More so than any film in recent memory your enjoyment of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” hinges entirely upon what generation you’re a part of. It’s a nonstop barrage of pop culture references, and it is filled to overflowing with video game throwbacks and comic-book storytelling. It speaks very specifically to one age group; if you were born during the 1980s, you’re in the wheelhouse.
For the record, other than the handful hand-picked by my 6-year-old son, I haven’t read a comic book in at least 10 years.
As far as video games go, I still prefer the old-school button-mashers like "Mortal Kombat" and "Super Mario."
I’m 33 years old – born in 1977 – and a father of two, with at least a few gray hairs to speak of.
And I’m still not too old to take on “the World.”
But reading reviews of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” I’ve never felt so old.
If there’s one thing most critics of this comic-inspired flick agree on, it’s that you’ve gotta be 20-something to truly appreciate it.
It helps, I hear, if you have a little ADD (attention deficit disorder, for those of you not on Ritalin) and, for the most part, live in a fantasy world.
If you have a job that doesn’t involve a drive-through window or a funny hat and nametag, and can’t log more than eight hours a day on "World of Warcraft" (or if you don’t know what that is), you probably won’t like it, critics suggest.
I might not have been born in the 1980s, but I’m still very much a child of the ’80s – which is the decade from which “Scott Pilgrim” draws much of its inspiration.
And, for the record, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
But I’m not bitter about being treated like a fogey – just don’t bring black balloons to my next birthday – and I’m more than happy to welcome a younger perspective into this week’s Reel Deal.
Seth Breedlove (who was, in the interests of full disclosure, born in 1981) is a self-professed comic-book kook. He has a comic-book blog (Seth vs. the Flying Saucers) and podcast (The Flying Saucer-cast, available for free download on iTunes). He’s been a guest film critic here before – on the modernized “Clash of the Titans” – and has taken the controls again this week. Here’s his review:
SETH VS. 'SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD'
More so than any film in recent memory your enjoyment of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” hinges entirely upon what generation you’re a part of.
It’s a nonstop barrage of pop culture references, and it is filled to overflowing with video game throwbacks and comic-book storytelling. It speaks very specifically to one age group; if you were born during the 1980s, you’re in the wheelhouse.
The story centers around the titular character, who in a bid to win the heart of the girl he loves must defeat her seven “evil exes,” or the League of Evil Exes as they’re called.
However, the plot is merely a device for the film’s director, Edgar Wright (and before him the source material’s creator, Brian Lee O’Malley) to talk about a generation raised on video games and MTV coming to grips with harsh realities. Evil exes are metaphors for common problems faced by any young couple, and though our hero defeats them in superhero-inspired brawls throughout the film, the allegory of a guy coming to terms with his girlfriend’s past is wonderfully obvious.
Based on a series of graphic novels written and drawn by Canadian-based comic creator Brian Lee O’Malley, the film is forced to attempt to cram six books worth of story into one film with a runtime of less than two hours. While it does achieve this for the most part, there is still much that’s lost in the translation.
The books are a fantastic amalgamation of humor, drama, character study and action. On top of that, O’Malley still crammed in all the references that aim squarely at its target demographic.
In the books, we see Scott struggle with finding and maintaining a job. We come to know the supporting characters intimately, each of them moving on and off stage at just the right moments and each given their time to shine. Scott and Ramona’s relationship is fleshed out as we come to learn about not only their relationship, but those of their exes.
The advantage the film has over its original incarnation is in the visual nature of the video game-inspired fight sequences. The action, sound and color combine to create an excitement that the books just can’t pull off. In fact, the kinetic action and color palette of the entire film sets it apart from anything put to film in a long time.
The series is widely considered within comic book circles to be one of the better examples of the possibilities of the graphic storytelling medium. O’Malley utilizes the visual nature of comics while writing fully fleshed out characters and truly hilarious dialogue and settings. This is quite an accomplishment when taken into consideration that it is the work of one man, who over a six-book series, created a living, breathing universe.
