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More People Need to Watch This Smart Sci-Fi Gem on HBO Max

Colossal is a monster flick about the most terrifying monsters of all -- you guessed it -- humans!

Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
3 min read
Anne Hathaway looking scared toward us

Anne Hathaway is brilliant in Colossal.

Voltage Pictures/YouTube/Screenshot

Judging by Colossal's trailer, the sci-fi flick looks like a zany rom-com with a giant monster thrown in. This is a good thing. Not enough rom-coms feature Kaiju smashing up cities and killing hundreds of civilians.

Colossal isn't really a rom-com. But it does feature a lot of people being squished to death by 500-foot devil behemoths.

Colossal is a monster metaphor movie. Maybe that's the most frightening bit of all. But don't let that scare you off! It's a smart monster metaphor movie, the kind of indie gem that combines an imaginative idea with a character-driven plot and huge performances from its exceptional cast.

Basically, it's a black comedy that sneakily peels back dark, psychological layers exposing the despicable, monstrous side of human beings. And then there's a giant CGI monster actually destroying everything in its wake.

Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, an alcoholic out-of-work journalist who moves back home to New Hampshire after her suave British boyfriend (the insanely charming Dan Stevens) dumps her.

Jason Sudeikis in a denim jacket

Jason Sudeikis gives an exceptional performance.

Voltage Pictures/YouTube/Screenshot

Broke, she lives in an empty house with no furniture, but is so tired and often drunk at night that she falls asleep just about anywhere. By chance, she reconnects with an old school friend -- an unbelievably good Jason Sudeikis -- who provides her with the kindness that helps her get back on her feet. Ted Lasso would approve.

Everything looks and sounds like a rom-com where one character learns a lesson and finds true love, because we all deserve a happy ending. But then comes the twist: Gloria opens her laptop one day and discovers that a colossal creature has appeared in Seoul, South Korea, killing hundreds of people and casually toppling the city's skyscrapers.

So how is this connected to her? This inexplicable monster in this city thousands of miles away?

A giant reptilian creature scratches its head, shown on a news bulletin

The giant reptilian creature in Colossal.

Voltage Pictures/YouTube/Screenshot

Eventually, you're provided with a mostly satisfying answer to this question. This inventive concept leads to the occasional absurd moment of hilarity, as well as a climax that induces the feeling of triumph. The soul feels well-fed.

But there's a far bigger reveal in Colossal, a far scarier moment that involves the most unlikely character.

No spoilers, but Jason Sudeikis elevates Colossal to skyscraper heights. His spectacular performance as Oscar, a bar owner who notably never finished renovating a hidden portion of his venue, is mesmerizing. Despite his nice guy schtick, it isn't entirely obvious that Oscar has romantic intentions with Gloria. You don't know where his character is going until the tone shifts and suddenly Colossal isn't as conventionally comfortable as you first thought it would be.

Colossal is by no means perfect: The final message is surprisingly confused, the resolution's delivery less assured than you'd hope. But Colossal is interesting, complicated and buoyed by an effortlessly charming Anne Hathaway, who somehow makes an on-paper destructive, unlikable character a heroine to root for.

Don't go into Colossal expecting a lighthearted, by-the-numbers romp. Expect a multilayered beast that mashes together comedy, monster movie madness and dark truths about the human condition. It's a movie about being unhappy with your life, about leaning into your deep-seated, unspeakable impulses detonated by sadness and anger. The consequences are inflicting just as much damage as a 500-foot monster.

Colossal is streaming on HBO Max now (and because to some people this matters -- it has a 70 Metacritic score).

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