Monday 23 August 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I was excited about Toy Story 3. I haemorrhaged patience waiting for Inception. But from the moment I saw the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World teaser, I was harnessing 1.21 gigawatts of energy to my Ford Fiesta to thrust it forwards in time to the point where I could have my senses frottled to screaming point by Edgar Wright's new amazagasm.

And that ludicrously high expectation is the problem. Because despite Scott Pilgrim vs. The World being a gloriously enjoyable way to spend 112 mind-smacking minutes, and probably my third-favourite film this year, I can't help but feel a niggling twinge of disappointment.

It's just one aspect of the film that stands at the door of my mind like a bouncer, telling all the great bits that their names aren't down and they're not coming in, but I'll ignore it for now to focus on what does make this film coruscating, demented fun.

It's fair to say that nobody's ever made a film that looks like this, and nobody else will. From the opening tweaked Universal fanfare and logo to the final pixellated smackdown, this movie isn't just eye-popping - it'll magnificently abuse your corneas, your retinas and your maculas and papillas to boot.

The fight scenes are incredible. It's rare these days to see a properly arranged, shot and edited fight scene in a movie, and here they come by the bucketload and in a variety of shifting aspect ratios. It doesn't matter that they come out of nowhere: Edgar Wright has described his film as like a musical where the characters break into rumbles instead of rhumbas; less musical, more bruisical.

While most of the cast are great (I still haven't come to terms with Michael Cera's whiny manchild), the supporting cast deserve an Oscar each. Kieran Culkin is deliciously laconic, Ellen Wong is appropriately annoying and Allison Pill is a freckly ginger countess of cool. And the soundtrack is all killer, no filler. Any film that uses Metric to portray the zenith of indie magnifence is fine by me.

Metric - Black Sheep

But the one thing that should hold all of this mayhem together, the crucial element needed to justify all the flaming-sword-swinging and wire-fu wows, is the one thing that's missing, and that's the heart. Above all else, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a love story, but I just didn't believe it. I completely identified with Scott's infatuation with Ramona, but I couldn't accept their relationship as the emotional core of the story.

For a start she's a complete pushover, agreeing to date him almost immediately. Identification goes out of the window like Scott evading Knives Chau. Then she spends the rest of the film standing moodily on the sidelines with her hands in her pockets, aloof and disinterested in Scott's plight at the hands of any of her evil exes. Why would you fight so hard for someone like that? By the end of the film I wasn't even sure whether Scott wanted to be with Ramona or not, and that seems like a bad place for a supposedly emotionally invested viewer to be.

There are other, minor flaws, but no more serious than any other good movie - which Scott Pilgrim vs. The World absolutely is. It's just that there's no way it could have met my expectations: when I wanted to love it like Scott loves Ramona, I only liked it like Ramona likes Scott.

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  1. I, sadly, haven't seen the movie yet. However, this lack of interest from Ramona is familiar to me from the comics.
    I do love Ramona as a characte, but I always failed to see why or in believe she loved Scott. That's why I had a problem with the last volume of the comic. Their relationship was never 100% believable to me.
    I could see why he loves her, but Ramona has always been very non-chalant about it. For me, it was more a story of when was Scott going to learn to grow up and man up.

    If Edgar captured that in the movie, then he might have been more successful capturing the feeling it left me with than I expected. I will only know on Wednesday, though.

    High expectations can sure be a problem and it would be well hilarious if the movie ended up frustrating all my expectations. On the other hand, the end in the comics kind of did that already.

  2. Surely we deserve better than this cartoon mess?

  3. You appear to have mistaken The Incredible Suit for Twitter. An easy mistake to make so I'll let you off just this once.

  4. That was the comic, she was so much more badass.

  5. Got the soundtrack today. Haven't seen it yet but even if the film turns out to be balls, which it won't, its one of the years best albums.

  6. I was waiting for someone to say this. So many people said it was "epic" and amazing but I felt exactly this, disappointed. Even though I laughed and thought some of these lines will be remembered as the best movie lines of the year, I really didn't feel that ending. Love? Is that what this was all about? I just wasn't convinced. I think a lot more people than will admit agreed with you, it shows in sales and in the box office... Anyways thanks for a good honest review.

  7. I always thought that the point was that Scott fell in love with the idea of Ramona and she just let him, and then they kind of start over at the end. The end of the book is clearer than the film, though. Oh, and Brett Jerry is an arse.

  8. I thought that it was more that Scott Pilgrim was a confused teenager (trapped in a 22 year old's body) just like every other teenager, finding (quite literally) the girl of his dreams and pursuing her through all the hindrances. It's made quite clear that she has a hypnotic quality about her that draws people in so Scott obviously finds it hard to let go. He is dating a girl that is out of his league and he's also (like TheUnwashedMass says) in love with that idea. Ramona was reluctant to go out with Scott and is confused with the idea of wanting to like Scott and that maybe it's not worth it when he's risking himself fighting for her. At the end, she decides it's not worth people getting hurt for her however Scott, with a little advice from Knives, decides to go with his heart and stick with Ramona.

  9. Sam, all of what you say is fair but it seems you get a better idea of what's going on in this film if you've read the books, and I don't think that's how films should work. They have to function successfully as stand-alone pieces otherwise the viewer feels excluded.

    Oh and you might want to think about spoiler warnings in future!

  10. I haven't read the books, I just inferred all that from the movie.