Monday, July 26, 2010

Spoiler-Free Sneak Preview: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

In watching the bad movies, I've pontificated at length on the misery that is movies based on video games. To recap: there are a bunch on the list, many are directed by Uwe Boll (perhaps the worst director of all time), the most critically-acclaimed video game movie ever is the not-so-great Mortal Kombat. Video game movies usually take themselves too seriously and fail by having to stick to story lines that are not generally feature film quality. So, maybe it should not come as a surprise that tonight I saw the best video game movie I can remember seeing and it is a) made by a director who is known for not taking anything too seriously and b) not actually based on a video game.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series (which I have not read, but skimmed the plot on wikipedia to see where the movie differed), dealing with a Canadian slacker (here played by Michael Cera) who tries to find himself through an American girl (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be in a relationship with her, he has to deal with his current 17-year-old girlfriend, his nosy roommate and sister, and -- most of all -- defeat the girl's League of Evil Exes by besting her seven former significant others in battle.

I recognize the movie doesn't open for almost two weeks, so I'm not even going to go near any spoilers. Instead, I'll focus on the art of the movie. Cera is not nearly as annoying as he's grown to be in most stuff lately. Winstead, who I vaguely remember from Final Destination 3, is really good. There are some nice performances from Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Brie Larson, and Jason Schwartzman, among others (and some cameos that are fun to pick out). Besides Winstead, the actor who steals the movie is Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate, with some great lines and deadpan sarcasm. The music is great, with a lot of video game themes (a lot of Zelda, specifically -- I think Link to the Past) and some nice original stuff from Beck, who wrote all of the music that Scott's band plays.

The winner here is Edgar Wright's direction. I already love Wright for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and, most of all, Spaced. These two movies and one TV show were all about self-irreverence and rapid-fire pop culture references. He brings that to Scott Pilgrim and gets a lot out of his actors while still working in multiple sight gags and one-liners. The movie is really, really funny and that doesn't work without there being heart to the less wacky scenes. The wacky scenes are really wacky -- I wouldn't recommend this movie to someone who either hates video games or isn't just a little nerdy -- but they still fit with the rest of the movie.

I've been pickier lately about what movies I buy on DVD because I rarely watch them, but this is the kind of movie I could see getting. It's got a ton of great lines, it's really fun visually, and it's the kind of movie that would be great to put on at a party. It obviously pales in comparison to Inception, but it's a niche movie. You like quirky movies? You like video games? You should enjoy this one.


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear the movie turned out well. I just read the last book (came out last week) and it was great- a very satisfying end to the series...although I'm sad to see it go. Bryan Lee O'Malley, who wrote and drew the books, has raved about Jason Schwartzman, saying that he was so good that it actually changed the way he wound up writing the character of Gideon.

Scott's roommate has most of the best lines in the books too.


Josh said...

It seems, from what I've read of the books' plot, that they changed it a bit to keep the movie within a reasonable time limit. Curious to see what you, who've read the books, thinks of that. It all made sense to me, but I have no other frame of reference.