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 cant remember the last time Ive 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 Id love SCOTT PILGRIM, as it comes from one of my favorite up-and-coming directors, Edgar Wright. Ive almost worn out my DVDs of SPACED, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and HOT FUZZ (Id say SHAUN was among my top five films of the last decade), and I couldnt 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. Ive 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 thats not to say I didnt 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 Lees 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 doesnt look like any other film Ive ever seen.
This is truly a live action NES 8-bit action game, crossed with a comic book, crossed with animé. Visually, its marvelous. However, story-wise, I found that I was watching one of the most two dimensional movies Ive seen in recent memory. Probably part of the reason I didnt quite get this is that Im not a gamer. For me, this film was like going over to a buddys 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 didnt particularly relish spending two hours with. Hes a snotty, entitled brat, and- all due respect to Cera, I didnt buy him for a second as the cant miss ladies man everyone in this film seems to think he is. Pilgrims 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 didnt 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. PILGRIMs 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 Scotts sexy-ex-grilfriends band, Clash At Demonhead so Ill 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, its worth noting that none of the 700-strong audience members I saw this with had the same problem I did, so theres more than a good chance that Im in the minority here.
However, all of this isnt 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 things 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, well truly have something special.
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