movie film review | chris tookey
 
     
     
 

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

 (12A)
© Universal - all rights reserved
     
  Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
 
Average Rating
6.75 /10
 
Starring
Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong
Full Cast >
 

Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright Based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley

 
 
 
Released: 2010
   
Genre: ACTION
COMIC STRIP
ADVENTURE
ROMANCE
COMEDY
   
Origin: US
   
Colour: C
   
Length: 115
 
 


 
Immature but exhilarating.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Edgar Wright, the British director responsible for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, has made his most imaginative film yet. He and co-writer Michael Bacall have compacted Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-volume graphic novel into 115 funny, event-packed minutes.

It’s the old romcom story - boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy fights to win back girl. But it’s steeped in present-day pop culture – especially video games, rock and comic strips.

The result is a film that is the closest yet to the spirit of many teens and twenties today. It’s like a cuter Sin City, a less sleazy Kick-Ass.

Scott Pilgrim (played by perennial teenager Michael Cera) is a 22 year-old bass guitarist with a “tragically Canadian” neo-punk group, called Sex Bomb-Omb. Ageing gamers won’t need to be told that this refers to a character in the 1993 video game Super Mario Bros 2. Even older pop enthusiasts may notice the other male group members are called Stephen Stills and Young Neil, and wonder where Nash Graham and Crosby Dave are.

Scott lives with a gay roommate, Wallace (Kieran Culkin, funny). Their relation appears to be platonic, though they share a bed like Morecambe and Wise. One of their scenes is accompanied by canned audience laughter and theme music from the TV sitcom Seinfeld.

Scott has a 17 year-old Chinese-American girlfriend called Knives (Ellen Wong), which exposes him to ridicule, especially as they haven’t held hands yet.

“I’ve never even kissed a guy,” she tells Scott, meaningfully.

“Hey… me neither,” says Scott, bungling yet another opportunity.

But then Scott meets the girl of his dreams – Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who delivers packages from Amazon on rollerblades and, like the rock band the Ramones, hails from New York. She is cooler than he is and changes hair colour every one and a half weeks, but comes with baggage, in the form of “seven evil exes”, whom Scott must fight for her hand - and, presumably, the rest of her body.

We’re not talking social realism here. We see things through Scott’s eyes, a distorting prism of video games and comic books. We’re soon into Mortal Kombat mode, with Scott miraculously transformed into a kick-boxing, power-punching fantasy version of himself. Defeated combatants turn into cascading coins. The evil exes are comic-strip villains, with lots of knowing pop-cultural references.

One, an egomaniacal action actor called Lucas Lee, is played by Chris Evans, who starred in the Fantastic Four franchise. Another, a pompous Vegan, is played by Brandon Routh, last seen as Superman. Ramona’s lesbian ex (Mae Whitman) wields a whip similar to one brandished by Ivy in the SoulCalibur game series (1998-2008).

Scott’s own evil ex, Envy (Brie Larson) has a band called Clash at Demonhead, which is not – as some of you oldsters might guess - a reference to Joe Strummer’s band of 1976-86, but to an abstruse Nintendo game of 1990.

Do you feel ancient and alienated yet? If so, that’s the point. Though a not-exactly-youthful 36 himself, Edgar Wright seems eager to exclude the old and unhip from fully appreciating his movie.

For my part, I am so antiquated that I remember the first time many of his supposedly “new” techniques – such as words spilling impressionistically across the screen in time to rock music, split-screens like comic book panels, ironically informational graphics and throbbing little hearts – were used, in the late 70s and early 80s, in rock shows and videos directed by… well, myself, actually. Anyone remember Revolver? The Only Ones’ Another Girl, Another Planet? The very first Network Seven? No? Oh well…

I felt a glow of grand-paternal affection as these innovations of over 30 years ago finally reached the cinema.

A less indulgent side of me felt that Scott Pilgrim is a meringue of a movie. It’s sweet, but there’s not much there when you bite into it.

Some genuine emotion does survive the posing. At heart, Scott is insecure about everything – especially his bad hair and worse chat-up lines – while Ramona is worried about her murky sexual past coming back to haunt her. You get a sense that both are trying to make their relationship “work”, which is cute.

But Scott is a twerp. His emotional age is not 22 but 15, and he fails to develop from being monstrously self-absorbed and irresponsible. Cera’s whiny voice and the fact that he keeps giving the same performance in every movie are also a problem.

The lack of emotional complexity or development and too many repetitive fighting sequences mean that the film is overlong. The energy dissipates as the movie passes the 90 minute mark, and Wright would have done well to cut down the number of exes, and reserve some of his bright ideas for a sequel.

But at least the film has bright ideas. I especially liked the quirky transitions between scenes and the sense of heightened reality. Advances in gaming and graphic novels are one reason why movies have a glorious future.

Non-linear, expressionistic narrative – which I also enjoyed in such apparently dissimilar films as Pulp Fiction, Fight Club and Shutter Island – is still in its infancy, and can look more like playfulness than art. But it’s thrilling to see talented film-makers exploring the boundaries of what is commercially acceptable.

A lot of people, especially those not in the first flush of youth, are going to find Scott Pilgrim over-frenetic, smart-alecky and self-consciously hip. They will object that nothing important is at stake, and that Scott Pilgrim lacks a moral compass. All this is true.

The young geeks who are the film’s target demographic won’t “get” the references to old games they haven’t played, and may find it hard to identify with a hero who doesn’t just sit around eating pizza and playing StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, but actually goes outside, plays in a band and dates real girls.

So the film will struggle to find the cinema audience that it deserves, but I liked it, and I’m sure it will become a cult hit This is one of the most exhilarating movies in recent years - witty, energetic and a lot of fun. Because of its lack of depth, you may get bored towards the end, especially if you’re over thirty, but anyone interested in the future of cinema should see it, more than once.


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