Saturday, 4 September 2010

Scott Pilgrim v.s. The Box Office

Okay, so first a film review, and then a mega-rant. There's blood in the water about the recent travesties at the box office and I'm feeling like a big nasty literary shark.

Alrighty, first up: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Yes, this review is a little late, but to hell with it. This is easily the best movie of the year so far. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the movie adaptation of the semi popular Bryan Lee O'Malley comic series, directed by Shaun Of The Dead/Hot Fuzz director and long time Simon Pegg collaborator Edgar Wright, this being his first film outside said collaboration. The plot in brief: Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera) is a lazy ass 22 year old Canadian fellow who doesn't have a job, plays bass in a band (the brilliantly named Sex Bob Omb - and if you got the joke, you need to see this movie) and is dating a 17 year old high school girl. Then he meets Ramona Flowers, a frosty cool tough chick from New York in the vain of Woody Allen's Annie Hall, and his life is turned upside down. First, he falls in love. Then comes the crushing news that to continue dating Ramona, he must defeat her seven evil ex's. Bummer. This is where the key element of the movie (and the comics of course) comes into play: Scott's version of Toronto, Canada is running on videogame rules, including experience points, extra lives and opponents turning into money when they are defeated.

Anyone aged 17-24 (give or take a few years depending on maturity level) will majorly enjoy this film and even those outside that age group will find something in it they like, even if they don't maybe get all the videogame and music related jokes. It works both as a kick ass action movie (with full blown martial arts style fight sequences) and a thoughtful and intelligent look at the machinations of the social lives and dating habits of people Scott's age. Edgar Wright, forever the master of being able to craft a story that combines traditionally seperate themes like these, has really hit the ball out of the park in his first foray outside the Spaced camp. The action scenes are some of the best I've seen in cinema for a long time and the soundtrack kicks ass (the original songs by Sex Bob Omb were actually written and performed by indie godfather Beck, with vocals provided by Mark Webber, the actor who plays Sex Bob Omb's singer/guitarist Stephen Stills)

The casting is also, for the most part, spot on. Micheal Cera plays somewhat against type in the role of Scott Pilgrim in that, he's not the perfect sensitive caring young man we usually see him portray. Scott Pilgrim is somewhat whiny and self centered and although we like him, throughout the film you often cringe at some of the bad choices he makes. But in turn, that's what makes this film really work: we see how he deals with those bad choices and ultimately (in an awesome turn of events involving an extra life) rising to the occasion. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfect as the icy cool Ramona Flowers, taking the classic world-wary pixie character template and making it pop on the screen. A special 'Where the hell has he been all this time?!' mention goes to Kieran Culkin as Scott's side splittingly dry humoured gay roommate Wallace Wells for providing some of the film's biggest laughs. I sense a career revival in the making here. Of course, the film wouldn't be complete without the infamous evil ex's, most of whom audiences are already familiar with: Brandon Routh as psychic vegan Todd Ingram and the new Captain America, Chris Evans, as action movie star Lucas Lee both ham it up in their villanous roles, entertaining immensely in their short times on screen.

Of course, no film is without it's faults: the plot arc of the comic series spawned six rather in depth volumes and compressing that all into just under two hours wasn't the easiest thing for Edgar Wright to try and pull off, as the main plotline must of course take precidence. This leaves us wanting more time to spend with some of the secondary characters as a result, but this perhaps can be excused as being unavoidable. Also, final big bad Gideon Graves (played to the douchebaggingly effective max by Jason Schwartzman) wasn't given enough screentime for my liking, he perhaps could have been foreshadowed a little more considering he is supposed to be behind the whole League of Evil Ex's idea. It's also worthy to note that this film was made before the final volume was actually released, so it has a somewhat different final third based on O'Malley's rough notes, meaning fans wanting a hardcore straight adaptation may leave disappointed.

In the end though, this is the best film of the year, on a par with the excellent Inception. The action works, you care about the characters and it crafts a compelling story that you as an audience want to see through to the end, and ultimately, that's what film-making is all about.

Which leads to my rant. I'll put it in a seperate post, but beware, if you liked the cinematic disaster that was The may not like what I have to say next.

Stay tuned,

Captain Mark