Saturday, August 14, 2010


For the few of those who read this blog and those who know me it's no secret that I am not a Scott Pilgrim fan. I disliked the comic, I hated the hype and the media blitz for the new movie sickened me. That being said I decided when asked to go see the movie to approach it with an open mind.

I figured it would be good practice for dealing with something I can't stand in as unbiased a way as possible. I must say the opening of the film, where the Universal logo and music are done in eighties video game style, is incredibly endearing. I felt good going in.

To my shock I didn't hate Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, though I wouldn't be able to recommend it one hundred percent. It's an interesting thing in the movie because that which makes it so good ultimately defeats it. For those unaware this is the story of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a young man who meets the girl of his dreams Ramona Flowers(Mary Elizabeth Winstead), falls in love with her and then must fight her seven evil exes to have her.

The movie is shot in a hyper-realistic style that is very clever. Everything that goes on has visual cue attached to it e.g. when the phone rings or the doorbell rings there's text on screen representing the sound. It's a thick combination of video game meets comic book.

When it works the stuff is brilliant. The fight scenes are amazing both in visual style and choreography. I found myself completely engrossed in the battle and wanting them to continue for longer. When a person is "killed" in a fight they turn into coins, people get kicked through walls, thrown into buildings, there's psychic powers, a bass off, and all ratcheted up with video game style graphics bending heavy towards Legends Of Zelda.

The problem with the film is that it's too clever, it never calms down enough to just tell the story of two kids in love. The heightened visuals and quick cut editing don't end with the fights, they go through the entire film. Close your eyes and imagine every single thing that lights up, beeps, rings in a video game combined with the graphics that always pop up and lay it into a feature film. It's distracting as hell.

It would seem that if the story of the film had been shot as a normal story that the fights and other elements would have been that much more powerful. The constant visual and audio quirks also overpower the actors so you're left with living set pieces moved around instead of characters you get to know or care about.

The overload of visuals and sound hurls so much at the audience myself and several others felt a movie that clocks in around 1:45 was twenty minutes too long. It also doesn't help that for some reason the final fight is incredibly anti-climactic.

Director Edgar Wright does a lot to save the movie because he's just a great director. He knows how to get the most out of actors and their scenes together. Even with visuals, sound and editing chewing up the scenes Wright manages to get some amazing moments between Pilgrim, Flowers, Pilgrim's jilted girlfriend Knives Chau and Wallace Wells Pilgrim's gay roommate (brilliantly played by Kieran Culkin).

Casting wise Michael Cera was the wrong choice to play Scott Pilgrim. I always thought of Pilgrim as a geek with enthusiasm, a kid with issues but a go-go Gadget sense of himself. Cera (once again) plays his part as the stammering, unsure, goofy loser. Perhaps that is one way to go but Cera over does so much that when the fights begin you don't believe at all he'd even try this much less be good at it.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fucking gorgeous, heart stopping beautiful in this film. However she plays Flowers as such a cold bitch I spent more time wondering why Pilgrim would fight for her than rooting him on in his quest. I had the same problem with the books as well but even there Flowers seemed a little kinder than Winstead plays her.

Not to drown in the negative lets get back to Kieran Culkin who steals every single scene he's in, sometimes with just a look or a word. He is the best thing about the film, hands down. Funny, charming and even manages to flesh out his character, something the others can't do against all the quirks. The other surprise breakout here is Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. She absolutely breaks your heart as the jilted ex and floods you with memories of being that young and awkward in dealing with love.

Overall Scott Pilgrim Vs The World isn't bad but it's never ending need to remind us how clever it is holds it back from being great as does the casting of the two leads who fail to make their characters people we care about and in some instances even like. I will concede that I had to let go my problems with the "witty banter" that replaces actual dialog in the film because this isn't one hundred percent a film for me.

I remember seeing The Breakfast Club with my friend and his dad and the dad asking why the cursed so much and us rolling our eyes. I also remember seeing Singles and having a woman behind me ask her daughter "What does 'not in an Eddie Hascal kind of way' mean? Why can't I understand what they're talking about." I thought the movie made perfect sense but the film was made for me and my generation.

Scott Pilgrim is a film for the generation right behind me and it seems that's how they like their dialog. In the end while I can't recommend Scott Pilgrim Vs The World as worth a full priced movie ticket I can say it's a good DVD or matinee movie choice.

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