Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" review: it's all about the eye candy

Now that "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is bombing at the box office (well, relatively) let's not take this opportunity to dump on it, which I have no such intention to do anyway, but instead look at how the path of films like this seem to be oddly similar. The path of an overwhelming Comic-Con previewed event movie, adored by fans of the original material, but shunned by the rest of the world.

Such was the fate of three other movies that had incredible amounts of fanboy love during the last two and a half years and took early nosedives after the first couple of weeks. The only difference is that I loved "Fanboys", "Watchmen" and "Kick-Ass"!

"Scott Pilgrim"'s problem was one I predicted right from the onset of the first trailer. The mere fact that it is such a niche movie detracts from what it really wanted and needed to be; a crossover into "Juno" land with star Michael Cera onboard. I have to admit that I knew nothing of the original comic series until right before Comic-Con this year. But from what I've heard, Director Edgar Wright has meticulously recreated the look and feel of the characters and world that Scott, his fledgling girlfriend, and seven evil axes boyfriends inhabit. Really the only problem is with the audience connection, and that's where the niche factor comes into play.

True fans of the original comics are eating this movie up again and again. But their numbers have not been big enough to raise "Pilgrim" any higher than the #3 or 4 spot on the box office charts. Even "The Other Guys" beat this movie which amazes me to no end...but more about that in a little bit. Being a video game fanatic is the 'in' factor here with some dashes of pop culture references. On a positive note, the overall look of the movie combined with some really creative, edgy, and almost Soderbergh-esque editing really makes the imagery and vibe of the story pop. Scene expositions can bridge from one to the next to the next as conversations jump cut seamlessly while Scott and his friends head to a gig or to take down the next villain. Also, the use of word balloons and effects are cool enhancements in a comic book sense, and another aspect I understand was taken directly from the original material.

I guess the real issue is do we care about these characters. O.K. so this is not meant to be an incredibly deep movie. But as the fight scenes unfold again and again you find yourself wanting something a little more than just two-dimensional characters in ever increasingly over-the-top scenarios. Plus you keep hoping these fight scenes will get better and a little more elaborate. They're definitely fun but not the blow out events fanboy bloggers have been cheering about. Which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that if you're anywhere from your teens through mid-twenties and eat video games for breakfast, lunch, and dinner then you will LOVE "Scott Pilgrim". The video game aspect is definitely something that's never been attempted like this in a movie before, and kudos for that. Unique video glitching occurs when characters are damaged that's sort of a next step effect removed from the original "Tron" and "The Matrix". Bad guys are dispatched, turning into point coins that fall to the ground. Running point counters keep you in the game mode as our characters seemingly move from near real life to a total game world that even depicts a cool 'do-over' during the climactic battle.

Beyond what is obviously the movie's strengths, here's the bottom line: even with the inclusion of Michael Cera, who I've always enjoyed in just about every movie he's been in, most of what's on screen is just really well done CG, practical, and animated effects that by the end of the movie is nothing more than really cool eye candy. Basically as the credits began to roll Rebecca and I looked at each other and said 'it was O.K.'. So there you have it.


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