Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

By the time I saw this movie my Scott Pilgrim fandom had waned slightly, not because of anything in particular, but just because the novelty had worn off a bit. Still, it's a very entertaining property, and Edgar Wright managed to strike a perfect balance between faithfully bringing Bryan Lee O'Malley's unique vision to the screen while changing enough to keep it fresh. I think the books and the movie both have their own strengths, the comics obviously have more time to spend developing secondary characters and the setting whereas the movie rushes through that a bit, but it also helps towards the end where it builds to a natural climax and exciting conclusion instead of the weird vibe I got from the final volume. It's a good companion to the books, and also stands well enough on its own for someone who's never read them to still enjoy the heck out of it, even if some of the background comes off as shallow.

Visually, it's one of the most kinetic and unique things I've ever seen. Wright is constantly playing with reality, having scenes warp and distort to fit the mood, and the editing is intensely in tune with whatever is being seen or heard. It calls a lot of attention to itself, but it works for the type of story it is, frantically racing from scene to scene, musical performance to martial arts fight, and it creates an atmosphere of giddy energy. All of the bands sound pretty much how they should, and the use of music to accentuate the mood or a fight (or even be a fight itself in one instance) is effective. There's also a ton of video game crap all over the place, tons of borrowed sound effects and musical cues and a few visual elements that pull you into the strange version of Toronto the film is creating and are also a nice bonus activity for nerds to spend their time identifying. The movie is primarily a comedy, and it's very funny, but what's impressive is how well the action works. The movie combines the weird gaming sensibility with some genuinely entertaining fight choreography, and while the stunt doubling is occasionally obvious, they're still very well produced scenes and I'm confident in saying they're actually the best action scenes I've seen this year. Fast, exciting, and you can actually see what's going on the entire time. It's an impressive feat.

The movie also works because almost everyone is right for their parts. Michael Cera actually doesn't fit how I pictured Scott Pilgrim acting in real life, as he's usually much closer to his completely awkward and shy persona. But that version of Scott manages to work in Wright's film, and he's surrounded by a pretty great supporting cast. A lot of the faces are recognizable elsewhere, as they pretty much got as many hot young people with talent that they could find. The evil exes in particular stand out, the twins are pretty much gone before they can do anything, but Matthew Patel is extremely weird, and the other actors who I actually know all do good jobs. Thomas Jane as a member of the vegan police was a bizarre but welcome cameo, and Bill Hader has a great narrator's voice. Kieran Culkin is a standout among Scott's friends as his awesome gay roommate Wallace. It might have been a good idea to tidy up the parade of Scott's acquaintances and merge a few parts just to make it easier to keep so many minor characters straight, because I'm not sure how manageable that is without prior knowledge. Still, it was fun seeing everyone so well realized in live action form. Not my favorite movie this year but certainly one of the most fun, and it continues to show how much skill Edgar Wright has with putting pure joy on film.

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