Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 107: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

"Scott, if your life had a face, I'd punch it."

Easily the least deserving flop of the last ten years, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a fantastic movie that was horrendously mis-marketed in a summer full of films with brilliant marketing campaigns like Inception & Despicable Me. There are lots of brilliant films that bombed in theaters and then found a second life on home video, but most of them (Office Space, Fight Club, etc.) came out in the era of the video store, where word of mouth could spread through town and then drive people down to their local establishment to find out what the hype is all about.

The age of total internet domination may have killed the possibility of this happening ever again. By giving everyone a forum to voice their opinion on things, it's made it virtually impossible to sort through the people who's opinions don't actually matter. I know this sounds a bit egotistical of me, but I do know what I'm talking about. We may not always agree, but my opinion never consists of "that movie sux because it's gay."

I wonder, then, if Scott Pilgrim will ever become a cult hit on a par with the cult classics of old. Only time will tell, I guess, but there are so many awesome things about this movie, I kind of refuse to believe that it will fade into complete obscurity. As I said, the film's marketing campaign was horrendous. It even managed to keep me away, in spite of a strong desire to see the movie when I first heard about it, the trailers made it look like another wacky action comedy with the kid from Superbad, and that's about as far from the truth as you can get. There is a built-in audience for this film, and they went to see it in spite of the horrible marketing, but the average person could not be won over by hyperactive trailers and lukewarm reviews.

So what is Scott Pilgrim vs The World? It's based on a manga series by Bryan O'Malley about a twenty-something guy named Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) who plays in a band called Sex Bob-omb (if you don't get the reference, this might not be the film for you) and is dating a high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He begins having dreams about this mystery woman, and after running into her in his waking life one day, he becomes obsessed with finding out who she is. She is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Scott makes it his duty to be with her. There are two problems with this however. The first is that Scott is a total wimp, and refuses to break up with Knives before pursuing Ramona, and second, and most importantly, Ramona has seven evil exes that Scott must defeat if he's serious about dating Ramona.

The book series, and especially the film, are for people raised in and on video game culture. The opening  Universal logo is actually the perfect indicator as to whether or not you're going to "get" the film as it's rendered in 8-bit style, complete with 8-bit music. It's a stylistic flourish that perfectly sets the tone for the film. Edgar Wright is a brilliant director who's early work on the BBC series Spaced showed that he was a genre geek capable of seamlessly integrating pop culture references & genre embellishments into a straight narrative. His attention to detail here is mind blowing, as you can discover for yourself in this article (it's #5, but there's major spoilers, so only read after you've seen the movie).

So, taking all of that into consideration, how is it possible for the average person to even enjoy this movie? It seems like it's so full of video game references and hyper-kinetic editing and the like for anyone to make it all the way through. If you're cynical or unsure of this movie, there are a few things you need to know before jumping into it. First off, Michael Cera is not the stuttering, nebbishy dork he usually plays in this film. He actually manages to turn a lot of those expectations on their ear, and while there are shades of that side of Cera, he bucks most of them and ends up being pretty spot-on perfect. Secondly, the film is a bit repetitive. It's just the nature of what the film is.

Around the forty-five minute mark, it basically just turns into a series of battles, and while they're creative and unique, it does wear a bit and become repetitious. I think that even the film's most die hard defenders would be hard pressed to defend this, but the film is smart enough to know that this is its weakness, and the final fight (the "real" final fight) is a stroke of pure brilliance that almost completely makes up for all of the repetition.

The supporting cast is amazing. Chris Evans gives a performance that I didn't think he was capable of as Lucas Lee, evil ex #2. Jason Schwartzman is fantastic as always as Gideon Graves, Kieran Culkin is also great as Scott's roommate. Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick & Aubrey Plaza are all wonderful too, Pill in particular, her character Kim is probably my favorite. Even Tom Jane & Clifton Collins as the Vegan Police are awesome.

The movie's a hard sell, no matter how you slice it, but I think that the film has all the elements of a great movie, and more than anything else, that's how they should have marketed it. It's not just a movie for teenagers. In fact, I doubt the average American teenager would even like this movie unless they have a solid sense of irony, or really cool parents, or a combination of the two. If you're a fan of Edgar Wright's other work, and who isn't, you will enjoy this film. It's super cool and has more imagination than most other films being made today. So run, don't walk to your local... wherever the hell you get your movies from now, and pick up Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

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