Scott Pilgrim vs the World

My fears about Scott Pilgrim vs The World have been building – if I didn’t like it what would this say about me? The internet, at least the movie blogging section of it, has been raving about this Edgar Wright movie for months, finally culminating in the great communal agreement that Scott Pilgrim is peerless and if you don’t like it then there’s something up with you and you should stick with the Expendables. There was a little bit of this with Inception but, fortunately, I hugely enjoyed every single level of that complex and mindbending film. I haven’t been so confident with Scott Pilgrim.

When I saw the first trailer for Scott Pilgrim I was swept away by it, inspired to write about it here. I thought that this was a comic book movie that might not be exclusive – it might include me because it was about the universal tale of boy meets girl, defeats her seven evil exes and then they live happily ever after. But then I saw a second trailer, and a few featurettes, and I began to fear that what was great in the trailer might be all there was. How many times can you repeat an original idea in 2 hours and 10 minutes?

Today, I finally got to see Scott Pilgrim and in a rather packed cinema too. The good news is that the majority of the audience got a real kick out of it and I heard several people raving about it. The not so good news is that my fears were realised and I spent much of the film watch watching and feeling mildly depressed. It started well – I relished the beginning with its 8-bit Universal logo but, before you knew it, you were set upon a conveyor belt of evil exes, each one no more interesting than the one before, with each fight little different than the one to follow it and with characters so one-dimensional you really could be working your way through the levels on your old Atari.

Every single action gets a sound effect, whether it be a POW or a THUD or a THUNK. Sometimes the explicit recalls of beloved old games is very amusing and clever – loved the ‘Getting a life’ and the weapons upgrades. But Scott Pilgrim as a film knows it’s clever, it’s feeling smug off screen, wanting your admiration and gasps and more money in the slot to take it up to the next level.

But, despite any complaints about the repetition of duels, these repeated scenarios are far more easy to take than the characterisation. I have a real problem with the hero, Scott Pilgrim. And, more to the point, with his controller Michael Cera. I know that many reviewers have been won over by this 22 going on 15 year old who has no idea how to behave with a young vulnerable teen, such as Knives, but I don’t care for this type of emotionless, non-blinking hero. Maybe this was perfect casting. But for the life of me, I could not understand what Ramona Flowers was doing a) delivering Amazon packages and b) being remotely interested in Scott Pilgrim. Except if it was inside his head.

For a film in which music plays such a key part, I would’ve liked the music to have been better. I’ve bought a succession of movie soundtracks this year. But, aside from the song Ramona, I couldn’t recall a tune from Scott Pilgrim.

Perhaps my problem with Scott Pilgrim is that I was expecting something familiar but extraordinary – a story with a real shape to it, characters with whom I can at least partly emphasise. Instead, I felt like I was looking in on a young man’s fantasy. Girls were visions or stalkers. Their affections could even be manipulated by sticking controllers on their necks. I never felt like I left Scott Pilgrim’s head. Maybe that was intentional. But, if it was, I have to wonder if that’s somewhere we all want to be. During the promotion of Scott Pilgrim I feared that I was not part of its club. I’m not. The Expendables gave me the just the same feeling but that wasn’t a surprise or disappointment. It was with Scott Pilgrim.

What I don’t like about Scott Pilgrim is the feeling it gives me that I’m not part of a clique, that I’m too old, too female. The irony is that I did like Scott Pilgrim vs The World, it was a great way to spend a Holiday Weekend Sunday – the problem was I’d been led to expect too much.

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