Sometimes a little hype isn't all that bad. After watching the initial trailer of Scott Pilgrim I wasn't exactly motivated to see it. There's a limit too how much "I'm wearing my grandma's hat so I'm super indy" one can stomach and I'm pretty close to the point of over-saturation. But hypes are always worth watching (if only to form your own opinion on them) and in this case it turned out surprisingly well. Keep on reading.
I been following Edgar Wright's career pretty much by accident. Went to see Shaun of the Dead because of the buzz, caught his part of Grindhouse because my girlfriend is a fan and saw Hot Fuzz in theaters because there wasn't anything better at that time. He never really convinced me before but each consecutive film showed great improvement. All of this leads to Scott Pilgrim, the first Wright film I really liked. I didn't realize until after the credits though, when I saw his name pass by.
The Brits are succeeding quite well adapting comic books in Hollywood. Earlier this year Vaughn's Kick-Ass turned a few heads, now it's time for Wright to flex his muscles. That said, Scott Pilgrim will not necessarily appeal to comic fans. Retrogamers and garage rock band adepts will love it all the more though. Now the rock part I couldn't care less about, but the gaming aspect is superbly integrated into the film. It reminded me of the days I loved to read Super Play (independent British Super Nintendo mag) where writers would often wonder what the world would be like if it played more like a video game. Enemies dropping coins when beaten, energy bars depleted when fighting ... that's the world of Scott Pilgrim.
The story is completely nonsense but good fun nonetheless. If the trailer makes the film look like one of those typical Cera-nerdy romantic comedies it's because the trailer isn't showing too much of the guitar battles and the fights against the seven evil exes. To win the love of his girlfriend Cera needs to beat a band of former boyfriends, led by Jason Schwartzman as the main bad guy. Just remember that this film is all about fun, not about serious drama or a coherent storyline.
Visually Scott Pilgrim is a real hoot. Comic book adaptations usually include some swift little details referencing their comic book background, but Wright really turns the comic book world to life. Not only by throwing in textual sound effects all over the place (and not just in a few selected scenes) but also by making the editing a lot faster and snappier than in regular films. Simple conversations can span a day's worth and several locations. The pacing is dropped a little later on but the first half of the film is lightning fast. Special effects are cool too with some spectacular battles and nifty battle effects.
As for the soundtrack, I'm still in doubt. I don't give a damn about the garage rock stuff featured in this film and I don't believe that another genre of music would've killed any of the atmosphere here. I realize this is taken straight out of the comic but that's not something I as a film fan should care about. On the other hand, the film is filled with awesome little retrogame samples (I'm sure I heard the kill-tune of Ghost and Goblins in there somewhere) which really made me smile more than once. It's these details that show the film has a dedicated team behind it rather than some simple Hollywood cash-ins.
Acting is decent although Cera is just Cera once more. The guy keeps playing the same old character over and over again which is getting a little boring. The rest of the cast is pretty much in the same league, only Kieran Culkin manages to add a little extra spice to the humor. Not that the cast is doing a bad job but once again, I'm a bit bored of these lazy, indy-loving, nerdy bums.
Around halfway the film starts to drag a little. Seven evil exes prove a little too much to handle in one single film which results in the middle part flipping through several battles rather quickly. By then you are used to most of the weirdness and when the pacing drops a little you start wondering if they just couldn't have dropped an ex or two. Sure it would've killed a couple of fans of the original, but I believe in the end it would've improved the film.
The finale is great though, leaving you with a pretty satisfied feeling when the credits start to roll. Looking back, Scott Pilgrim is a pretty refreshing film that feels like something tailored for a new generation of film fans. The cross-media experience is very well thought out with crazy details all over the place and an excruciating pace to appeal to the internet-bred kids of this era. On the other hand, young adults with some early gaming experience or a love for garage rock will still find a lot of sentimental value in this film.
While the film drags a little in the middle the rest of it is pretty much perfect. It's fast-paced, funny, weird, extravagant and doesn't seem worried by any boundaries or possible audiences. Scott Pilgrim feels like a film made by a true game/rock fan which is not all that common in a business seemingly dominated by producers. I'm not sure where Wright will go from here but I'll be tracking his moves a little closer from now on.