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Saturday, August 14, 2010


Okay. Let's start this off with me declaring up front that I do not think SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a bad movie. Not by any means. The commitment that all involved with its creation put into it is fully evident on the screen and it moves at a pretty lively pace. The performances are mostly pretty solid, the special effects are both cool and interesting, the music's pretty good and the film has several outrageously-superhuman kung fu fights. Yet despite all of that I was disappointed and after a while kinda bored by it, and I think that's because I am in no way the audience this movie is aimed at.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is based on the six-volume graphic novel series by Brian Lee O'Malley (a series I did not read because I couldn't get past its pseudo-manga artwork) and tells the story of the titular Canadian slacker (played quite well by Michael Cera), a twenty-two-year-old garage band bassist who shares a minuscule flat with his cool gay roommate (Kieran Culkin, who steals every scene he's in). Scott is dating a sweet and rather immature high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a romantic state disapproved of by everyone he knows, but that relationship gets derailed when Scott encounters the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls head over heels for her. Though too much of a chickendick to do the right thing and break up with Knives, Scott feebly pursues Ramona, but the shit hits the fan when the pair start dating and Scott finds out that if he's going to be with Ramona he must first defeated her Seven Evil Exes, all of whom display the super-powers one finds in "fighter" video games.

The Seven Evil Exes.

Each succeeding ex is more powerful and vicious than the one who came before, so Scott, who was shown to be quite adept at video game combat, is in for the battles of his life, all in the name of love.

Director Edgar Wright, he of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ renown, keeps things light and very animated, but I grew weary of the whole thing around halfway through for a number of reasons:
  • Ramona has nothing at all to her personality, being there solely to be mysterious and punk rock pretty, but that's all. I kept asking myself "Why the fuck is this guy going through all of this bullshit for this walking void of personality?" Ramona is not so much a character as she is a MacGuffin, a term popularized by the late Alfred Hitchcock, that refers to "a plot element that catches the viewer's attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction," and as a result there is nothing to her other than being the spur for Scott's kung fu fights with her exes. I like a good love story but at no point could I see what it was about Ramona that so moved Scott, and if I don't give a fuck about the romance in a story where every action in it is allegedly motivated by said romance, that's a "fail" in my book. However, to be fair, I have it on good authority that much of what's missing character-wise in the film is all there in the graphic novels, so what we're getting in essence is a Crib Notes version of the story.
  • Though I was part of the first generation to grow up with them, I have never been a great fan of video games, unlike damned near everyone else I know, and this film is very strongly aimed at video game addicts. From the film's opening moments it is made clear that what we're watching is essentially a video game as narrative, complete with various plot points being highlighted by notes and indicators common to the video game experience. When Scott defeats an Evil Ex, the vanquished villain de -materializes and the number of points Scott accrues with his victory is visibly tallied, as well as each "power up" being displayed.
It's a cute gimmick but it lost its novelty to me very quickly and the set-to's mostly suffered from a sameness that grew very repetitive.
  • I have bitched for years about how when I see CGI-heavy films I feel like I'm watching someone else playing a video game, and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a nearly two-hour example of that. In other words, my worst moviegoing nightmare, despite how engaging some of the film's elements are.
As for the things I liked about the film:
  • The soundtrack hit all the right notes in evoking the story's Canadian slacker vibe.
  • The quirky effects that blended the live action with the video game-styled kung fu were exceptional (reminding me a lot of what a properly-executed live action FIST OF THE NORTH STAR might look like) and the martial arts choreography was blistering.
  • Michael Cera once more trots out his lovable/pathetic schtick and it works quite well here.
  • The one moment where I gave a damn about Ramona was when she engaged in brutal combat with Roxy Richter (Mae Richter), one of her Evil Exes.
That fight is totally kickass and it may be the first time, even after literally hundreds of martial arts movies, where I've seen a woman wield a warhammer.
  • Chris Evans, so fucking odious as Johnny Storm in the awful FANTASTIC FOUR movies (and soon to be seen as Captain America), is hilariously douchey as Lucas Lee, Ramona's extreme skater/action movie star Evil Ex.
Behold the face of a true douchebag.

The worst of Hollywood pretty boy ego personified, Lucas was my second-favorite evil ex, second only to...
  • Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram, the Evil Ex who plays bass in a band fronted by Scott's heartbreaker of an ex-girlfriend.
He's incredibly super-powerful and gets his abilities from having gone to the "Vegan Academy," something he self-righteously throws into the faces of all present, thus making him that much more of a complete and utter tool.Routh was the only good thing in the disastrous SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) and has since gone on to prove himself in memorable roles like his part in ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008), and I hope he continues to do comedy roles because the guy is a hoot.
  • Kieran Culkin is scene-stealingly hilarious as Wallace Wells, Scott's roommate.
Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) is the dude with the coffee.

Wallace is the gossipy friend of Scott's bitchy sister and he's perhaps the most significant voice of reason in Scott's world. Not at all a gay stereotype, the character is just plain funny and I would have loved to see more of him.

So as you can see, there is much to recommend about SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, so by all means check it out if the aforementioned skewing toward a twenty/thirty-something video game-loving demographic appeals to you. But if you're like me and aren't into that kind of thing, I advise either giving it a miss altogether or waiting for cable.

So, it looks like this movie is a box office flop and the pundits are weighing in with explanations as to why. Go here for a good article on all of this.


Chi said...

I have not seen this film yet (I went to see the Expandables instead last night), but I do plan on seeing it soon. So far, the movie performed poorly at the box office and well below it's expectations, very much like Oni Press's previous adaptation "White out". Maybe Oni Press's subject & stories just don't capture the main stream audience's attention.

But to be honest, I am kinda tired of films that celebrates geeks & losers. because we know in real life those types never amount to anything, so it's very hard to believe they can be the protagonist/hero and we're supposed to relate to and cheer for.

Mindlesskirby said...

What I loved about Scott Pilgrim is that guys my age finally have a romance movie that they won't get made fun of for liking.