Scott Pilgrim the movie, however, moves at a break-neck speed, and again this is why the film is geared for a specific age range. Though it wouldn’t be impossible for someone over the age of, say 35, to “get” the in-jokes and references, it would be hard for anyone not raised on Saturday morning cartoons and music video editing to follow along with the flow of the movie.
It doesn’t slow down, and at times seems almost as if Wright and his editor are just daring you to try and keep up. The few times the film does slow down are during intimate scenes with Scott and his love, Ramona, building their relationship into one that only further enhances our desire to see Scott overcome the exes (as well as his own faults) that stand between their love.
Where the film falters is that in its sprint to the finish line, some of the character building falls by the way side. This leaves us with caricatures, and comedy relief, in place of fleshed-out people we should care about. In truth, Scott and Ramona are the only characters we ever really learn anything about. However, this could even be considered yet another reference to the mindset of the generation the film speaks to.
Toward the close of the film, when Scott faces his ultimate enemy, he finds it isn’t one of Ramona’s exes, but rather himself. How he deals with this particular problem is one of the truly great comedic gags of the film, but it does speak directly to the selfishness of a generation raised during the gimme-gimme ’80s.
In the end, Scott Pilgrim as a film has its share of faults. But, like the audience it’s geared toward, it shows potential and often overcomes those and manages to be deeper and more meaningful than it seems on a surface level. For anyone in their 20s, this is the don’t-miss movie of the year, but for the rest of you, feel free to skip it.
Sometimes, to create a really great cult classic, a filmmaker has to bend and even break the boundaries of terrible.
The successful take a completely ridiculous premise, the most annoying cast of characters you can imagine, inane dialogue and whip up a stinking pile of a movie that’s so bad, it’s actually good.
Writer/director Jared Hess somehow hit this terrible-but-good target with 2004’s “Napoleon Dynamite,” which inspired T-shirt slogans and launched the career of Jon Heder (no thanks necessary … really).
Hess scored bigger star power in 2006, casting Jack Black in “Nacho Libre” as a monk who moonlights as a Luchador (or Mexican wrestler). But despite the cape, that one crashed.
He reaches deep again with “Gentleman Broncos,” but doesn’t crack that terrible shell.
“Broncos” features, essentially, three terrible movies within a terrible movie.
It’s about Benjamin (Michael Angarano), a homeschooled teen with a passion for schlocky sci-fi novels. When he’s not shilling his mother’s silly handmade gowns and popcorn balls, he’s writing his own sci-fi stories.
His prized composition is “Yeast Lords,” the hero of which is Bronco. But when his idol, author Dr. Ronald Chevlier (Jemaine Clement of HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” and “Dinner for Schmucks”) gets a hold of it – and tries to pass it off as his own work – he changes the hero’s name to Brutus.
In films of the imagination, Sam Rockwell plays both Bronco – a shaggy-bearded tough guy – and Brutus – who’s frou-frou and feminine.
When Benjamin sells his story for a post-dated $500 check to fellow freakish homeschoolers Tabatha and Lonnie, they film their own low-budget “Yeast Lords” movie – with curly-coifed “guardian angel” Dusty (Mike White, a producer on “Broncos” and writer on “Nacho” and “The School of Rock”) in the Bronco role.
At times, “Broncos” is a bit like a car wreck – it gets you rubber-necking, eyes peeled, wondering what can possibly go wrong next. Then it makes you pay – socking your gag reflex with gross-out scenes, like a defecating snake.
In the end, though, it’s neither good nor terrible enough to be talked about.
The next super-stylized comic-book-inspired action-comedy might be “Red,” starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren as over-the-hill CIA agents brought back to the front-lines by a conspiracy and frame job.
I don’t know anything about the DC Comics graphic novel, but “Red” – which stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” – looks red-hot.
I’m a huge fan of “Die Hard” Willis, have thought more than once about “Being John Malkovich,” and always thought Freeman was the “Shawshank Redemption.” And even “The Queen” Mirren looks sexy with a machine gun.
It hits theaters Oct. 15.
Contact Robert McCune at Robert.McCune@IndeOnline.com.