Sunday, August 15, 2010
Steve Greenwell vs. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
A three word review of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Go see it.
A more expanded, one-sentence review: While the end is a bit uneven, and the movie is definitely gunning for the geek / video game / Michael Cera audience, some neat film-making makes it a movie that is at least worth checking out for all audiences.
Most people out there are either going to love or hate Scott Pilgrim. Seeing as I'm a 26-year-old guy who plays video games, likes music and likes women, I fall exactly into the film's target demographic. Predictably, I loved the film, and I think there is enough in it to make it worth seeing for all audiences. Some ideas I had while watching it...
NOTE: Spoilers now follow. So, if you want to see the movie before reading a somewhat in-depth analysis of it, I recommend you just stop reading right here. (Although, if you're a dude, you might want to look at the picture of Anna Kendrick.)
- As in a typical Michael Cera movie, he plays a dude who is kind of whiny and allegedly unlucky with love... yet he is surrounded by hot women. The movie starts out with him dating a 17-year-old Chinese schoolgirl, as the trailers have pointed out. (Note to Internet perverts reading this: She is of an undetermined age according to IMDB, but the message board there says that she said she was actually 17 "way back when" in a random interview.) Wong has a surprisingly meaty and good performance as Knives Chau, which is the perfect name for this type of movie.
Scott's actual interest for most of the movie is the also-appropriately-named Ramona Flowers, given the constantly changing nature of her hair. The trailers make the 25-year-old Mary Elizabeth Winstead look a bit frumpy, and her haircut really does suck, but she has a really good body. (Example: See the picture from her Maxim shoot to the right. The trailers do a good job of hiding the fact that she is ridiculously hot.) I know this because there are several fight scenes with her kicking ass throughout the movie. Her acting isn't quite as sharp; she mostly plays the mopey female counterpart to Cera's mopey male. But she doesn't torpedo the movie.
- The real stars of the movie in terms of acting are the supporting players. As I mentioned, Cera and Winstead just turn in average performances. They're the "straight men" of the movie, and their whiny, stereotypical relationship is the rock from which all of the humor is derived.
All of Ramona's ex-es get hilarious lines, with the best being Chris Evans as Lucas Lee, a ridiculously stereotypical action star. However, Kieran Culkin also steals scenes as the gay guy that Scott Pilgrim shares a one-bedroom apartment with, and Scott's band (the Super Mario Brothers referencing Sex Bob-omb) has a wonderfully aloof lead singer and an aggressive drummer that used to date Scott. Hell, everyone in this movie besides Scott and Ramona are interesting, even small roles like ridiculously, illegally attractive Anna Kendrick (right) as his nosy, judgmental and yet supportive sister, and Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation as a snotty and foul-mouthed worker at seemingly every place in town, and Brie Larson as Scott's ex-Envy, and Mae "Anne from Arrested Development" Whitman in a surprising role.
- The music and special effects rely heavily on video game culture, which is sure to turn some people off. I'm a whiz at my friend Nippy the Penguin's video game theme music trivia, but most of the clips in the movie are too fast to catch well. I'm pretty sure there is some of the original Zelda, but beyond that, it wouldn't surprise me if most was specifically created mocks for the movie.
The effects come into play via pop-up dialogue boxes and graphical display. For example, when Scott fights one of Ramona's evil ex'es, there is typically a "Versus" screen and a face-off, similar to Street Fighter 2. At times, it feels like a spastic version of Kill Bill, with less of a spaghetti western feel to it.
- The video game influence is present throughout the movie. This is partly what makes it so interesting to me. Reviewers on the Internetz are struggling to compare this film to something, but for me it has two clear influences: Shaolin Soccer and Kung-Fu Hustle. Scott Pilgrim is essentially the kung-fu video game version of these films. The trailers make it seem more like a romantic comedy or date movie, but trust me, it has much more in common with an action movie than a date movie.
Part of this means that there are surprisingly long and well-choreographed fight scenes. I'm positive that Michael Cera and others aren't doing most of their own moves, but hey, it looks exaggerated and cool anyway, which fits the tone of the movie.
- If the movie had a weakness to me, it was the ending portions. The last 15 minutes and final confrontation, while ultimately satisfying, sure did feel not as tight as the first 100. You're kind of left floundering as to the ultimate resolution of the movie's love angle, until one of the characters sort of take the decision out of Scott's hands anyway.
However, the movie is surprising poignant when Scott does walk off into the end of the movie with his choice. The other great "tough" moment comes when he decides to dump Knives. It is wonderfully shot, with the lights and background fading out, and a slight echo to Cera's and Wong's voices. It's a dramatic and great way to portray a breakup, and it was the best critical moment of the film to me.
The Scott Pilgrim picture at the top comes from this blog full of ads that asks if the movie has any black people in it. (Answer: Nope, not a one.)