‘Colossal’ exposes the beauty – and the beast – of the inner self

“Colossal” (2017). Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens, Hannah Cheramy, Nathan Ellison, Sarah Surh, Haeun Hannah Cho. Director: Nacho Vigalondo. Screenplay: Nacho Vigalondo. Web site. Trailer.

Ever feel like you’ve unwittingly projected something of yourself out onto the world? That might not be so bad if it’s something benevolent. But what if it’s resulted in something positively monstrous? That’s the uncomfortable realization faced by a shocked young protagonist in the new sci-fi comedy, “Colossal.”

Transplanted Gothamite Gloria (Anne Hathaway) faces a number of challenges. As an online writer who’s been unemployed for a year, she’s virtually given up on looking for work, spending most of her time going out and drinking with friends, a pastime she’s begun to enjoy a little too much. These are habits not lost on her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), who has grown tired of her irresponsible behavior. In fact, he’s become so fed up with her partying and laziness that he’s unwilling to let Gloria sponge off of him any longer, so he packs her bags while on one of her nightly binges, informing her upon her return that he wants her to move out.

With no money and nowhere else to go, Gloria reluctantly returns to her sleepy hometown, moving into her vacant family home to try and figure out what’s next. Not long after arriving, she has a chance encounter with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old grade school friend who stayed in town and took over the family business, a popular local night spot. He invites Gloria to hang out with him at the bar and, after hearing her story, proceeds to offer her a job as a waitress. The prospects of a steady income (and a ready source of alcohol) appeal to her, so she gladly accepts Oscar’s offer.

Given everything that’s been transpiring in her own topsy-turvy world, Gloria has paid little attention to what’s been happening in the world at large. That changes, however, when she hears about a shocking incident in Seoul, South Korea, where a giant Godzilla-like monster has begun terrorizing the city. She’s stunned by the graphic video images of devastation blanketing the Internet and cable TV. But that’s nothing compared to what comes next, an even more astounding realization that sends shudders down to her bones: While watching the latest footage of events halfway around the globe, Gloria notices an uncanny synchronization between her movements and those of the monster. And, when she puts this theory to the test by trying out specific gestures, she finds the creature matching her move for move. In short, Gloria comes to realize that, in some strange way, she’s the monster, with her scaly Korean counterpart mimicking each and every action.

One might ask, “How is this possible?” Considering her recent behavior, one could say that the monster is a projection of Gloria’s inner self. And, when she sees the damage that “she” has inflicted, she’s genuinely distraught, looking for ways to somehow make amends. So, after some further investigation and experimentation, she finds she can manipulate the creature’s behavior, intentionally changing it for the better. However, that doesn’t eliminate all of the problems Seoul experiences, and it leaves open an important question: Why did any of this happen in the first place?

As Gloria seeks to take responsibility for her actions and those of her reptilian doppelganger, she starts to clean up her act, giving up drinking and seriously contemplating her future. She even begins taking an interest in a potential new romantic prospect, Joel (Austin Stowell), one of the regulars at the bar. But, as Gloria implements these changes, she also notices that Oscar begins behaving oddly, especially after she lets him in on her little secret. These developments lead to the emergence of some extremely puzzling (and exceedingly ugly) behavior on his part, actions that appear to have roots that stem all the way back to their childhood, clues to which Gloria discovers through a series of unsettling flashback recollections.

With external circumstances continuing to deteriorate, both at home and in Korea, Gloria soon realizes she needs to address these issues. She clearly needs to take steps to deal with Oscar’s increasingly intimidating behavior, as well as measures to save her soul (or is it Seoul?), before matters really get out of hand. Just as she summoned the monster from within her being, she must now bring forth other elements of her inner self to sort out the challenges in her life. It’s an experience that teaches her what it means to take charge of her life and the responsibility that accompanies it, an action with potentially “colossal” consequences.

Throughout the ages, countless visionaries, from philosophers to prophets to motivational speakers, have asserted that we each shape our own destiny, that the world before our eyes is a reflection of who we are on the inside, that our external reality is a projection that springs forth from within us. If this sounds familiar, it should, since this is the same basic principle that underlies the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the existence we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. And no matter what arises, it’s always an authentic representation of those notions, regardless of how beautiful or repulsive it might be, a realization that could either please us or shock us to our core, depending on the specifics of what emerges.

In light of what’s been unfolding in Gloria’s life of late, with all of her out-of-control drinking and unwillingness to pull her own weight, one could readily contend that her behavior has been rather “beastly,” and this symbolically manifests through her treacherous towering twin. She’s initially shocked at the footage of the creature wreaking havoc in the streets, unaware of her role in said events. However, once she grasps the relationship between her own antics and those of the monster, it gives her pause to reflect on what’s happened – and why.

With such revelatory insights now percolating through her consciousness, Gloria has an opportunity to change her beliefs – and her life. She begins retooling her intentions to bring about a better reality, one characterized by more civil behavior and an attitude of benevolence toward others across the board. But, in doing this, she must first unwind the beliefs that got her into trouble.

For example, when Gloria leaves New York, she’s clearly on a downward spiral, one that could continue to get further out of hand if left unchecked. As noted previously, one could even say that her very soul is at stake. Her inner beast is being allowed to run amok, and now it’s ready to match wits with that vulnerable soul, a scenario symbolically reflected in the creature’s appearance and, all puns aside, its uncannily ironic choice of cities to terrorize. Gloria is suitably appalled at the events unfolding in Korea, and their impact and meaning get driven home when she realizes that she’s the one causing them. But, in spite of her newfound awareness, the question remains, why is she manifesting this?

