27 August 2010

Solo Round!- SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD Review

As something of a regular disclaimer, it's only my opinion here- others are available. As ever, mild spoilers may occur in the process of reviewing, but never so far as to spoil any major plot developments.
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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of a number of films I've seen in 2010 that were just so incredible that they left me struggling to articulate my thoughts for a good while afterwards. I wouldn't be much of a blogger if I didn't overcome this silent appreciation of the film and get right on reviewing for you folks.

Scrounging douchebag Scott Pilgrim is our anti-hero, living off of the same flat (and indeed, mattress) as his gay roommate and trying to win the adoration of his peers as the bass player in a garage band called Sex Bob-Omb. He becomes infatuated with one Ramona Flowers, and provokes the wrath of a league made up of her super-powered Evil-Exes. Ready? FIGHT!

For the second time in a year, after Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, we have here a film that's destined to become a cult classic. It's not to say it won't garner critical praise and fan appreciation at the time of its release (because it's already done that), but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a Hollywood film so fresh and exciting and left-of-centre that you wonder why everyone isn't going to see it.

The answer to that is clear- for all of its brilliance and insight, it's not a film for everyone. The use of video game and comic book vocabulary to convey the romantic angst of a certain age puts it squarely below the sights of many mainstream critics, who've tended to review the audience rather than the film. It's a film that deploys sound effects from The Legend of Zelda, and where characters burst into fight scenes as regularly as your High School Musical-starring teens will burst into song.

Moreover, our protagonist is a somewhat nebbish anti-hero, who's difficult to empathise with for a large portion of the film. As if director Edgar Wright didn't have enough to do trying to turn Michael Cera into an action hero. As Scott Pilgrim though, that same performance we always see him do gains something a little different. If the only reason you're not seeing this is because you don't like Cera, that will actually help your enjoyment of the film, even if you might find difficulty in following Scott's getting over himself and evolution into a better person. Through fighting!

And man, the fighting is awesome. I've complained about so many action films this summer that the fights are shot too close, in poor lighting, and so it's difficult to tell what's going on. The fights here are nothing short of amazing, excellently choreographed to mirror the button-mashing pursuits of Street Fighter and the like, with all the onomatopoeic debris of the 60s Batman series. It helps that we have such great comedy turns in some of Scott's opponents too, particularly Chris Evans' action star parody, Brandon Routh's psychic vegan and Mae Whitman's "bi-furious" ninja girl.

At its heart, it's a romantic comedy, but many I've spoken to don't get why Scott has to fight the Evil Exes for Ramona anyway. Surprisingly, most of these people are male, who I would have expected to understand better than the female audience, to be frank. I don't know about you, but I've known a Ramona. A girl so world-weary and jaded, and yet so unattainable that you can't think about anyone else. She's wrong for you, and those who've been with her say the same. Bryan Lee O'Malley's comics, and now Wright's film, externalise a geek's unrequited love (everyone's had one) and the jealousy and rivalry a bloke feels when he realises he's not the first who's ever gone after a Ramona.

Sometimes you encounter boyfriends or girlfriends in real life who make it so difficult for their ex that it's impossible to start a new relationship. These ones in the film control Ramona's love-life by duelling any new prospects to the death, and the only way someone of Scott's youth and experience can process this is through fantasy. Anyone who's ever picked up a console controller has imagined experiencing video game physics in real life, and in properly fighting for a woman instead of expecting her to sit idly by and watch his crap band, he realises that in hilarious fashion.

If sentimental rationale isn't enough, be assured that Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes Ramona a living and breathing entity, instead of some princess who has to be rescued from giant barrel-chucking monkeys every week. In looks, she's got the big anime eyes that her comic counterpart has, but she has the acting chops too. Hell, all of the performances were great here- Jason Schwartzmann makes for a very interesting boss level, Kieran Culkin is one of the comic highlights of the film as the aforementioned snarky gay roommate Wallace, and Ellen Wong gives a performance that occasionally verges on heartbreaking as Scott's tragically obsessed fangirl Knives Chau.

Before all of this business, I can't avoid the fact that the first half hour, before Ramona properly makes her entrance, is kind of slow. It's easy to see how those who have doubts could enter the film and wonder what rubbish they've got themselves into for a good chunk of the first act. Maybe on repeat viewings, it'll drag less. Perhaps it's as essential to the astonishing visuals that follow as the black and white overture was to The Wizard of Oz. Or maybe we just need to get to know these characters properly before all becomes astonishing and vibrant.

That's really the only nit to pick though, because Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is just wonderful. Its tendency to liberally burst into excellent action sequences makes it visually distinctive from virtually everything else in the cinema at the moment, and it's got a heart of gold too. The cast has a real camaraderie, plunging some of the group dynamics of something like Ferris Bueller's Day Off into the middle of Kill Bill, or to draw from a video game, No More Heroes.

If anything, you kind of wonder why video game adaptations were never as ballsy as to loyally translate the medium's visual style to the big screen. Why is the first film in which defeated enemies explode into coins an adaptation from a comic book? It just sucks to be those other films really, as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a near flawless victory, pleasing action fans and resonating with troubled young lovers at the same time, and all the while having enough fun that you'll want to revisit it within hours of leaving the cinema.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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If and when you see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, why not leave a comment on the film and/or my review? If you can help me when McG plunges through my ceiling and challenges me to a duel with seven Evil Hacks who don't like my reviews, flaming sword donations will be very appreciated.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

john.p said...

went to see this with sean:)