Second Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
REVIEW: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a fine film. Yes, fine. In a thumbs up/thumbs down way, PILGRIM's most definitely a thumbs up. The audience that I saw this with a Fantasia went absolutely apeshit, and I canít remember the last time Iíve sat through a wilder screening. That said, I felt like the loneliest guy in the auditorium, as I was probably the one person who didn't flip for it in a big way.
Now, I assumed that Iíd love SCOTT PILGRIM, as it comes from one of my favorite up-and-coming directors, Edgar Wright. Iíve almost worn out my DVDís of SPACED, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and HOT FUZZ (Iíd say SHAUN was among my top five films of the last decade), and I couldnít wait to see what Wright did with his first big-budget Hollywood film. Heck, I even really like Michael Cera, who takes a lot of flak, but given the right material (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, YOUTH IN REVOLT, SUPERBAD), can be extremely effective and funny. Iíve never read any of the SCOTT PILGRIM comics, but they sounded like a lot of fun to me, so I went into this with high hopes.
However, as I was sitting through the film, I truly felt like a total outcast. Here I was, sitting among an audience that loved every frame of this candy-colored fantasy, but for some reason it was just leaving me cold. Now thatís not to say I didnít like it. My reaction to this is a lot like my reaction to AVATAR, in that I appreciated it more than I liked it. I appreciate the skill behind it, and Edgar Wright does a downright visionary job behind the camera. For probably the first time since seeing Ang Leeís HULK (which similarly visually stunning- but emotionally hollow), I felt like I was watching a blockbuster that truly tries to do something different visually, and this doesnít look like any other film Iíve ever seen.
This is truly a live action NES 8-bit action game, crossed with a comic book, crossed with animť. Visually, itís marvelous. However, story-wise, I found that I was watching one of the most two dimensional movies Iíve seen in recent memory. Probably part of the reason I didnít quite get this is that Iím not a gamer. For me, this film was like going over to a buddyís place and watching him play Nintendo for two hours. There was simply no content for me to get invested in. Scott Pilgrim, our man-child hero, is someone I didnít particularly relish spending two hours with. Heís a snotty, entitled brat, and- all due respect to Cera, I didnít buy him for a second as the ďcanít missĒ ladies man everyone in this film seems to think he is. Pilgrimís a jerk, and YES- he eventually leans his lesson, but by the end of the film, I was beyond caring.
Now, it would be one thing if Pilgrim was the only two-dimensional character, but EVERYONE is like this in the movie. I didnít feel for one second that I was watching real people, and even the action demi-Gods of THE EXPENDABLES seemed more relatable than this gang.
Buuuut, I still essentially liked SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, if only for the look, and the energy level with Wright having this move like a fun Bollywood musical. The numerous fight scenes are, for the most part, memorable even though it takes A LOT to buy Cera as an action hero. But if you keep in mind this is a video game, you can suspend disbelief enough to get into these well executed, occasionally inspired fights, particularly a fun showdown with one-time Superman, Brandon Routh as a super-powered Vegan.
I also loved the indie-rock soundtrack. PILGRIMís band, Sex-Bob-omb, has a couple of really fun songs (written by Beck of all people). One of my favorite indie-rock bands, Metric, doubles for Scottís sexy-ex-grilfriendís band, Clash At Demonhead so Iíll be picking up the soundtrack for sure.
I just wish that some effort had been made to make the characters more believable or at least relatable on some human level, as this is the one thing that kept me from enjoying the film as much as I hoped I would. However, itís worth noting that none of the 700-strong audience members I saw this with had the same problem I did, so thereís more than a good chance that Iím in the minority here.
However, all of this isnít fair to Wright, who obviously made exactly the film he set out to make. From what I hear, it's extremely faithful to the original source material, and if the Fantasia/Comic-Con reactions are any judge, he obviously made a film that will please the hardcore fans. Whether or not John. Q Public will get on-board is another question. One thingís for sure: Edgar Wright is the real deal, and one of the most exciting directorial talents to come along in the last few years. I just hope that next time, he brings the same humanity to the mayhem that he did in his work with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Then, weíll truly have something special.