As a result of this new understanding, Gloria sets in motion plans to turn her life around. However, to succeed at this, she must come to some additional realizations. For instance, like many who struggle with emerging or full-blown addictions, this budding alcoholic must hit bottom first, and, to that end, she’s manifested the circumstances to help make that possible. By taking a job in a fully stocked bar with an enabling boss who never passes up an opportunity to imbibe with his drinking buddies (Gloria included), she provides herself with the environment and resources to address these circumstances – to either immerse herself in her addiction or to become so thoroughly repulsed by it that it prompts her to abandon it and strike out in a new direction. Considering the changes she starts to make, she seems to be getting the message and proceeds to rewrite her beliefs accordingly, giving herself a shot at a new beginning.

But, even with that enlightened perspective, if Gloria wants complete resolution of this situation, she still needs to understand the roots of this drama. And, again, her external world provides clues about this, with elements reflective of her internal state of mind.

One such element is Oscar. Although at times quite charming, he’s actually a bully at heart, one who has no qualms about intimidating others or lashing out at the world when it suits his needs. And, as unlikely as it might seem, in many ways, he’s another reflection of Gloria’s inner self, one not unlike her unleashed beast, a creature that also intimidates others and lashes out violently at will. Because of this, Oscar very much represents what Gloria could become if she doesn’t get the monstrous aspects of her being under control.

In light of this, Gloria must ask herself, why would she harbor beliefs that have led to such destructive behavior, both per se and in its symbolic manifestations? What would prompt her to formulate intents that could lead to her potentially becoming a bully in her own right? But, perhaps more importantly, is it possible that the anguish associated with unpleasant past experiences has led to her feelings of disempowerment and her descent into addiction? Answering these questions may well prove invaluable in helping Gloria satisfactorily resolve her circumstances once and for all.

The development of bullying behavior (and the beliefs that spawn it) often arise when someone is abused or oppressed by others. Manifesting beliefs form whereby the victim becomes the victimizer. Unfortunately, until one comes to understand this, the source of the original abuse or oppression is rarely the target of the retribution, and innocents caught in the crossfire frequently suffer the effects of such fallout, as the citizens of Seoul in this scenario can readily attest.

Given that, then, Gloria needs to understand what prompted the emergence of her recent behavior. Could it be that she was a bullying victim who now seeks to work through her anger and frustration by taking on the traits of those who once abused her? And, if so, can she alter her beliefs accordingly, say, to pinpoint the target of the comeuppance she seeks to dole out? Or will she recklessly dispense revenge in a haphazard, scatter-shot fashion, irresponsibly distributing it, as the monster does, toward those regrettably in the wrong place at the wrong time?

This is the challenge Gloria must work through. It appears to be something she’s put off dealing with for quite some time, one with life-long implications, as seen in her flashback recollections with Oscar, as well as in certain aspects of her recent relationship with Tim. Elements of victimization are present in both of these situations, so one could readily argue that it’s understandable she might unwittingly turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking or bullying to deaden the pain and survive. Indeed, if Gloria’s to fix this aspect of her life once and for all, she must not only deal with its source, but also take steps to prevent it from happening again. And she must do so in a way where she addresses her own well-being and where her payback is properly directed, sparing the uninvolved from unintended effects.

Should Gloria do this, she stands a chance to truly set herself on a productive and fulfilling new path, one free of the baggage that’s been holding her down. She’ll be able to conquer the demons that have been hindering her progress and causing her to unwittingly inflict harm on herself and others. That’s a colossal step forward, one that can be brought about simply by taking a look inside to see what’s there and why. Such a new understanding can work wonders – and in myriad ways.

It’s truly heartening to see an empowered woman like Gloria taking charge of her life. But this film is by no means a radical feminist manifesto. Rather, it’s an inspiring tale meant to bring the best out of anyone who grapples with issues of victimization, addiction and disempowerment, presenting viable options to address these challenges in a healthy, proactive way. (And who says we can’t learn valuable life lessons from the adventures of a hideous gigantic sea monster?)

Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s latest offering is truly one of the most unusual releases to come along in quite some time. On the surface, it’s part comedy, part campy sci-fi monster movie. But, beneath the surface, “Colossal” is an inventive, deceptively profound metaphysical fantasy about how our innermost thoughts spring into physical existence, offering us a tangible glimpse of true selves – if we only have the courage to look at it. The film’s excellent performances (especially Hathaway) bring the characters to life, enlivening the picture’s quirky yet thought-provoking narrative, and its surprisingly good special effects successfully resist the temptation to descend into the realm of the cheesy. Despite a handful of somewhat contrived, drawn-out soliloquies (delivered by Sudeikis in an often-annoying monotone) and a slight tendency to meander in the opening 30 minutes, “Colossal” succeeds beautifully in virtually every other regard, offering audiences a unique viewing experience, one that’s likely to become a cult classic.

Those schooled in conscious creation are no doubt familiar with the notion that energy flows where thoughts go, something that can yield decidedly tangible results, as Gloria’s experience poignantly shows. That’s true for all of life’s manifestations, too, no matter what the scope, venue or genre of materialization. In light of that, then, it’s important that we pay attention to what we bring into being; after all, you never know who or what may depend on it.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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