November 13, 2010

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Title Translation: Total Domination in leetspeak... I am such a geek...

Slowly, but surely, I'm overcoming the challenges of being a film blogger who is suddenly thrown into an area where theaters are not exactly easy to come by. You know all those movies that were huge at the end of the summer that were conspicuously absent from this blog? Well, blame Leon Botstein for that. Anyway, as the movies I missed slowly start to trickle out onto DVD, I, like a fiendish feline (alliteration FTW), pounce on them all. There are a few which have still eluded my grasp, but, the big kahuna has finally found its way into my hands. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was on my short list of films that absolutely had to be seen this past summer. My prediction was right; Scott Pilgrim was great. As a guy who is pretty well versed in video game culture and no so secretly digs on the whole power ups, levels, and boss fights thing, this was film was something of a godsend. And now that I've seen it, I'm finally going to jump in line behind y'all with my verdict. Im slow to the draw, but, what do you want from me? I'm young.

Epically Epic On An Epic Scale Of Epicness!!!

So, there's this guy, named Scott Pilgrim, who lives in the mysterious and magical land of Toronto, Canada. He plays bass in an unsigned indie band with two friends, lives with another friend, is a total slacker, and, at the start of the movie, has just begun dating a high school student. Not the nicest sounding of individuals, if I do say so myself, but, whatever. One day, Pilgrim meets the literal girl of his dreams. She is Ramona Flowers, a ultra hip American whose hair color seemingly changes daily. He starts dating her, and everything looks to be grand and lovely. Well, unfortunately for Scott, Ramona carries some serious, and I mean SERIOUS, baggage. All her past exes have formed a league and will do anything to control her love life. So, Scott must face off against each one in increasingly ridiculous fashion to win Ramona's heart. And they say love doesn't hurt. HA!!!

Based on the comic series by Brian Lee O'Maley, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a truly ingenious when it comes to its story. On the surface, it looks like just another hipster douchebag romantic comedy, but it's also a balls to the wall action movie, a good drama, and a fantasy flick. All these various elements usually don't work together, but thanks to some clever writing by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, they all mesh seamlessly together in a wonderful amalgamation of awesomeness.

Michael Cera is Scott. Before you close the page, let me explain. Yes, Michael Cera has made a living playing the exact same character over and over again, a sweet, misunderstood, hipster with a heart of gold. Though it looks like, his role in Scott Pilgrim does not fall into the aforementioned category. Oh sure, Scott is still a romantic hipster, but a heart of gold? Oh hell no! Scott Pilgrim is actually kind of a douche. He's selfish, kind of a jerk, and a bit of a philanderer. The change of pace is perfect for Cera, who knocks this one out of the park. He's hysterical, relatable, and kicks a ton of ass.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Ramona. You may remember her from Live Free or Die Hard or Death Proof. She finally has something of substance to work with here, and, man does she do a good job. She's full of spunk, quite the looker, and, like pretty much everyone in the film, kicks a fair amount of ass. You'll totally forget about her abysmal performance in Final Destination 3 with this one.

The exes in question are played by a myriad of people. Chris Evans plays Lucas Lee, a pretty good skater who turned into a pretty good actor, who uses his stunt team to beat people up. Brandon Routh is Todd Ingram, a rock star with superpowers brought on by his veganism. Satya Bhabha is Matthew Patel, a Indian hipster with mystical powers. Finally, Jason Schwartzman is Gideon Graves, the supreme evil ex.

There are supporting players like Anna Kendrick and Kieran Culkin, but its Allison Pill as Kim Pine, a snarky drummer, who steals the show in my mind. Her line delivery is impeccable!

Uhhh... yeah. Performances here are really good. That's all...

Hey, it's like the Bard College demographic compressed into six people!

Director Edgar Wright made a name for himself sending up beloved genres with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. He does something a little bit different here. Instead of sending up a zombie movie, he is making a movie that just so happens to take place inside a video game. In the universe of Scott Pilgrim, everyone knows kung fu, has some sort of super power, can gain extra lives by completing tasks, and dissolves into coins when they are defeated. Every time Scott beats and ex, he is rewarded with coins and a score. His confrontations with the evil exes are treated like Boss Battles, with the build up to them the equivalent of a level. It's really ingenious, and pulls absolutely no punches. Hell, the damn Universal logo at the very beginning of the movie is created as if it were on the SNES or something. When Scott delivers the killing blow, a resounding "KO" is heard. For a guy who digs on video games and the like, this was something really awesome!

The real world stuff is given time to evolve as well; it's not all just 1-Up mushrooms and fire flowers. The comedy is truly inspired, with great writing and line delivery. Some of the gags are among the funniest I've seen, as when Scott's opponent is tricked into drinking half-and-half, and he is accosted by the vegan police for his violation and "de-veganized", or when Scott is verbally abused by an angry friend, and her curse words are blocked out by a black box, which, funnily enough, Scott can see and comments on. 

But the humor isn't the only thing. The drama is also handled really well. Scoff if you want, but the romantic relationship between Scott and Ramona was completely believable for me. I bought each of their motivations and, when it hit the rocks, I felt sympathy for both of them. Normally, in a rom-com like this, the relationship would be shoved to the side in favor of gags, but the writers are better than that. They made a fantastical movie with real people. Amazing. 

How Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was so ignored when it came out is beyond me. I guess it was the Michael Cera thing, and how people are over him. I wish people had given this one a chance, because it's one of the best films of the year. Far from the best, but it shines above pretty much everything to come out this summer. Kinda sad, isn't it. The best video game movie ever isn't even based on a video game. Life's funny like that, ain't it?

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