Friday, August 13, 2010

Escape to the Movies: "Scott Pilgrim vs The World"


You bet your ass it's that good.

"Intermission" wraps up the Nerd Movie Bible.

Normally, I'm uncomfortable being a movie "advocate" in addition to "critic," but I really am compelled to join the rest of the web in just PLEADING with anyone within earshot of this with even an inkling of seeing "Scott Pilgrim" to go give it some business this weekend. Yes, even if you're "sick" of Michael Cera - he's REALLY good in this. It's an almost-certain modern classic - easily one of the best films of the year, a future landmark in terms of the "language" of western filmmaking (editing in particular) and just a spectacular piece of work... and it'll be a real shame if it gets stomped all over - financially, anyway - by soulless, pandering "gender-niche" flotsam like "Eat Pray Love" or the unmitigated shitstorm that is "The Expendables."

27 comments:

emxthree said...

Yay! TGIF! Escape to the Movies is the best part of my weekend!

I'm also really enjoying Nerd Movie Bible. I've already seen most of the movies but it's a great trip down memory lane.

Alfred said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred said...

okay, great review as always - I just leave with one question...if you have no love for the books, will this change your mind?

...cuz' I just read the books recently...and could not for the life of me...find anything worth liking

-oh, and nice intermission wrap, i've been scoring high so far with what I have seen vs. what I haven't

Kyle said...

I knew I wanted to see Scott Pilgrim, but now I want to see it IMMEDIATELY.

But my real comment is about Intermission. Holy Geez I love you. You tell me things that I already know but just didn't realize. Ghostbusters, Tron, Big Trouble in Little China... great stuff.

TheDVDGrouch said...

Yes being Canadian you can bet I'm happy to see that Canada is finally being used as Canada in a major Hollywood movie.

FotoVerite said...

I second Alfred's question. Cause I hate hate hate the books. Mostly from a curmudgeon feminist perspective. Scott having to fight Ramona's evil ex's is just so... macho pig. But also because the characters were so shallow.

akkuma420 said...

well that's good to hear. gotta check it out now.
Still gonna go see The Expendables though, my pops wants to see it with me.
Had a feeling The Expendables was gonna be a dud, was hoping for the best though.
It's to bad it wasn't any good, really like Sly. Had alot of potential too.
Oh well, cant win em all.

Bob said...

I think what the movie puts across more strongly than the books is how much of a non-hero Scott is for the most part: He's an immature jerk for the most part, and the "7 Evil Exes" thing isn't so much about him "winning" Ramona (though that's how HE sees it) as it is about beating some self awareness into him.

Rarer Monsters said...

Okay, it's not that Scott Pilgrim is bad, but it does something that I'm sick to effing death of. It has been 27 years since Mario Bros, but if you look at Hollywood than you'll think it was the only game ever made. That entire near 30 years of video game development never makes it into imagery, sure there's 8 bit cheesy midi riffs and extra lives, but where are the Silent Hill references or the Bioshock references? How about Half Life, Portal, Halo, Prince of Persia?

No, we stick in the little pit of 'Old-School' Retro Hipsterness that everyone wallows in. You know what? 1% of SPvtW's audience actually remembers these old school games. They don't know them, they just know the references. It's like someone who's never seen Tron laughing because he knows the joke from Family Guy.

I'm not going to argue that 8-bit games weren't significant, but they aren't the be all end all of video games and youth culture and this is just a self-serving attempt to cash in on meme appeal and let a bunch of audiences pat themselves on the back for spotting obvious references.

It's also kind of annoying that people have refused to recognize the improvements that have been made to gaming. Mario Bros is an awful game by moderns standards...there's no meaningful structure, the controls are wooden and innefective, and 90% of the game was painfully fidgety trial and error. Narrative has improved in games, graphics have improved, gameplay has improved, and a lot of progress has been made.

These kinds of "i luv retro" references are the kind made by people who really don't know boo about games or gaming and just want to play up to hipster ironicness and every flash game developer who wants their cheap midi loop and unweildy platformer to be an instant classic.

[/rant]

tyra menendez said...

I could never get into the comic, because every character looks like the same 12-year-old boy, in slightly different costumes.

Also, I want to add two movies to your geek list: Heavy Metal; although it's really just a series of cartoon boobs, it was an introduction to the idea that animation doesn't haven't to be children's entertainment and opened the door for stuff like Akira and Robot Carnival to be played on TNT (I literally first saw that and Vampire Hunter D on TNT).
Second, Who Framed Roger Rabbit; basically, a child's introduction to film noir. Also the first time I heard an animated character swear.
While Heavy Metal doesn't hold up, Roger Rabbit does and it should be remembered because it's still compelling as well as a technological milestone: the original test-footage of human/'toon interaction had executives convinced that the rabbit was a dwarf, in costume.

