be related?

Beastly behaviour. Tim (nice but dim) (Dan Stevens) getting to the end of his tether with the wayward Gloria (Anne Hathaway).

I always like to categorize films in my head as being “like” others, but this one’s really difficult to pin down. It borrows its main premise from a famous scene in “E.T.” (indeed one also involving alcohol) but the film’s fantasy elements and dark undertones have more similarities in style to “Jumanji”. Then again, there are elements of the Kaufman about it in that it is as weird in some places as “Being John Malkovich”.

Oww! Sometimes headaches feel like there’s a chopper in your head.

 The film stays on ‘Whimsical Street’ for the first half of the film, but then takes a sharp left turn into ‘Dark Avenue’ (and for “dark” read “extremely black and sinister”). It then becomes a far more uncomfortable watch for the viewer. The metaphor of the monster for Gloria’s growing addiction is clear, but emerging themes of control, jealousy, violent bullying and small-town social entrapment also emerge.

Here the acting talents of Hathaway and Sudeikis really come to the fore: heavyweight Hollywood talent adding some significant ‘oomph’ to what is a fairly modest indie project. Hathaway is in kooky mode here, gurning to great comic effect, and this adds warmth to a not particularly likeable character. And Sudeikis (more commonly seen in lighter and frothier comedies like “We’re the Millers” and “Horrible Bosses”) is a surprise in the role delivering some real acting grit.

Abba fan? Sudeikis and Hathaway re-enacting the album cover from Abba’s Greatest Hits Volume 2!

The writer and director is Spaniard Nacho Vigalondo. No, me neither. But he seems to have come from nowhere to deliver this high profile cinema release, and it would not be a surprise for me to see this nominated as an original screenplay come the awards season. His quirky style is refreshing. (Hell, delivering ANY novel new summer movie that is not part of a franchise or TV re-boot is refreshing!)   

The film’s not perfect, and its disjointed style can be unsettling. While the lead characters are quite well defined, others are less so. Joel in particular, played by Austin Stowell (“Whiplash“, “Bridge of Spies“), is such an irritating doormat of a character that you just want to thump him yelling “Do Something you wimp” to his face!

Tim Blake Nelson (“Oh Brother Where Art Thou?”), Austin Stowell and Jason Sudeikis getting into the monster edition of Pokemon Go.

I am normally the first to pick scientific holes in a story, but here the story is so “out there” that the details become irrelevant, and – like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2” – the film revels in its absurdity. (There is however a jumbo jet sized hole in the plot if you think about it!) But some of the moments of revelation (particularly one set in a wood) are brilliantly done and you are never quite sure where the film is going to go next. I was concerned that the ending would not live up to the promise of the film, but I was not disappointed. 

Like “A Monster Calls” the film will probably suffer at the box office by its marketing confusing the audience. People will assume it’s possibly a “monster movie” or maybe a piece of comedy fluff (particularly with Sudeikis in the cast), but in reality it’s neither of these. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes for sure, but in the bland desert of mainstream movie releases, here is an oasis of something interesting and novel and in my book definitely worthy of your movie dollar. Recommended.

Fad Rating: FFFF.