Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, and Jason Schwartzman - Rated PG-13

This movie isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for me.

Here’s the deal: I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World nearly a week after its release. I know it bombed (or at least it didn’t exactly tear up the box office), and I am aware that many critics, especially those of the online persuasion, sang its praises as loud as they could.

Now, with all that out of the way, allow me to fall in line with all the rest. I loved every minute of this film. It was dork heaven. I knew from the very beginning that this film was made for me. Instead of the traditional Universal Studios intro, there is an 8-bit videogame version of the logo with retro videogame music to match. In a word: awesome.

Before I really get into why I love this movie so much, I will acknowledge that this film is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. First, it’s based on a series of graphic novels. I loved the graphic novels (even if I only read them because I heard about the film project), so the realization of the series as a film was its own thrill. Second, it stars Michael Cera, who is becoming one of my favorite comedic actors. Third, it contains numerous old school videogame references. When an enemy is defeated, coins appear. Scott gets a 1-UP at one point. The main characters have a band called Sex Bob-omb, etc. Fourth, this is a comic book adaptation in the truest sense. When a phone rings, “Riiiinnnnnngggggg” shows up on the screen. That kind of thing happens throughout. Fifth, you have to accept that supernatural fights break out every now and then, and none of the characters seem surprised by it.

After reading that, you have one of two reactions. Either you think it sounds like a garbled mess of a movie or it sounds like an amazing entertainment experience. I, of course, fall into the latter of the two.

If you’re still reading, here’s a quick synopsis: Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a slacker in his early 20s. He’s dating a high school girl, but soon meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is literally the girl of his dreams. He has to juggle being in the midst of a battle of the bands while battling Ramona’s seven evil exes.

Scott Pilgrim is not about plot, though. It’s about the little things. That’s how the comic worked and that’s how the movie works. There are so many moments in this film that work so well in their small doses that I can’t recount them all…but I’ll at least name a few. There’s the vegan police, the “Seinfeld” scene, the music (I highly suggest buying the soundtrack), the awesome fight scenes, there’s a bass battle, etc. Once again, that sounds messy, but it works somehow.

I can see someone watching this and getting completely lost, but I watched it and became completely engrossed in it. The editing is jarring, but in a good way. The cuts create a real comic book feeling (and it was nice to see actual panels from the comic used in the film). An example of that is how quickly the movie goes from one location to the next or from night to day. Director Edgar Wright truly captured the spirit of the books. More impressive, he made the best videogame movie ever…and this isn’t even based on a videogame.

I mention the videogame stuff again because the movie is very much inspired by games. If you’re not an old-school gamer, then a lot of the references and sound effects will be completely lost on you. This is why I don’t plan on recommending this movie to most people. But most of my friends will dig the videogame stuff. My common acquaintances, though, I’ll tell them to skip it…or at least watch at their own risk.

The casting is causing an issue as well. Some people out there just hate Michael Cera. Obviously, I am not one of those people. I still think if people check out Youth in Revolt they’ll see that Cera has some chops and isn’t a one-note actor. Scott Pilgrim is another example of his acting ability. He isn’t playing the whiny, dry-humored virgin in this one. In fact, he plays an oblivious, grinning idiot, which is a stretch for him. He completely pulls it off, too. There are moments in this film when he just stares into space with a stupid grin on his face and it is hilarious. I hate to say it, though, but this movie isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about the guy. If you hate Cera, you just hate him. There’s no getting around it, I guess. If your only reason for avoiding this film is Cera, however, I am pleading with you: put aside your hatred of him and give the movie a chance.

The supporting cast backs up Cera quite nicely. Winstead has a kind of beauty that I can’t put my finger on, and she plays cool so well. I can completely understand why Pilgrim falls for her. Kieran Culkin stands out as Scott’s witty roommate. Chris Evans is very funny as the bad actor ex-boyfriend of Ramona. His gruff voice is amusing alone. Brandon Routh (the latest Superman) is surprisingly hilarious as a psychic vegan. And Jason Schwartzman is perfect as Gideon Graves, the most evil of all the evil exes. To be honest, I could just list the entire supporting cast because they all work so well. Perhaps this is just the graphic novel fan coming out in me, but I felt that every actor embodied their comic counterpart.

Now’s the time I’m supposed to tell you what’s wrong with Scott Pilgrim, but I have nothing for you. What some might find messy, I find brilliantly disheveled. The action that some may find outlandish, I found surprisingly well filmed. The music that some may find grating, I found humorous and catchy. I’ll say it again: This film was made for me.

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