Since the dawn of the days of button-mashing, there has yet to be a great film based around video games. Sure, there have been adaptations of various games, and films that have incorporated video games into the story (like Tron or The Last Starfigher), but today marks the day that a film has come around to deliver the video game experience within the context of a movie.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is that movie.
I think people of previous generations would try to structure their lives like a great novel, a work in progress. Scott Pilgrim, and many of his generation, would tend to structure their lives like a video game. Life is just a linear progression of jumping over pits, getting power-ups, fighting bosses and rescuing princesses, and then you go back to the beginning and do it over again. Once in a while you get to do a skateboard level.
Edgar Wright and his team craft a storytelling experience rarely seen in movies: one where 3 very different entertainment mediums converge and co-exist to make a wholly unique experience (and it ain’t 3D). The film plays out with a progression and attitude like a video game, but it’s a feature-length movie, yet is using faithful adaptation, translating a printed comic book to the big screen.
And what a movie! The language, editing, performances and style had me thinking during the drive home… Scott Pilgrim is more like a 2010 Say Anything than any other movie it could be compared to. Full of young characters, brimming with ambition, thinking they have all the answers or the right attitude toward any problem standing in their way, and realizing they’re going to have to think outside the box (or cartridge in Scott’s case) to turn things around. Things don’t always end up as expected (even for the audience) and we all go home a little more fulfilled and knowing, “it’s okay that I’m still young and still don’t know shit about shit”.
Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Mark Webber, Anna Kendrick, Allison Pill, Johnny Simmons, and the League of Evil Ex’s make up the best ensemble in an action/fantasy movie since maybe Lord of the Rings. Each actor is at the top of their game (even Tom Jane has a fucking awesome cameo) and while I had my suspicions about Cera continuing to play George Michael (Arrested Development) in everything he does, he gracefully steps out of his shell a bit. And the biggest revelation… his new-found action chops! The boy can fight! It’s very clear he, and every actor in the movie wanted to deliver their very best to the story. The energy shows even without the visual effects.
Edgar Wright proved in his earlier films (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) that he is the master of incorporating numerous styles of editing and shot composition in order to get the most out of his scenes. What we saw in Shaun and Fuzz was only a taste. This time he’s playing with a giant budget, full of great visual effects and possibilities. It’s incredibly difficult to take your eyes off this movie; and like a video game, there is detail all over the screen to pay attention to and admire. Like his other movies, this one will warrant many repeat viewings.
My only quibble, I think, lies in the types of characters these people are. Scott’s consistent failure to communicate may put some viewers off, and he is nowhere near the most interesting character in the movie. But then again, neither were Mario or Sonic. Ryu was kinda boring too. It’s all about what’s happening to them, who they meet, who they have to fight.
The movie even has a skateboard level!
In a summer of duds, here’s a gem I think deserves every last coin we give it.