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Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010, USA)

05/03/2011

Director: Edgar Wright   Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin

“An Epic of Epic Epicness” or so runs the tagline to Edgar Wright’s third full length feature. Frankly it’s a bold claim, with a faintly irritating air about it that did nothing to allay my fears about whether or not I would enjoy the film. Despite the buzz surrounding the film and the pedigree of its director (I thoroughly enjoyed both Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz) there was something about Scott Pilgrim that just didn’t appeal to me. Perhaps it was Michael Cera who, through no fault of his own, I find a little bit irritating. Perhaps it was the hype. Maybe it was the promise of watching a two hour ultra-geek fest that sapped my desire to invest some time in it. Whatever the reason, it was not a film I was in much of a hurry to watch but managed to catch up with it last weekend whilst staying with friends.

Based on the six volume comic book series it charts the relationship between Scott Pilgrim (Cera) and Ramona Flowers (Winstead). Scott, a geeky bass palyer in an aspiring band becomes infatuated with Ramona and succesfully woos her only to discover that to win her heart he has to defeat her seven “evil exes” in video game style battles. My lack of familiarity with the comic book wasn’t an obstacle although it is difficult to see how six volumes could be condensed down to a two hour film without upsetting the fans by missing stuff out.

I am completely torn by the film. Wright has gone to town from a technical standpoint. The film is a blistering whirlwind of anime style visuals and video game dynamics. Pilgrim’s showdowns with the League of Evil Exes are generally entertaining although the extensive, obvious stunt doubling feels odd in an era where we are more used to actors training up in pre production boot camps to do their own fighting. They are filmed in a wonderfully kinetic style that embraces the surreal context of the fights and the absurdity of the action. I really enjoyed the quirky comic book effects, the manga-esque action and the inventive use of digital effects. The problem is though that all this creativity has been hung on what for me was a dull and irritating story.

Clearly it’s a geek’s fantasy about getting the girl. That’s fine, I get that. The neurotic attitude of the story though, with Scott’s war with the League of Evil Exes a manifestation of insecurity about your partner’s previous relationships, annoyed the hell out of me. Pilgrim himself is a bit of weasel, chasing Ramona while still going out with his school girl girlfriend Knives who is little more than a young, impressionable girlfriend of convenience. He’s a whiner who spends too much time worrying about other people instead of getting on with his life and it bugged me relentlessly throughout the film. I found myself rooting for Scott in the battle scenes not because he was a worthy hero but because he was less of a bastard than the people he was fighting.

Sadly, this did a lot of damage to my enjoyment of the film. Is it significant that the first Edgar Wright film I didn’t enjoy was his first without his partner in crime Simon Pegg? Probably not. I think the flaws most likely stem from the source material and are in fact pivotal to the plot. The issue I think is more one of compatibility. I don’t think there is any way that the story could have been presented to me that would have overcome these shortcomings. Unfortunately, this time, I’m going to have to come down on the side of The World. Sorry Scott.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 05/03/2011 21:09

    Hard to disagree with any of that.

    I did quite enjoy it nonetheless but only because my expectations were as low as expectations can be. I had the same kind of dissatisfaction with Kick-Ass. Again, I could appreciate the merits but I basically prefer a film about adults.

    I have not yet developed a taste for Werther’s Originals.

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