Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - Theatrical Review

Screened at the AMC 30 Theater at the Block  in Digital.

Release Date: August 13, 2010

I am not really sure what I was expecting when sitting down in that dark crowded theater...I knew I was a fan of director Edgar Wright's other films (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), but I wasn't too clear on what exactly this was supposed to be. From the trailer I was able to glean a lot of video game references, lots of music, and some sort of boy meets girl Michael Cera being Michael Cera. To say that it shattered my expectations would be a bit of an overstatement, but it most certainly entertained the hell out of me. Once I saw that 8-bit representation of the Universal Studios logo, I had an inkling of an idea of what I was in store for.

Now, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is based off the Oni Press graphic novel of the same name which was written by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I have absolutely no connection to that work at all and my experience with it's theatrical incarnation is based purely on what was on the screen before me. And on that level I believe it is a tremendous success for everyone involved, even Michael Cera whom I will discuss a little later. So, for those not in on what exactly this film is, here is a little break down for you.

Boy meets girl...

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, Superbad) is a slacker to the nth degree. He is a 23 year old wanna be rocker who has some serious female problems. Overcome with dismay over losing his previous girlfriend Envy Adams, he has started dating a High School girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) who is crazy insane for his home brew band called "The Sex Bob-Ombs". Despite being warned by his band members/friends and his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin, of the clan Culkin) that their relationship is doomed he soldiers on until the day he meets the girl of his dreams (literally), Romona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Live Free or Die Hard).

Romona is an enigma to not only Scott, but to the audience as well. Scott could really care less what she is first anyway. He is just so enthralled by her that he becomes her stalker until the day arrives when he sort of forces her on a date. Things go well, the two of them connect and everything is going good for Scott. That is, until he is forced to deal with Romona's past baggage that is in the form of her ex-boyfriends or as she prefers to call them, her 7 evil "exes".

Boy must defeat all seven evil exes...

It is at this point where Scott must fight the first of the seven where one of two things I believe will happen to everyone. Either you will be fully on board with all the crazy things that start to happen or you will completely tune out and never recover. Why do I think this will happen...? Well, I have until now, refrained from discussing the film's "style" or "tone" for a reason. That reason being that just like the film, it kind of ushers you into a certain mindset with some silly and funny pop-ups on screen along with some really off beat editing while delivering this somewhat simple romantic comedy with some seriously strange people.

When this first fight takes place you will be placed into a fantastical fever dream of crazy visuals and some ingenious action beats that are all displayed as though you were watching a video game. It was during this initial encounter that I knew whatever I had expected when first sitting down didn't matter anymore. What mattered was how awesome the movie became with each new encounter with each of the other 6 evil exes showing you something completely different and original every time.

Boy fights for girl...

To say that Edgar Wright has created a kind of surreal mixture of video game fantasy, music, and romance is fairly apt but still an understatement in most regards. Most of the time the visual elements come at you in such a rapid pace that you can almost miss them if you weren't paying attention. Video game references abound all over this film, from the familiar sound of "The Legend of Zelda" to Scott having a Pee meter for when he has to relieve himself to a solo guitar riff on an old "Final Fantasy" tune.

While the visuals, the action, and all the video game references will certainly be standouts for many people, I found the heart of the film to be the somewhat complicated relationship between Scott and Romona. Scott first wanted to date her because...well it is the dream of every geek to go out with a pretty girl. Romona just wanted to date someone that was nicer than her previous boyfriends and didn't really know if it would ever turn into anything. The way their relationship grows throughout the course of the film really drew me in and it added needed weight to each encounter that Scott had.

Girl fights for boy...

Now, I know there are plenty people out there that are already or getting tired of the Michael Cera shtick. I know this because I am one of them and after the horribly loathsome Year One I started to be happy each time one of his movies failed. I am not saying that Pilgrim has changed my thoughts on the guy, but I will be the first to admit that I cannot think of another actor that could have done this part. If ever there were a role he was destined to play, this was it. He still does his normal routine, but the moments where he must fight and become a bad-ass he does so convincingly which was a welcome change of pace.

The other performances were spot on as well, Winstead was pleasantly reserved as the object of affection but still had this quality about her that would make a guy want to come to her rescue.  Culkin as the gay roommate was pitch perfect and didn't overdo the gags when they arose. The band members were pretty much window dressing and newcomer Ellen Wong played crazy just right and became a really endearing character by the end. And every one of the evil exes were memorable and definitely the highlight of the film each time one of them appeared for their showdown with Scott.

Boy levels up...

To sum it up, this was a great way to end a really shitty summer of movies. It offered something new and different along with some of the most bizarre fight sequences you will see outside a video game (be prepared for a Bollywood fight as well as an actual battle of the bands). Oh, and did I mention that when people die they turn into coins? Find some friends and go catch it in the theater, with an enthusiastic crowd if possible. It is also a good date long as your date has a liking for video games that is. So, all there is left to say is...



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