This blog post will be for two kinds of people.
If you at least have some idea of what “Scott Pilgrim” is, you can continue.
If you have no idea what I mean when I said “Scott Pilgrim” just keep moving.
So… who is Scott Pilgrim?
Well when you travel in the circles that I do, you won’t go long before hearing about him, he is essentially the protagonist of a story series written by a geek for geeks. The news that it would be turned into a movie – one which looked awesome by all trailer measures – filled the internet with joy.
Then… the movie premiered.
And did badly.
On its opening weekend, it lost to Inception, a movie that’s been out for like… a month. (according to IMDB as of this post, Inception is still in the top 10 box office for this week while Scott Pilgrim is nowhere to be seen)
There’s been no end of wailing and gnashing of teeth over this, and lots of lament over why it has failed. These are my 2 favorite analysis of it. What’s my thoughts on the bo-omb? Simple, we tend to forget that we’re a minority. It’s easy to forget when you’re in chat-rooms and sites with thousands, if not millions of visitors and commentators but keep in mind that there’s 6 billion+ people in the world. What’s funny is that this is true of every group. Imagine for a moment a group of 100 people. 33 like chocolate ice cream, 33 like vanilla ice cream, 33 like strawberry ice cream, and 1 person hates all ice cream. See how if you pick any group (say, those who like chocolate) it will be a minority compared to those not in that group? The only way to get a positive majority is to make your standard broad enough: those that like ANY kind of ice cream vs those that don’t. In the same way, SPvtW had a fault in that it not only appeals to nerds, but it most appeals to a specific group of nerds that will be a minority based upon statistical common sense.
Plus I can’t be the only one that feels like the whole Scott Pilgrim thing is pushing the border on pandering. For me, the strongest cornerstones of nerdom are those things which were great – and adopted by nerds: Star Wars, LotR, Harry Potter, Mario, etc etc. They didn’t set out to be popular among a specific group of people, they set out to be awesome, good stories/works/projects/etc and geeks latched onto them. To me, it seems like Scott Pilgrim is the final step before the corporate robots take over and churn out products that – according to “science” (aka “market research”) – SHOULD be loved by geeks and SHOULD have whole nerd cultures rally around – and inevitably fail like so many soulless creations.
But no, I won’t call Scott Pilgrim soulless, there is definitely a soul to this film even if it’s in danger of drowning under postmodern tides. This is definitely THE date movie for nerd couples (both partners must be full nerds) excluding the Princess Bride. However, the film’s success also depends on how much goodwill it earns from you. There’s plenty of general silliness and wackiness through every frame, but if you don’t like that, this movie cannot stand up to withering critique. Far more effort is devoted to why the characters do what they do than why anything happens at all. Where Scott Pilgrim got his fighting ability is less important than why he is fighting at all.
The actors all do a pretty good job, and seem to be having a lot of fun – though sometimes it seems like Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead need to lighten up a bit more. If anything this movie suffers the problem of a lot of adaptions in that it has a large glut of characters. Look, Anna Kendrick is all kinds of cuteness and was pretty hot in this movie – but why did she need to be there? Could her part have been folded into and combined with someone else? (say, the drummer?) And while I haven’t read the actual story, everything I’ve read about it makes me think that it and the movie both suffer from the same problem: Knives drags down the story. It might not be so bad – she might even serve a purpose – when you have larger, serialized works like the graphic novel this is based on, but time is precious in movie format. It becomes even worse when she shows up at the end to help Scott fight Gideon (I checked, in the final comic it’s Ramona helping Scott – which would have improved the movie by 200%).
One minor thing did really bug me. