Sunday, December 12, 2010
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The movie begins as a relatively straight-forward slacker comedy, with a few visual oddities such as animated hearts surrounding a kiss or the word "Ring" accompanying the ringing of a phone. These effects increase throughout the movie, reaching their peaks during the fights with the exes. The fights are filmed as if they were part of a video game; each fight begins with the opponents on opposite sides of the screen and a "vs." superimposed between them. Points are awarded during the fight and the loser disintegrates in a shower of coins.
Micheal Cera's Scott is a very sympathetic character whose slight build and geeky persona make the fight scenes even more fun. Scott and the exes dish out and receive punishment that you can only find in a video game or a superhero movie. The noticeable lack of blood or bruises only adds to the movie's surrealism. Like the bosses at the end of a video game level, each ex has a different ability or style. One fight even involves a literal battle of the bands. Although no one in the movie behaves as if such events are normal occurrences, they quickly shrug off the weirdness.
Unfortunately, like the hilarious animated show Futurama, the weirdness may be Scott Pilgrim's greatest weakness as well as its greatest strength. Futurama is a perfect spoof of the science fiction genre, with references to sources as popular as Star Wars and as obscure as Metropolis (1927). While extremely clever to those who are familiar with sci-fi (I still think it's funny that every door in Futurama uses the sound effect from the doors in the original Star Trek series), the humor turned out to be too arcane for most viewers. The show flirted with cancellation until its fourth season when Fox finally gave it the ax. The show was resurrect by Comedy Central this year, seven years after Fox originally canceled it.
Similarly, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World spoofs martial arts movies, video games (particularly the fighting games that were first made popular by Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Combat), comic books, anime, and (in a very brief segment) Bollywood films. It does all of this in a completely serious manner. This is likely to endear the movie to a certain subset of geeks while alienating a significant number of potential viewers.
I happen to be in the targeted subset and very much enjoyed the movie. Compare this to my wife's unamused reaction when I showed her a single five minute scene. She was very glad that I didn't subject her to the whole film.