Thursday, August 12, 2010
Review of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
It's time to rejoice! Edgar Wright has a new flick out! If you don't know who he is, well, get with it cause he's going to be around for a long time, coming up with new ways to entertain the hell out of audiences. His first two films are genius: SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ. Heck, his fake trailer for DON'T in GRINDHOUSE was the best one. Now, while his first two films shared many things in common, his latest, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, is completely different, except that it has the same frenetic energy.
This is based off of (like everything else these days) a graphic novel. Of course, I never read it, so this was a completely new world for me. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, a 22 year old bass player slacker in a small neo-punk band called the SEX BA-BOMBS (Yes, like in Mario). He is dating a high schooler named Knives, the groupie for his band. The friends in his life are the band's singer and drummer, and his gay roommate played by Kieran Culkin. Even though Scott's life is going all right, he feels like something is missing. Then he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and he immediately falls for her. But first, he must dump his 17 year old puppy dog-like, jailbait girlfriend. And just when you think it's going to be a ripoff of a John Hughes film, then it gets fucking crazy! A guy shows up at one of Scott's shows and challenges him to a battle to the death. He later finds out that if he is to date Ramona, he must defeat her seven evil exes. And that, my friends, is the plot.
Now, if you're going to be one of those people who are going ask questions like "Why does he have to battle her ex-boyfriends?" Then you can just stay home. Cause this movie doesn't want to make sense for you. It wants to show you things you've never experienced in a movie theater before. It wants to attack all of your senses. It wants to shake you up. Ultimately, it wants to entertain the fuck out of you. If you like movies that are different than the norm, then this is the one for you.
Where do I begin? First of all, the tone. Before the battles begin, the first half hour does a wonderful job not only setting up the characters, but the comic video game universe that the story exists in. In fact, within seconds, the tone is established when an Nintendo 8-Bit version of the Universal Logo begins the film. "You had me at 8-bit". Then, you get to see how Scott Pilgrim views the world, with pop-up windows, words and images that burst onto the screen randomly. This style may be a little jarring for the average viewer, but to a comic book/video game/film geek like me, it was exhilarating. And when the Sex Ba-Bombs play their first song at practice, the images explode off the screen, and this wasn't even in 3D, but it sure felt like it was.
I loved the relationship between Scott and Knives, as they go to retro shops buying hip things. Then when Scott meets Ramona, you can really see how he would be into her. She's laid back, sarcastic, blunt, seemingly unapproachable, and mysteriously attractive, with her ever-changing hair color. As Scott juggles the two relationships, it plays very much like an 80's romantic comedy on acid, with a punk rock flavor. Scott's band, like the romance, is also very much the heart of the story. We see them develop and evolve and gain confidence, very much like Scott does throughout.
Now the battles... I hope you like video games, cause there are so many references to old games that had me laughing out loud (remember CLASH AT DEMONHEAD?). Each battle has it's own flavor, and is almost like it's own mini-movie. All of them are highly entertaining. It's hard to pick a favorite. The first one, in the club, sets the rules of the fights very well. Rules? There are none. There's uppercuts, and Street Fighter-like movies throughout. Even a musical number! I'm not going to go through all the fights one by one, that will take forever, and would also ruin many surprises for viewers. I did really like fight number 3, with Brandon Routh (SUPERMAN RETURNS) and the bass battle. Also there's a great battle of the bands sequence that got my toes tapping, and had me on the edge of my seat. The conclusion is ultimately satisfying.
Edgar Wright has done it again. He has created something impossible. A comic book come to life, but influences of old school video games and Anime are clearly evident. Every single shot, and edit is perfect. Wright has carefully crafted every scene with intimate detail. The costumes, the art direction, the camerawork are beyond top notch. It's like you opened up a giant pack of skittles, and jumped in. This movie is just nuts! And that's a very good thing. There are so many visual sight gags that the film begs to be seen multiple times. I haven't anything that has gotten me this excited in a long time! At only 36 years old, Edgar Wright is already a master director. I can't wait to see what he does next.
Every actor does a superb job. Michael Cera has been stuck playing the same type of character, but Scott Pilgrim is a bit different. Sure, he's still a hip, subtly sarcastic slacker. But he also radiates a confidence not found in anything Cera has done previously. If you're tired of the guy, this probably won't change your mind about him, but I think Wright found a way to use his strengths to benefit the film in a major way. Winstead's Ramona is beautiful, self-assured, but at the same time vulnerable. Kieran Culkan is terrific as the comic relief, always having something smart to say. I really liked Alison Pill as the drummer in the band. She's so cute acting all tough. Love it! It was a hoot seeing Routh as a Vegan ex-boyfriend with superpowers, kind of like he was spoofing his own take as Superman. Chris Evans is a riot as the evil super-actor ex-boyfriend, talking an obvious octave lower. Mae Whitman is great as the ex-girlfriend. Loved her costume. Jason Scwartzman gets to play the most mature person in a movie for once, as the final ex. The real surprise was Knvies, played by newcomer Ellen Wong. At first, she's a stereotypical squealing Asian schoolgirl, but then she has a nice arc in the final half. I thought she was very talented.
Every single thing in this movie works! The acting, direction, editing, writing, cinematography, the video game references, the fight choreography, the score (which even sneaks in music from THE LEGEND OF ZELDA)! Everything! It's a great quirky romance, a hilarious comedy, a wild musical and an action packed adventure! It's why I go to the movies. To be enormously entertained. I brought my 7 year old daughter, and she turned to me afterwards and said, "Dad! This is the best movie I have ever seen!" I'm not sure I can say that, but it's easily the best film of the year so far. Run to the theaters right now and see it. It's like nothing you've ever seen before! I sure hope this makes money, cause then Wright will get to do whatever he wants next. SEE THIS NOW!!!
**** (out of ****)