Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

When you think of the great comedy directors, who do you think of? Ernst Lubitsch? Leo McCarey? Billy Wilder? Blake Edwards? Kevin Smith? Judd Apatow? I think these men are all very talented but they’re often considered for their ability to work with actors. It is their canon that is remembered more than a specific style their bring. If I present a single frame from one of their pictures, there will be very little for you to guess which director crafted it unlike auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock or Akira Kurosawa.

Edgar Wright has changed that. He’s wowed me with his amazing TV show Spaced and his movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. With his latest film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World he proves the full extent he’s putting on the comedy spectrum. This is not just a frivolous genre where you just put the camera on a tripod and let the actors go.

There is not a boring frame in this movie. Yes, there are visual gimmicks like having the cartoonish “POWs” and “RIIIIINNNNNGGGGGGs” or having the characters break out into stylized video game fights. Those were incredible, but Wright is as interested in how to cleverly transition from scene to scene as he is on having proper CGI for a laser sword.

This movie is so good that I am not afraid to call Wright one of the best filmmakers working today. He is up there with Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers. To me he’s even surpassed the other geek God Christopher Nolan. He’s done the incredible. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not just a visual triumphant or wall-to-wall with successful jokes. (It is that by the way.) This movie even manages to work on an emotional level.

I caused a stir among other local critics on Facebook by comparing this to 500 Days of Summer. In particular, I made the brash notion this achieves where Summer failed. Scott Pilgrim is a slacker Canadian who, like most kids of his age, grew up on a lifestyle of music and video games. The premise of the movie is that in order to date his new romantic interest he has to literally defeat her seven evil exes. The film uses this reality as experimental as musicals are. If you watch West Side Story and wonder when the Jets go to dance practice, you’ve missed the point. In the same vein, do not question when Scott Pilgrim learned to fight (or why his enemies turn into coins).

Through this venue, there are plenty of profound moments as they dissect relationship and the baggage they bring. The struggle isn’t about getting married at the end, but being allowed to have a chance. There so many refreshing takes on romance and ramifications in this movie it feels like the genre has been revived.

I have seen this twice now and if asked, I will see it again this week. This does everything right. It understands the power of having memorable supporting characters. It understands that audiences respond positively when the CGI actually looks good and not rushed together. (I’m looking at you every non-Inception summer movie!) It knows how to make you laugh with characters. When comedy actually has “characters” and not just “setups for jokes” then it all becomes more memorable. Scott Pilgrim is not just laughing and having a good time throughout this film. Most of the time he’s being thrown into buildings or being punched in the face. We can smile at his foolish attempts, but the film proves the most effective is when we stop when he actually hurt.

I adore this movie and encourage everyone to see this. It’s not necessary for you to know all of the Nintendo references or to identify with hipsters. At the very least, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World can show you the power and the strength of comedies. This film won’t be up for any Oscars this year and that is as evil as anything Gideon Graves accomplished.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. I'll add that I loved its nostalgic embrace of the 90s (the Super Mario and Seinfeld references) paired with its timeliness. It was almost like "Juno" or "Napoleon Dynamite" in that it takes place in a strange, somewhat indistinguishable era. The world of "Scott Pilgrim" was surreal, but it felt lived in and achingly real at the same time.

    It kept me blissfully entertained. Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any better, there was a great cameo from Thomas Jane or a side-splitting sight gag or a beautifully tender moment, the list goes on.

    I hate to keep comparing it to other movies, but it has the coolest vibe since "Pulp Fiction." This is a great, great film.