Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Okay. So, Scott Pilgrim.

Everyone kept telling me to see this movie, everyone ensured me it was my cup of tea, right up my alley, the real deal, totally something I'd be into if only I gave it a chance (as usual, the awful trailer put me off).

I saw it; it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was. Nonetheless I was asked, "so what did you think of it?" to which my earnest reply, in a slight daze, was "I've never loved and hated a movie at the same time before".

That really is the only way I can describe my personal alignment toward this movie. If you asked me to give it a rating out of five stars, I'd have to get back to you on whether it was worth five or zero. In fact I may never reach that conclusion for as long as I live.

So let's just delve right in here.

I am still reeling in shock that this was directed by Edgar Wright, who directed Hot Fuzz and Sean Of The Dead. I will give him his due for stepping out and doing something completely different, but I'm a little unsure he was the right director for this film.

I will not pretend to be a Scott Pilgrim fan - I haven't read the comic (though now I am curious to do so). I've only played the videogame which was a lot of fun despite focusing strangely too much on grinding for a beat-em-up (though I was massively biased toward that game because I am a longtime fan of the pixel art of Paul Robertson). But I think it was a poor choice to cast the bumbling, goose-necked Michael Cera as Scott.

I... I don't like him. It's a personal thing. Some people love him but he was just too much of a dork in that movie. The script he was given didn't help - I found Scott Pilgrim himself to be a profoundly unlikable character until the final scene of the film when he actually realises he's kind of been a gigantic dick to everybody and (finally) makes things right.

Now, the Exes on the other hand, were another matter entirely. In my opinion they saved this film. I was practically squirming in my chair through the first movement of the movie, until finally the Satanic Indian Matthew Patel showed up out of nowhere and started singing, surrounded by flying succubi. The whole thing had me in stitches and I realised this movie could still pick up yet, and it did.

The saving grace of this entire film was the lavish cast of opponents Scott has to face. Every one of them was a hilarious, larger-than-life personality, and my only gripe was that the Twins didn't get enough exploration. They are more of a walk-on part in comparison which I think is a shame.

To be honest I think it has a lot to do with the awkward directorial choice to create a live action movie based on a comic which is about videogames. As a result we have a movie with real actors walking around and walking into poles and banging drums which produce big comic-book words for sound effects. I wouldn't have a problem with this if everyone didn't also explode into coins when Scott defeated them or sprites and pixels didn't keep appearing along with Nintendo sound design. I couldn't decide whether it was supposed to be a movie about comics or videogames, and apparently neither could Edgar Wright.

The fight scenes for me were the hilight of the film, brilliantly directed and pulse-pounding, with highly creative special effects and a keen eye for spectacle. I have a fishy suspicion that these moments were the very reason and impetus for this whole movie being created. Certainly, they are the only parts I really enjoyed. If I had to give a black and white, straightforward summary of the film, I would say that the action scenes were fantastic but most of the jokes were lame.
This is obviously a personal thing and your tastes may vary, but I think it is a bit of a warning sign when a movie is made sheerly and solely for fans of retro video games of yesteryear and an obsessive fan of retro video games of yesterday doesn't find most of them funny. Again, strangely, the only parts I really laughed hard at were the bits with the exes - they are just so perfectly cast. The vegan bass guitarist, Todd Ingram, steals every shot he's in and his whole scene left me hysterical. I don't think there was a single evil ex of Ramona's (ironically) that turned me off as a character, as opposed to the more fickle, whiney, limp-wristed cast of heroes.

Ramona is a piece of ass but her personality is nothing short of repellant, Scott's band and friends are either grumpy, bitchy or just plain stupid (with the exception of his admittedly pretty funny gay housemate), and I am still really confused and a bit confronted by how everyone just keeps dumping and cheating on each other. Seriously, is this a Generation thing? A Canadian thing?? Am I so outside the social world this movie portrays?

Gideon made for a good final villain - I liked how charming he was - but my major complaint here is that with the compression of a comic series into a feature-length film comes the fact that we didn't really get to know him enough. As a boss, he's fantastic, but as a villain he's kind of lame; at least in the sense that he kind of shows up out of nowhere and we have to sort of take it for granted that he's the final challenge and the big bad. I think with more time there could have been a more solid buildup which overall would have strengthened the story, which I found focused a bit too much on Scott's hang-ups.

