A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

March 27, 2012

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

At Amanda’s request I held off on buying this movie until our daily movie project was concluded because she had no particular interest in watching it. Her primary objection at the time that it came out was that it was a Michael Cera movie, and there’s really no way to deny that. Michael Cera has a set character he plays that grates on Amanda (sort of like jack Black) and this movie is no different in that regard. He plays a whiny, introverted, passive aggressive bumbling idiot, and she just really doesn’t want to watch that for a whole movie. I, on the other hand, feel no particular ill will towards Cera or his persona and was intrigued by the advertising for this film, so I went and saw it in the theaters when it came out… alone.

I’m glad I did see it, too, because it’s a really great movie that is aimed with laser-like precision at me as a target demographic. It’s a slick, well put together and entertaining film about the awful things people in love do to each-other. Of course it’s based on an indie comic book, so you know I was obligated to buy it eventually. (I had not actually read any of the books until after seeing the movie, but I did buy a couple and read them post-film and found it astonishing how closely the film followed the books – at least for the ones I’ve read. I understand they diverge near the end.) The movie is also heavily steeped in the lore of video games, something that it less true of the books but something which is, in the parlance, “relevant to my interests.”

The plot concerns Scott Pilgrim, a Canadian twenty-something guy who is between jobs and plays in an indie band (called Sex Bob-omb which will make sense to anybody with as much grounding in the lore of Nintendo as me.) He’s a bit of a douche and has a lot of baggage from some traumatic break-up he went through about a year ago. The movie doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is due to this trauma that he’s not particularly nice. His rebound relationship is an innocent fling with a starry-eyed high-school girl named Knives Chow (she’s Chinese) and much is made by other characters in the movie about how inappropriate this fling is. It seems that only Scott himself doesn’t realize just how wrong it is (though it’s hinted that even he has misgivings.)

Scott is surrounded by a crowd of fun characters who like him are adrift in life. There are his bandmates – Stephen and Kim. There is Young Neil, who hangs out with the band and plays DS games. (Actually – it looks like he’s playing classic Game-boy games on his DS – there’s no cart in the DS slot and at one time you can see the game cart jutting out of the bottom. Either that or he’s a FILTHY PIRATE with a ROM cart!) There is his sensible older Sister and his gay roommate. All of them are pretty much foils to talk him through his angst when he finds himself falling head-over-heels for a mysterious American girl with cool hair who roller-blades through his dreams one day.

This girl is Ramona Flowers – sort of a younger hipper version of Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. She, too has baggage from past relationships. Rather more dramatic baggage than Scott is quite prepared for. In fact her seven exes have banded together into a league of evil exes whom Scott must battle to win her love.

The videogame iconography in this movie is plentiful and amusing. From the chip-tunes re-rendering of the Universal studio intro to the boss battles with the league to the Nintendo soundtrack (you have to love that Zelda music) this is a movie that knows its gaming lore. At the same time it’s a movie that revels in its comic book roots. There are written sound effects, cartoon interludes using the art style of the original books and a feel at times of looking at comic book panels. Both of these themes are things that I revel in.

Add to the game and comic style a bunch of great cameo appearances. It’s not surprising, of course, to see Chris Evans in a comic book movie, but then there’s Thomas Jane in a short appearance which I hadn’t spotted the first time I watched the film. Then there’s Jason Schwartzman in a prominent role near the end that I don’t want to spoil because it’s one of the many cool twists and reveals throughout the plot. I loved seeing these folks hamming it up and clearly having a great time.

How did they get these great cameos in what is essentially a big budget indie film? I’m guessing that the influence of director Edgar Wright had something to do with it. Yes, this movie is directed by the maker of Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead. His distinctive quick editing style and fondness for clever cutting and misdirection is all over this film. It’s a movie that loves to catch you off-guard and tweak your expectations. It’s also perfect for the source material. If you mashed up High Fidelity, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and 300 this is the movie you’d end up with. Gorgeous.

What’s more – I think I enjoyed it more the second time through. I’m so glad I own the film so I can watch it now whenever I want to (when Amanda’s not around that is.) My first impressions (posted here to my Live Journal) were that the characters were somewhat shallow and that especially Ramona was more a prize to be won than a character in her own right. On my viewing tonight I got a very different impression. This is a movie about how we hurt each-other and how we deal with baggage from past relationships. I went through a period of being lost and alone back in the early nineties and I remember the ill-advised romantic decisions I made at the time. This film is played for humor but has an honest heart that acted to remind me rather well of those times and emotions. Indeed it’s almost too close to comfort in some ways. Maybe in real life we don’t get in cataclysmic duals that punch holes in walls and tear the roofs off of buildings, but it can feel that way.

Like I said, this movie almost feels like it was made specifically with me in mind. Maybe that’s why it didn’t do as well as it might have deserved in the theaters. How many video-game and comic obsessed middle aged men are there out there who have the time on their hands to see a funny, touching and kind of poignant reflection on the foolhardy nature of young love? Not as many as you might think I suppose. If it sounds like that might be your kind of thing, however, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough.

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March 27, 2012 - Posted by | daily reviews

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