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Review – Movie – Scott Pilgrim vs the World

I generally like to avoid giving away too many spoilers for anything new so I’ll break this review in half so to speak.  I’ll preface this a bit with my thoughts and feelings before going into this movie.

Based on almost no evidence, the original thought was “Hey look, it’s River City Ransom the Movie”.  These character all come off the way Kunio and company would if they were live action players in a film with a plot slightly deeper than “Fight across the city to rescue your girlfriend’.  In addition to the seemingly gratuitous River City Ransom influence, there were other obvious general Video game references at work here.  This movie seemed to be one right up my alley though no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my expectations to actually go up much more than “this will probably end up being ok but mostly annoying.

I realized later that part of this reason is that I don’t really care for the lead actor, Michael Cera.   He’s just not overly compelling to look at and comes off as if he’s about to burst into tears at any moment because someone is being a puppy in front of him.

That’s the best way to say it really.

Thankfully, this film ultimately does deliver a pretty good if not somewhat random story.  When I say random” i mean the good sort of random.  The kind where it’s random in that it’s reasonably original in concept, and less so in that it’s all over the place with no explanation.  In fact, other than the completely outlandish fight scenes, which there are many, this film’s plot would still flow decently and stands coherently on it’s own.  I guess what I’m saying is, nothing ever seems to happen “just for the sake of happening”, which is often a pit fall of hipster stylized films such as this one.  Everything ultimately has a purpose.

Scott and Ramona

So the quick plot in a nutshell.  Scott Pilgrim meets the literal girl of his dreams and does his goofy best to court her.  He then discovers that in order to date her, he must battle, to the death, each of her seven previous “Ex-es”.  The base issue i have here is that Ramona is general aloof and mysterious and there is actually not as much given into her background as I’d like.  This brings up the issues involved  with the idea of “adapted from a book/graphic novel/comic.” 

Due to interest generated by this movie, before seeing it, I’d been reading through the books.  I’m through book 2 out of 6.  The plot line follows pretty closely with the plot of the books I’ve read up until around the end of book 2.  It quickly becomes apparent that somewhere someone realized that they would never fit all of the 6 volumes into one manageable film.  Liberties with the plot start showing up and even though I’m not familiar with the entire plot (yet) it’s fairly clear more and more chunks are chopped out as the show moves along.  Especially considering that the halfway point of the movie’s run time roughly corresponds with the end of book 2, that is, only one third of the way through the overall actual plot.  I’ll touch on a few details later in the spoiler section later.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but by the end things feel a little rushed.

The climax sequence probably also isn’t helped if another factor I heard is true either.  It’s my understanding that the 6th book wasn’t quite finished when the movie was in production.  This means the end is slightly different than the book.  i personally don’t have a problem with this however the overall feel and dialogue of the climax and ending sequence does feel slightly “off” from the tone of the rest of the film.  It’s not a game breaking feel, and it may just be a result of the books being put out over like a 6 year period but it just felt slightly more… big budget Hollywood than the rest of the movie.

Speaking of big budget feel, Scott Pilgrim is loaded with some fantastic special effects.  It’s all very subtle through and meant to mimic the feel of a comic book.  The last film i remember seeing that really FELT like a comic book was Ang Lee’s Hulk.  Not the one with Edward Norton, the other one that no one seemed to like.  It does make for some slightly odd scene transitions but it works well for flowing time across multiple periods and locations.  It also works well for conveying the force and power behind various actions.

Like when the band plays it’s music and there’s these little waves of energy flying from the instruments.  Speaking of music, this film is has a lot of it.  It’s all pretty decent thankfully and it’s often central to the plot.  Scott Pilgrim is a member of the band Sex Bob-Om, a reference to Mario Brothers.  This band and it’s members is directly involve in the activity of something like 5 of the 7 Evil Exes generally through the Toronto Battle of the Bands contest.

As for a generalized review, the movie pretty much delivers as expected and promised in every way possible.  If you’ve seen the trailer and said “oh wow, that looks fun/interesting/good” chances are you’ll be satisfied with the experience.  If you’ve seen it and said “That looks like some hipster indie wanna-be nerd trash flick”, you probably won’t like it.  I will say that I though it looked “ok” based on the trailer and pre knowledge and ended up being satisfactorily surprised at how good it ended up being.  On the other hand, someone like my wife, who will get almost zero of the “subtle video game jokes” and generally doesn’t like kooky action filled ironic comedies, probably wouldn’t care for it.

So if you’re not interested in a bit of spoiler related notes, I’ll let ol’ Scott here send you packing.

These will be fairly free flowing here…  If i come up with something really good after finishing the books I’ll probably just update this list….

Before all else I want to throw in how hilariously awesomely fan wankish it is that the people who get killed explode into coins River City Ransom style.  I prefaced this review with how this looked like “river City Ransom the Movie’ and i had no idea this would actually happen (ok, i didn’t know before I saw it in the book but still).  Speaking of the book and RCR, there’s also a scene where Scott is effectively dreaming about living the game in his past and rescuing some girl from Simon on the roof of River City High.

Firstly, Secondly, the video game references were fairly numerous and the effects often had the simulation of Fighting Game style graphics.  Most obvious is the appearance of the word “VS” on the screen just before any fight actually started.  I found myself heavily anticipating the final VS appearance between Scott and Gideon.  It didn’t come at first but it was later shown why (Hey, i got an extra guy!)  Basically, the real fight hadn’t happened yet.

Then there was the REAL final VS between Scott and Nega-Scott.  I can say i knew there wouldn’t be a real fight here.  it wouldn’t have fit with the tone flowing at the moment at all, this is something the film seemed to control very well. 

I also was rather surprised and not surprised when it came down to Ramona VS Roxie  instead of Scott VS Roxie.  i almost pulled a hokey “Stand up and cheer” move in the theater.

Speaking of Ramona VS, in at least one occasion, we get Knives vs Ramona before the climax.  This was completely cut and seems like it could have made a decent addition since it would have helped set up Knives’ appearance during the climax better.

As for Knives in the Climax.  I actually was really REALLY disappointed that Scott didn’t pick knives over Ramona in the end.  Frankly, despite the hassle everyone gave Scott over Knives, she seems to genuinely give a shit about him while Ramona doesn’t seem to care at all, about anyone.

Basically, Scott really should have just told Ramona adieu but he’s realized that it’ll never work out and stuck with Knives.

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