Twenty-five years ago, in Seoul, there was one night a little girl looking for a doll she had dropped in the park, and though her mother tried to tell her to come home, she persisted until she succeeded. But then there was a clap of thunder, a flash of lightning, and a huge monster appeared in the sky which terrified all who saw it - then disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. In modern times, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has wandered in from a party to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) to find him mightily annoyed with her irresponsible behaviour, so much so that he has packed her suitcases and told her to leave. Gloria heads home to her empty parents' house... and something very weird.
Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo had a habit of playing with genre material in his work, not entirely committing to the tropes of science fiction but using them in conjunction with other, more ordinary and reality-based set-ups, and Colossal perhaps took those about as far as they could go. Although some described this as a comedy, there were very few laughs, in effect more a drama combined with the trappings of the Japanese kaiju movies such as Godzilla that nation and others in the Far East churned out seemingly as often as Hollywood used to generate Westerns with John Wayne or Randolph Scott. Quite why the filmmaker thought this was a solid idea remained baffling to many audiences.
But combine them he did, though contrast was a better word for what he was up to, leaving an air of mystery as to what was happening even with its explanatory scenes later on. Gloria's personal problems - she has no job, she is on the road to alcoholism, her boyfriend has chucked her out of their flat - would be enough for any number of indie dramas, but when she returns to her hometown she finds no solution there, meeting old schoolfriend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who now owns his late father's bar, and makes no secret of his delight she is back where he feels she belongs. He gives her a job, and begins to furnish her empty house as if she has asked him to though she doesn't recall asking.
But never mind that, for here comes the strange bit: remember the monster in Seoul? It's back, and smashing up the city, but only for brief periods at a time, appearing and disappearing in a crackle of electricity and clouds of smoke. Gloria is amazed when she sees this online, as are the rest of the world, but the curious gestures the monster makes look strangely familiar... it is then she realises this enormous beast is acting exactly as she does when she is walking across a certain patch in town, the local play park to be precise. What is going on? How could her behaviour affect a city thousands of miles across the world? Vigalondo almost reluctantly provided a solution to that mystery, but not one that made a whole lot of sense, which should twig the viewer to the metaphorical nature of the piece.
Although there were twists to come, essentially what Colossal appeared to be about was how the media, be that professional or the online world of the social variety, can blow up the personal out of all proportion, therefore a relationship breaking down can be big news if it is between celebrities, or if it falls apart thanks to violence among ordinary folks, it can make the news in a different way. Whatever, you could accuse the director of not really thinking his comparisons through and dreaming up a great idea but not following it to a truly satisfying conclusion, notably when the fact that Gloria causes deaths, not intentionally at first, was taken for granted within the parameters of the plot where this bizarre phenomenon was considered. For that reason the morals were rather shapeless when in an actual kaiju they were better defined, and that was a deal breaker for many audiences, yet if you were looking for something that went out of its way not to fit into one category, then this was daring enough. Music by Bear McCreary.