August 25, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

scottpilgrim1_largeOpening with an old school 8-bit version of the Universal Logo, complete with appropriate sound, I knew I was in for something a little different. Of course, I already knew that based on the trailers, but this opening just drove the fact home. What followed that introduction was a movie that exceeded my expectations and brought together a great story and characters with a wonderfully witty, quirky and original visual style. Granted I am not familiar with the comic series that spawned it, but as we all know, what is inventive on the printed page is not always able to be translated successfully.

This is only Edgar Wright's third major feature release (following Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) but he is fast establishing himself as an amazing visual stylist. This film has an incredible look, great use of special effects, very good pacing, and a great sense of character. I also realize that this is the sort of movie that will likely have a limited audience. Of course this should not be the case, but I just see it coming. It is as if it has the words "cult hit" written all over it.

Now, I previously wrote about my disappointment in people not going to see this and still hearing complaint of the lack of originality in film. The originality is out there, it just seems that folks do not want to expend the energy to look for it. The real problem is that when it is there right in front of your face, as in the case of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the audiences still do not come. If you are not going to at least give an original and inventive film a chance, please stop complaining about the lack of originality.


The short of the story is Scott Pilgrim is in a band, he meets the girl of his dreams, and in order to date her he must defeat her seven evil exes. Sounds simple enough, right? It is, it really is. However, the story has so much more going for it that takes it to the next level. Much like 500 Days of Summer last year, Scot Pilgrim vs. The World takes what could be a very typical type of story and takes it to the next level that involves you an leaves you wanting more. In very different ways of course.

The characters, both lead and supporting, are believable in an idealized way. They reflect a certain reality without being real. Perhaps it would be better to say they are believable within the context of the movie but if you met them on the street you might think there was something wrong with them.

As I sat in the theater viewing it the first time I was taken with the wonderfully kinetic style that Edgar Wright employed. He turned a tale of dating into a visual and sonic stew, an overwhelming 8-bit videogame motif steeped in an indie rock hipster tea. To go along with the look and sound that I enjoyed so much, I also had some reservations about the characters. I know I said I liked them already, but it took me a little while to get them. Upon my second viewing my liking of them was sealed.


Scott Pilgrim vs. The World provides an interesting narrative on the dating game. On one side we have Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a seemingly shy and reserved guy who has come off a lengthy relationship and fund solace in the simplicity of dating a high schooler. Of course, we also get the impression that he may be something of a lothario in disguise. On the other side is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an aloof young woman who arrives in town seeking to escape the baggage of her past by running away rather than dealing with it.

These two are surrounded by a supporting cast who have their on set of issues but also have a unique perspective on the current predicament. From Julie (Aubrey Plaza), who knows what Scott is all about, to Kim (Allison Pill), an ex of Scott's who is tired of his drama, and from Wallace (Kieran Culkin), Scott's gay roommate, to Stacey (Anna Kendrick, Scott's younger sister, both of who have a tight line of communication set up on Scott's relationship wrangling. These and others add a lot of flavor and fill out the Pilgrim universe. They are characters who have their own fully fledged lives while we see them through the filter of their relationship to Scott. They may be supporting characters but they are surprisingly complex.

What I love about the story is how it approaches the choppy dangerous waters that surround the start of a new relationship. Each one comes with its own pitfalls and problems. Sure, there is that euphoric part where you want to believe you have found the one, but in order to truly know the other person and find out how well you may be together is to acknowledge and work through the baggage. In the case of Scott and Ramona, both come to the table with baggage and neither truly wants to deal with it. His is of the present and is certain to cause issues, while hers is dug up from the past and seems to be of a more immediate concern.


The genius of this story is the way it externalizes the internal baggage. Rather than talking about the past and how those relationships affect the present, they are dealt with by actually having the exes show up to do battle with the potential. This externalizing of the internal allows for a unique way of getting the couple together as well as ample opportunity for visual pyrotechnics.

This is a strange movie. The style employed is not that of a typical film, the relationship is handled in a quirky fashion that will certainly not appeal to all tastes. That said, this is a unique and visionary film that seeks to use all that the medium has to offer. The result is a film that is a joy for the eyes, ears, and mind.

Bottomline. Yes, I unabashedly love this movie. The performances are perfect, the pacing is strong, the visual ingenuity unmatched. It is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen. I am not sure what else to say to try and convince everyone to see it. It is an amazing film.

Highly Recommended.

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