Wednesday 25 August 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Year: 2010
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Aubrey Plaza, Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Roxy Richter, Brandon Routh, Keita Saitou, Shota Saito

It is now almost cliche for a film critic to comment on a film as "like a video game". It's a usual complaint from a reviewer (who is usually a non-gamer) to downgrade a modern film, which is mostly fueled by it's overtly flashy visuals, hack-slash editing, paper-thin characters and a liner plot. As movies have become more aggressively aimed towards the teenage male market (and all that disposable income), they have slowly started to take the form of their computer counter-parts.

So while games have been doing their best to become more intricate in the telling of their stories and building as well as expanding their visual world. It seems to some that many mainstream films are becoming more and more like Daikatana, clumsy, awkward, ambling creatures which will only provide a quick fix than anything lasting.

However, it seems that there might be an generation of films that is doing it's best to try and combine film and game elements together. The over the shoulder visuals that were seen in such films as The Losers and Knight and Day (in between the extreme close ups) feel much like the third person shooters of Gears of war and Resident Evil 4/5, while I likened Paul Greengrass' Green Zone to Modern Warfare 2 earlier this year. There was also the case of Inception in which Patrick Goldstein's article in the Los Angles Times felt that Nolan's multi-leveled narrative feels much more at home with the younger audiences with their x-boxes and playstations than the older crowd.

And so, with Roger Ebert yelling that video games can never be art and reviewers such as the classy guys at filmspotting despising (or growing out of) gaming (with their balanced but dismissive review of this film) it's seems that Edgar Wright has took it on himself to make his "difficult third album" a crowning achievement of video game as part of the cinematic aesthetic.

I can say very easily this...I can see why it didn't blow the box office apart. Most films can usually be separated from their source material. Not here. This is a film which is so entrenched in it's sources, that it's almost impossible to split them. You might not have read the graphic novel the film is based on. But the Manga, the video games, the leisurely references to Canada? It's sown into the very fabric of the film, making sure Scott Pilgrim fits neatly into the pocket of niche.

Despite being the box office's bitch, Scott Pilgrim won me over in spades. Not only was I in love with it's ambition, but totally bowled over by it's execution. At every turn I was dazzled by it's visual style, offbeat rhythm and quick witted dialogue. This is Spaced goes Canadian, not only utilizing the same transitions that made Edgar Wrights sitcom so eye catching, but nabbing a whole range of ideas from other areas and films to make an astonishing slacker comedy pastiche. It's narrative is structured like a video game, it's fight sequences build and are almost executed like an musical while many of the transitions owe a debt to The Wachowskis' Speed Racer. This mixture shouldn't work and to some it really won't, but for me I found myself constantly grinning to myself.

It wasn't just because I got the references or found myself amusing by the 60's batman like words springing up like pop-art. But it was because how Wright manages to make sure that the film's humor and characters feel so unique to me. Not following the regular beats of a usual feature, Scott Pilgrim remixes the feel of the ordinary with the hyper-abstract, nabbing from a huge pop culture sandbox and rolling at a furious pace but still maintaining a wonderful coherence despite it's ridiculous (but playful) asides. Instead of talking down to you it merely asks you to keep up with it. Some have found some of this hipster pandering, only speaking to an ADD crowd. However, to me Wright's film is more layered than that, using this bold visual style and wry screenplay to ask us to suspend our belief for a selfish young man (difficult to do in film at the best of times) who must not take the easy way out in order achieve the ultimate goal.

Moments of the film do have a feeling of self-indulgence but this feels more because the film is set all in the main characters head most of the time rather than pompous posturing. What we get is a teen eye view of inner baggage and infatuation, and while it may feel alien to some, there is an endearment to be found within these characters. Ramona (A very sexy Mary Elizabeth Winstead) may seems aloof and bitchy, but the reasons why are very plausible. The same goes for the odd looking Micheal Cera whose pitch perfect comic timing once again becomes key into unlocking a girls heart and getting us on his side to root for him.

Even the secondary characters are great to watch even if a little one note at times. But then again, the supporting cast is a Daria-esque Alison Pill, a very game Chris Evans, an equally game Brandon Routh and yet another great performance from Kieran Culkin (See Igby goes down) whose gay roommate got a fair share of laughs from myself.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World has not set the world alight money wise, but then again, how can you market something that is so destined for cult? We should be too quick to judge comic-con reaction as real-life everyone reaction. However I must say (despite not really explaining in my review) I loved this movie. Not only I admired the ambition, as a teen comedy...there isn't anything like it, but because of it's audacity. Scott Pilgrim wears it's bizarre feel on it's shoulders and not giving a damn like it's love interest. The references? they are there and they're quite light. As I'm not a Manga fan I can't say I got them all (expect Routh's 3rd Ex going super sayian) and as a gamer(of sorts) I didn't feel they overloaded the movie. Dynamic visuals, fun characters, a great fantasy world with an interesting structure and characters I dug hanging out with. For or against? I'm Camp Pilgrim