Let me put this straight away: “Colossal” is a movie for the XXIst Century woman, while “Wonder Woman” is a film for the woman of the 1st half of the XXth Century… not only because its date setting, but also because their inner developements.
Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” is a fine film whose background, reflects a concept of “girl power” in a – literally – spartan kind of way. A woman can be as hard, as unbeatable warrior, as any man, even more so, in the case of the Amazons. Diana Prince not only plays the “fish out of water” role, but also serves as shock value to her male counterparts. If the background wasn’t World War I, and the framing, the military – with only minor detours into the ordinary life – it could be kind of forgiven its cliched and dated message… however, the subtext is basically a promotion of the association of “girl power” with joining the military, which frankly, smells rotten but unsurprising being an american blockbuster with extraordinary high budget and deeply rooted in a comic book created in war times (1st appearance, december 1941, the month of the attack over Pearl Harbor!) and haven’t been really updated for the big screen outing, to be more in sintony with more civilized times in which fighting aren’t the primary source – or at least, shouldn’t be – for gender empowering.
In exchange, Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal”, desguised as an sci-fi dramedy extravaganza, juggles effortlessly with concepts like gender violence, emotional blackmail, addiction and its steps, and benefits of its extremely modest budget (it may feel amazing to learn that despite its top-notch visual effects, it costed around 5 million dollars all together), to keep everything restrained and down to the basics, without distracting the audience from the core themes, Vigalondo is interested in offering to his audience. While Diana Prince is a warrior, Anne Hathaway’s Gloria, in “Colossal”, is a different kind of heroine, a way different one.
Gloria is in the middle of a crises that is drowning her into alcoholism. She’s just not that deep so far – as subtlely hinted by Vigalondo, in her sudden stop of drinking alcohol and turn into water and soft drinks – but she’s already lost control of herself and her boyfriend basically demands a break. She goes back to the basics, more pointless about her own problems that she believes herself and falls prey to an old schoolmate and friend who had too obviously fallen for her long ago. So, yeah, here’s your usual rom-com, with an alcoholic twist, the audience expects. But then, there’s the kaiju McGuffin, and how it developes actually launch the film into more interesting and daring material, becoming a film about abuse, emotional blackmail, the dehumanization of the people we can’t see, the lack of remorse for the consequences of our actions (when we don’t have to face them ourselves, or can’t be blamed on us), and Vigalondo delivers a climax that shows us what (girl) power really is, to literally get rid of submission by throwing the problem away and acknowledging both power and limitations, both weakness and strenght. The final shot – Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar nom just for that, in my opinion – is both hilarious and trascendent, in a way that few directors apart from Vigalondo, can achieve.
With going into spoilerish territory, the main difference between “Wonder Woman” and “Colossal”, comes in the way the main “interest” of the female protagonist is handled and developed. SPOILER: Chris Pine’s character serves as link, as introduction into the modern society for Gal Gaddot’s Diana, also as love interest, later as “damsel in distress” in a role reversal that is later annihilated by his own sacrifice – so Diana can go on, into the sequel, expected to be set many years after. The whole thing feels superficial and basically with minor changes to the average screenwritting for blockbusters. On the other hand, in “Colossal”, Jason Sudeikis’ character starts as a friendly face, sympathetic, only later we discover that HE is the real alcoholic, that HE gets drunk with his new found power, that HE will abuse Gloria and that HE is the subtle villain that makes the audience shake. The shot of his feet while he stumbles on the playground while Gloria cries in despair, and we hear the consequences, have to be among the most chilling and effective in the recent years. While Chris Pine’s character sacrificed himself, therefore the woman ultimately owed the victory to a man, in Colossal is Gloria’s empowering, intelligence and resolution that allows herself to get rid of an horrifying menace. END SPOILER.
Colossal: ***** / A
Wonder Woman: **** / B