I will concede the movie wrapped itself up very nicely, though I found the beginning to be rather interminable - and unlike my fellow film nerd Arch, I don't find jokes about Michael Cera being a totally unattractive dork very funny.

So yeah.

I'm afraid I can't really conclude by saying whether I love this movie or hate it. Only that it was certainly an experience. I admit that I have no regrets about seeing it; I knew I had to see it sooner or later. But just because there are a lot of bloops and pixels, doesn't mean a movie is right up my alley.


  1. There are no less than 5 different audio-commentaries on the film (the most interesting one to appeal to our nerd senses would be the 'technical' commentary), but I've only listened to the main director, writer and creator commentary. Apparently they were writing the film and comics at the same time, but the film was completed after the comic series was finished.

    I liked Michael Cera's dorkiness from his appearances on Tim & Eric and Tom Goes to the Mayor, I haven't gotten around to seeing any of his other work. But I find that's what his strength is as an actor, or I should say his typecast.

    I would say Edgar Wright was well within his element here, sticking to his satirical genre-savvy absurdity only this time reaching out to comic-book action stories, only now he's no long working with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, or in Britain.

    I enjoyed the film a lot more than you did, but I agree with your questions on the social world portrayed. I found it alienating to my own sensibilities as a retro gaming nerd, and that I never found my dorkiness to be in any way appealing to the super-fine hipster babes I've ever come across, let alone 2 of them at the same time. I had to pretty much take it as a fantasy world. I think Brian Lee O'Malley has described it as Scott Pilgrim's hero-journey from inside his own head.

  2. That makes a lot more sense, though it was kind of lost in the film.
    Also I was actually under the impression that you had seen more of Michael Cera and that was why you liked him. All I really know of him beyond what's been discussed is Superbad and Juno?

    In any case, I think this is going to be one of those films for me that I would only pop in to skip to the action scenes. In a way I'm glad it's there on DVD and I don't have to go to the cinema every time I want to see a vegan psychic get psyched.

  3. Slight correction for Archfriend: the first five books were already done when the movie was started, the sixth comic was created as they were making the movie, and came out a month before. Apparently this is why the movie-ending diverged from the book-ending quite a bit (Scott ended up with Knives at the end in the movie before they changed it last-minute to match the book? Weird) even though the first 5/6 of the movie are taken almost straight out of comic panels.

    But yeah, I think this movie could have been great with someone else playing Scott, and with a division into two movies. Micheal Cera is a typecast, and Scott Pilgrim is out of his type. I was hoping this movie meant he was branching out, but instead the character was just melted into the Cera mold. It would have been a hard character to make likable, choosing Cera made that worse.

    I really recommend you read the comics if you ever get the chance (and have the money to throw on all 6 comic books). With more time to build backstory, and more time to introduce the exes smoothly (one per book, if the twins count as one), the orchestration makes a lot more sense.

    The events of the movie take place over less than a week, the books actually take place over the course of months and years (which makes Scott's friend circle a lot more understandable).

    The movie was fun, but if you're going to it other than to enjoy the fun over-the-top ex battles, you'll be disappointed. The backbone of the story was fractured by the compression into movie form: it could have been adapted more competently, but they tried to stay too true to the books, which is impossible to do well in two hours.

  4. Holy shit that was a long comment. Oops.

  5. Long comments are okay by me as long as they are interesting to read. Which yours was!

  6. I thought the movie was pretty cool. However, no matter what was wrong in the movie, the animated opening credit sequence was incredible.

    Got to attend an interview with Wright and his cinematographer Bill Pope a few months ago. Though the film may have its problems with fitting in all the material, it was great to hear from a filmmaker's perspective what these guys had to go through to make this movie.

  7. So is this blog a project you plan on continuing this year, or is it finally time for me to remove this from my bookmarks?

    Not to pressure you to hurry up or anything, I'm just curious whether this is still a Thing.

  8. Whoah, Stephen, if you are still reading this my new movie blog is at http://moviemagicks.tumblr.com/