There was never any doubt that Edgar Wright was a gifted filmmaker.
Shaun of the Dead is a revelation and Hot Fuzz ups the ante, executing
jokes and satire but also introducing a director capable of action and
tension that could compete with any of Hollywood’s recent offerings.
Rumored to be handling a variety of projects including Marvel’s Ant Man,
Wright instead took a lesser known [to the general public] series of graphic novels about young
people in love rife with video game references and stylized fight
scenes and made it his passion project. It could have been a disaster
but it’s absolutely electric and proof positive that not only is Wright
more than just a gifted comedian and storyteller, it calls to question just how high the
man’s ceiling may be. All of us firmly entrenched in his corner may
have to expand our idea what kind of talent he is, from great filmmaker
to flat out genius and it’s not a stretch to say that the guy may just
be the next true multi-tool visionary. But first things first…
I do not like the graphic novels the film is based on. Flat out don’t
like them. I love the video game references and appreciate the balance
of manga-style format and offbeat content. I love that it speaks to a
very specific and appreciative audience. I love that it spoke to Edgar
Wright, because otherwise we’d be short one very exciting, vibrant, and
kinetic moviegoing experience. But the source material either missed me by half
a generation or I am simply dead inside. Probably the latter. Either way, I love it now.
The film starts off with a wonderful MIDI and 8-bit inspired Universal logo that sets the tone rather nicely and we are off to the races. Apparent almost immediately is the way Wright uses onscreen text, musical cues, and transitions to bring to mind the feeling of a comic book or video game. It’s phenomenal stuff, and part of the reason the film can possibly find a much larger audience than the core demographic. There’s an energy to even mundane daily routines here, and though the set-up contains very little that ought to hook people who have no idea what the graphic novels were about, it simply does. This isn’t an assault on the senses, necessarily. But it does grab your senses and give them a stern shake and remind them that film requires the audience to participate in order for the arrangement to work. And work it does.
Michael Cera is Scott Pilgrim, bass player for the three-piece rock band
the Sex Bob-oms and a hopeless romantic smack dab in a poorly conceived
relationship with a prim and proper high school girl (Ellen Wong, a
revelation) after a series of ill-fated loves that have left him reeling. The biggest and most crushing having been to Envy Adams (Brie Larson), now living the rock star life as the frontwoman for the band The Clash at Demonhead [I owned that NES game 100% based on the name] while he remains in Canada reeling from the breakup. In his safe new relationship, one where he holds all the power Scott is still trying to find himself, leeching off his gay roommate’s (the
fantastic Kieran Culkin) belongings and enjoying the idea of making his 20’s last as long as he can.
As is the case with many Scott’s built up walls of relationship toughness erode easily, and when “true love”
crosses in path in the form of the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary
Elizabeth Winstead) his true obsessiveness manifests. Beautiful, mysterious, and unattainable, she becomes his vision quest and as if landing her
isn’t enough of a challenge she has seven evil exes whom he must defeat
in combat to earn her love. Seven evil exes. All of whom are larger than life in every way and on a
collision course with Scott based on his rash and childish decision. That’s where Scott Pilgrim vs. The World goes from being a fun and quirky little movie to kicking stereotypes in the face and delivering a Spinning Uppercut to the norm.
Wisely, the film doesn’t question why. Scott Pilgrim can fly through the air and kick his enemy as if powered by Capcom’s best and brightest. It just is. He can withstand getting punched into the sky or thrown through a building. It just is. His adversaries, each tougher than the last have even more powers, and it just is.
And it just is great. And the less you know about the Brandon Routh fight scene the better.
I’ve heard some complain that the love story’s a tough buy because the characters of Ramona and Knives are hard to love. I counter that by saying most of the people [especially guys] I’ve known in my life fall in love at the drop of the hat and that the buzz of finding someone overrides logic and reality. It doesn’t make it right, but it is a fair reflection on how life is. These are impulsive kids and love is a concept more than something tangible.
The bottom line is, whatever the motivation is, it makes for terrific cinema.
Michael Cera’s style works well for Scott Pilgrim. He’s so good at what he does and so natural as the character it’s very easy to root for him. Great stunt work and usage of technology have turned him into a legitimate action lead, which is a considerable feat. He’s surrounded by really great performers, ranging from the bubbly and adorable Wong to the terrific Culkin and culminating with some really great villainy. Brandon Routh is fantastic, Chris Evans continues to be the most charismatic and watchable actor in Hollywood, and Jason Schwartzman is as always phenomenal. There’s also some great little moments from people all up and down the last list, but the star of this movie is Edgar Wright.
There are so many pitfalls in a movie like this. It could be too precious, too cute, too style over substance, too tied to its roots to reach a new audience, or too caught up in regurgitating video game and pop culture references. Or not enough of them. It could have existed as a small niche movie or as an exercise in weird but Edgar (and his able and diverse crew) balances all of it so well that it transcends the pitfalls. It’s consistently funny, the action is fantastic and very well done, and the music is surprisingly fun and listenable. It’s charming, loaded with great little moments, and within a couple of minutes the filmmakers and cast have created a world where it doesn’t matter how outlandish things get because the delivery is so sublime.
I’ve heard people call it a Hispter movie and maybe I don’t know the real definition of the word [I consider it a profanity] but it feels a lot more legitimate than that. It’s the marriage of a lot of people who are very passionate about the material and a studio ballsy enough to foot the bill. Which is a very rare feat.
It’s an electric movie. Just an absolute joy to behold, and it showcases that Edgar Wright has only scratched the surface of his abilities. Which is scary to consider, since he’s not only three for three as a feature filmmaker but that he’s three for three with three movies people are going to be watching over and over for the rest of their lives.
Forget what you think the movie is. Forget the source material. Forget that you [like me] thinks they’re too old for this kind of flick.
This is one of those movies that remind you why you love movies. Why you love video games. Why you cross your fingers every time the lights dim that you’re going to feel something and be transported by this medium we love but have been bitten by countless times.
This is a great movie from a great filmmaker. And people turn into coins when defeated. If that’s not a winning combination I don’t know what is.