Bob said...

@Rarer,

Well, I can't really get behind the idea of denying SMB (I'm assuming you meant SUPER Mario Bros.) It's consistent-classic status. plenty of games from that era that REALLY didn't "hold up" are gone and forgotten, SMB isn't - that kinda says it all. I won't go calling it the Best Game Ever Made or anything... after all, that's Super Mario Bros. 3 ;)

But as far as why the NES-era is most frequently referenced when a movie/TV show/whatever wants something to scream "VIDEO GAME!!!", the popular culture tends to internalize concepts in the form it best knows it, and while gaming has evolved the 8/16-bit platformer/arcade era is how the popular culture best "knows" gaming. It's the same reason why you still hear "record scratch" sounds used as a signifier for "wait, what??" even though vinyl is basically dead, or why "movie" iconography still tends to be film-reels and projectors despite digital rapidly taking over.

I'd also offer that your underestimating how pervasive that age of gaming is for younger generations - NES/SNES-era re-releases remain a big part of the GBA/DS lineup, Mario etc. iconography has been kept fresh in the Galaxy/Kart/Smash Bros. run, and as of last check New SMB Wii is sitting at or near the top-sellers of 2010 list. I'd say it's all still very relevant.

Also, in "Scott Pilgrim," the point is for it's game elements to stand out distinctly from the "normal" stuff, and game-specific concepts like pixel-sprites, 1-ups etc. accomplish that better than references to, say, Bioshock, which tries hard to look more "cinematic" than "game-like."

dkh said...

@FotoVerite,

I'd say the movie's worse than the books in regards to the damsel-in-distress theme, so that's one opinion you can choose to keep in mind. But, honestly, I never really saw that in the books. The books beat over your head the double points of 1) it's Scott's side of the story, so of course it's going to be the masculine side and 2) Scott's side suffers an extraordinary amount. On one hand the comic goes to great lengths to point out Scott's bad side and say "He's not evil, but Scott is NOT a good person. On the other, as the story progresses the women in his life, one after another, point out his skewed, terrible, rose-colored-coke-bottled glasses view of his relationships. I mean, when Ramona isn't in the story, we don't find her in exactly the state in which she left, she's generally been out doing her own thing. The end actually pokes fun at that, talking about her wilderness sabbatical.

@Bob

I'm trying to understand why many people, yourself included, seem to insist that just because something is a metaphor for the audience it must also be a metaphor for the characters. Naturally Scott's battling of the evil exes is a metaphor for natural conflict between people and with our inner demons (I felt the movie's greatest flaw was not giving us enough emotional attachment to the exes, the first six of which were all wronged by Ramona in the comics). But why do we have to simply assume that because the movie's internal logic is, well, illogical, that it is not real? It feels like claiming that there is no Force in Star Wars, that the characters simply learn to believe in their inherent goodness and the righteousness of their cause.

Bob said...

@dkh

Oh, I get that all the out-there stuff is really happening for them, but that doesn't mean it can't also be a metaphor for them as well. "Literal Metaphor," basically. Like... Scott is LITERALLY fighting Roxy, but BY fighting her he's also "fighting" his insecurity about how much more experienced Ramona is than him.

Rarer Monsters said...

@Bob: Fair points all...I'm not really blaming Scott Pilgrim so much as the culture that surrounds it...still I don't think it's impossible to incorporate modern video game references. In Megas XLR Coop used playstation controls and fighting game combos to drive his giant robot, in Kickass Hit-Girl literally switches into FPS mode with her gun and knife.
Imagine a sequence in SPvtW where Scott sneaks out of a difficult situation using a God of War QTE. That wouldn't be a good reference, but still, it would feel very video gamey.

Everyone got mad about Roger Ebert's criticism of video games as art, but how can we blame him for not realizing that video games ever got beyond Super Mario Bros when culture has kept them at that level pretty much throughout history...

...and then I have difficult conversations where I try to explain to friends that no, I really did play a video game that was a complex emotional drama of a man coming to terms with his wife's death or an epic story of a physicist fighting aliens that's infinitely more action packed and thrilling than any blockbuster movie.

tyra menendez said...

Cracked.com actually has a good list of games that should be considered art. Of course, I think the only one I ever played was Fallout 3, and only recently.
Just search for "video games as art" on the site, you'll find it.

Bob said...

