I don’t know how to review a movie. Sure, I took Intro to Screen Studies in school, but I’m not about to discuss mise-en-scéne or anything. So I’ll start by saying I’ve never seen a movie like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. And I loved it.
I was at work when I first saw the trailer, and I instantly watched it again. I had read the five books that were out at that point and was left with Watchmen-level excitement. I showed some friends, but they could only say, “Why would you want to see that?,” “What makes that look good?” or “Why does he have to fight them?”And I felt stupid trying to explain why having to fight exes is a great metaphor for dealing with a new lover’s baggage. So, I went to the movies alone and had more fun than I’ve ever had at the movies. Quick aside: This has been a good year for fun movies. Kick-Ass had been the most fun I had ever had at the movies. Scott Pilgrim is the new winner.
Let’s get the adaptation business out of the way. It was close enough to the books where I could say “I loved that part!,” but different enough that I could be surprised. Matthew Patel still thinks pirates are “in this year,”* but the Scott vs. Twins fight is now a battle between a music-summoned gorilla and a pair of dragons. Bad ass.
A year and a half ago, I felt that if Michael Cera played “George Michael ” Michael Cera, he would fail at playing Scott Pilgrim. He didn’t. He’s closer to Nick from Nick and Norah (I wish Scott could kick Tal’s ass next) than Evan from Superbad. He’s self-deprecating, but isn’t going to wither at the first sign of conflict. Compressing six books into two hours means a lot of stuff is cut, but some of the characters, especially Wallace and Stacy are well distilled in scene after stolen scene. The most unexpected star turn was Knives Chau (17 years old), played by Ellen Wong. Knives is no longer the young girl who can’t move on; she’s her own person with her own motivations.
I love Edgar Wright’s Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. (I thought Hot Fuzz was OK.) Studying Shaun, so much of the second half is a reflection of small events in the first half (Shaun and Ed’s shooting instructions, Pete telling Ed to live in the shed) Wright’s script here shares a lot of that, with a Scott and Knives date planting a seed that sprouts in the movie’s climax. Some good writing there. The movie uses cinematic tricks along with comic-style split-screens and videogame HUDs in a visual pop culture orgy. It takes someone with vision to do something this fresh.
People may paint Ramona as just another Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she’s not a carefree, perfect girl like Natalie Portman in Garden State. Sometimes she’s mean. Sometimes she just sucks. Yes, Scott falls in love quicker than we may believe, but isn’t that how life is? Only the person falling understands how they feel, not their friends. And they don’t need to. The audience doesn’t need to understand; we just need to be able to relate. This is why Say Anything didn’t work for me. I couldn’t relate to John Cusack falling for the boring, uninteresting, not-that-good-looking Ione Skye. Without that, the movie fell apart. I could relate to Scott falling for the (literal) girl of his dreams, in all her purple-haired glory.
I can never tell how much of my enjoyment of this series comes from the in jokes. Scott’s Smashing Pumpkins shirts and the fairy temple music from Zelda brought a smile to my face, but your mileage may vary.
All that said, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is the best romantic comedy action movie you’ll see this year.
Did I ramble too much? Talk too much about other movies and not enough about the film in question? Use too many parentheticals? Fire away in the comments.
* This was originally a reference to Roxy Richtor being “bi-furious.” Then I realized that wasn’t in the books. Maybe I recognized it from a trailer? Either way, great line. GREAT line.