Well, it is a rather decent adaptation of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I would say it's better as a movie than Scott Pilgrim was as a comic book. If only that were saying much. Spoilers ahead.
So. Michael Cera plays Michael Cera Character Iteration 8, in this instance named Scott Pilgrim. Literally the first thing we hear of him is that he is dating a high-schooler. The first thing we see of him is Michael Cera, being Michael Cera Character Iteration 8 in a ratty kitchen surrounded by the kind of ratty people who hang out with Michael Cera Characters. It is reiterated that Michael Cera Character (MCC) is dating a high-schooler. Oh, but he hasn't had sex with her; that would be too unpleasant for a PG-13 movie. We are informed by a comic-style text box that MCC is awesome. I'm not sure why we're supposed to believe the text box, since the rest of the movie does its damnedest to prove that he's a total loser; or maybe the point is that we're not. Maybe it's supposed to be ironic. At any rate, said high-schooler is duly presented; her name is Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). It is further demonstrated that MCC is in a band called Sex Bob-omb, a name which I would decry as too stupid to be plausible if it weren't for the fact that I hang out with hipsters on a regular basis. Knives likes them. There is an opening credit sequence that rather reminds me of the "142 MEXICAN WHOOPING LLAMAS" sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, not that that's a bad thing.
|I may or may not have shrieked in fear|
upon seeing this image for the first time
|THIS MAN IS A HOMOSEXUAL|
Look, I could just give you a play-by-play of the rest of the movie, or I could tell you to watch it for yourself. It's worth watching, at least, if not worth listening to or considering for the plot; unlike the uninspired Tezuka-esque style of the comic book, the movie actually achieves some genuine visual interest with its wildly over-the-top, utterly nonsensical fights. The best part of the movie is the fight scenes; in fact, I'm almost inclined to label them the movie's saving grace. If Wright missed out on the opportunities for satire, he sure didn't forget his talent for shooting a fight, and the battles grow progressively more and more ridiculous and enjoyable (at least until the end, which I'll get to in a second). As a matter of fact, I'm fairly sure that a comic book where the fight scenes consisted of stills taken from the movie would be a better read than the original Scott Pilgrim comic. And the Seven Evil Exes are appropriately Evil. In addition to musical-number-guy, there's a Hollywood action hero who fights with one-liners (Chris Evans), a telekinetic glowy-eyed vegan (Brandon Routh, in possibly the best performance he's ever given), a pudgy lesbian ninja (Mae Whitman), a pair of twin DJs who I'm fairly sure don't have a single line (Shota and Keita Saito), and the Final Boss, Gideon (Jason Schwartzman, just begging to be curb-stomped into oblivion). There's also a ex-girlfriend of MCC's floating around, who's gotten rich and famous with her own band, but since she's of virtually no consequence to the plot I'll skip her.
|Guess how many of these people are going to wind up being relevant!|
(Hint: Michael Cera)
The tweest, as such, is that Scott gets killed in the final boss battle when his The Power of Love flaming katana does not avail him against the revelation that he cheated on Knives and Ramona (with each other). As refreshing as it is to see a movie where The Power of Love does not instantly win all battles and resolve the plot, whatever lesson was supposed to be learned is then invalidated, since of course MCC picked up an extra life earlier (no, really; it is a very 8-bit-styled universe) and resurrects himself, defeating Gideon with the equally overused The Power of Self-Respect flaming katana. He then wins. But Gideon's glasses (or something) tell him he has to confront the darkness within himself, or something, and then a Nega-MCC shows up and they're totally going to fight. But then they don't, cutting off the pacing of the film like a swift meat-cleaver to the junk in a scene just irritating enough that I wonder if it's intentional. MCC doesn't confront his dark side - the side that would presumably induce him to kill for an uninteresting girl he's barely met or date a high-schooler "because it's nice" - he makes a date with it to go and get brunch. Oh, and Knives shoots her entire character motivation in the foot by morphing into a Love Disinterest and telling MCC to go and get Ramona, apparently intent on leaving him behind as well. Let's be honest, if you still care about the characters at this point you probably shouldn't be watching the movie.
Well, after all that, do I have any real summary of the good and bad about the film? Only sort of. I can certainly point out the visuals as its strongest point and the characterization/plot/script as the weakest. But apart from that, I really can't think of anything more specific to the movie's strengths or weaknesses. And that's the problem, to my mind: it's a movie that has no substance. Nothing is learned. MCC even complains about this in the movie itself. The Power of Love really does wind up triumphing, although nobody thinks to point it out. MCC doesn't mature in any important way. He doesn't get a job or go back to school or abandon his motivationless crush, he just keeps rolling along because he's a Michael Cera Character and is under no obligation to undergo any development that isn't funny. The other actors are generally capable, and often even funny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead aside; I'm genuinely struggling to recall anything about her character besides the fact that she's a hipster), but you don't feel any sense of attachment to any of them, nor do they feel any for each other. In a way, the fact that the film spends two hours mocking hipsters yet never manages to elucidate anything about them is the most powerful critique of hipsterdom it could have produced: there's nothing there to elucidate, nothing to do but point and laugh. How depressing.
It's a testament to Edgar Wright's ability to handle a camera that the film is still well worth seeing. I'd recommend turning your brain off, plugging your ears, and staring at the screen, because it's quite simply visually fascinating. Even in the relatively CG-less scenes, there's a lot of work done with continuity of action, motion, and dialogue that must have made the film hell to edit but works surprisingly well. The little comic-esque info boxes that pop up every now and again are usually good for a laugh, and the fight scenes don't get old, even with seven of them crammed into a frenetically-paced 112-minute run time. But if you watch it again, you'll take away nothing more from it than you did the first time (unless you missed one of the info boxes). There's no deeper level to it then pure hyperactive fun, scenery-chewing declamations of love and vengeance crashing up against super-powered violence that's all flames, lightning, and preposterous weaponry. Scratch the surface and you see nothing beneath; in fact, scratch it and it breaks wide open. It's worth the price of a single ticket, and not a whole lot more.