@Rarer,

A God of War references wouldn't really "fit" in a movie where the game-culture as experienced/referenced by the characters "stops" at about the point of late-90s arcade stuff.

Also, I get the strong sense it would (ironically) "date" the film much more quickly than the type of references it has now: Like it or not (I'm rather tickled by it) damn near every Mario, Zelda and Mega Man gag "Pilgrim" drops will probably STILL be "relevant" in 25 years (much in the same way movies still joke about King Kong or Hitchcock); while Kratos is probably going to be consigned to the ashbin of game history the nanosecond someone makes a GOW-style brawler with slightly more polished graphics and a different character. It's the same principal by which Hit Girl and Big Daddy dress up like Batman and Robin instead of, say, "Spawn."

Rarer Monsters said...

@Bob: Although you're completely right that isn't necessarily fair, Batman is the Citizen Kane of comic heroes, even after 70 years he's still the defining hero of comics because he's still one of the best. The same goes for movies like North by Northwest which are still better than 99% of modern movies by a wide margin SMB on the other hand can't hope to compete with games in terms of gameplay, story, graphics, or any aspect really.

You're right that relatively new references immediately date things (It's why nobody will ever remember Shrek films), but I have to wonder why there are never any new classics. GoW was one example, but what about, say, Starcraft? I mean, yes a sequel just came about, but it's a game that's been around for years and years and is a pretty huge presence in games, people wouldn't look at it in a few years and say "Starcaft? That is sooo 2010." I mean, movies reference stuff like Fight Club and Fear and Loathing and aren't considered dated?

What is it about videogames that makes it impossible for new classics to develop (Outside of shameless Nintendo gimmick-marketing of repackaged old titles)?

Ezenwa said...

I had a grand old time yesterday watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The verdict: go see it, even if you haven't read the books. All the randomness just screams of hilarity, and all the references to games are as well. Now, let's see if this equation makes sense for you Bob, because I saw that kind of madness in the film:

Edgar Wright + Matthew Vaughn = No More Heroes?

Maybe not, but after seeing Scott Pilgrim, I have more hope that a NMH film is possible..

Bob said...

@Rarer,

At this point aren't we kinda talking past one another? From where I'm sitting, SMB will continue to be the popular culture's primary reference-point for gaming because A.) Its THE classic of the medium and B.) Because it still holds up as a relevant and most-excellent game today. If to you its just a relic that's been rendered obsolete, I dunno where you go from there - its some serious mars/venus stuff at that point ;)

Rarer Monsters said...

@Bob: Yeah, that's true.

Captain Scrambles said...

I'm going to be nice & charitable here...

I. Fucking. HATE. Michael Cera. He's an unlikable bastard who drags out every single scene he's in for hours. He's absolutely painful to watch.

That being said, this movie looks awesome.

General Jack D. Ripper said...

To the people who hate Michal Sera, he's pretty tolerable in this movie. Hell, he's even funny when the script provides it for him.

mr-knightmare said...

Talking abut video games Mr Bob, I'd like to ask you...

Have you ever played any of the original PS1 Spyro The Dragon games? I have a feeling that you would LOVE them since the're really up there with Mario in terms of 3D platforming...

Also have you tried the Ratchet&Clank games? From the same developers awesome games...

Hyrabethian said...

Well, I just saw the movie and it's....very....shiny!
=/

I don't know, maybe I just don't get teenagers today, but there wasn't a single likable character all with the depth of a 14 year old being dumped for the first time, the whole tongue in cheek homage to gaming culture got pretty redundant, and it made me miss being a X-gen teenager from the 90s.

And I hated the 90s and my generation...lol

Ezenwa said...

Color me a spam artist, Bob, but you have to see this review.

http://spoonyexperiment.com/2010/08/18/scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-review/

Dude, he captures virtually every reason why the movie works. He even explains the characters very well.

Main Point: this movie is actually deeper than one sees it to be. He does go into why he doesn't like the Expendables, from a film standpoint, but, well, I haven't seen it yet, and I'll probably enjoy it. I just don't want to be comparing two unrelated movies together.

Vincent said...

After watching Scott Pilgrim, I really feel like drinking a Coke Zero. I dunno why...

Anonymous said...

For all the depth and meaning people find in this movie, for all the progression that Scott makes as a person and for all of the lessons he's supposed to have learned...

... it doesn't get me past the fact that he dumped a girl in one shallow relationship so he could start another based on his having had a dream about her. Even by the end of the film, the audience is never shown another reason why the two of them belong together beyond the primal draw of hormones.

That's shallower than a frying pan. Scott Pilgrim all grown up? Give me a break.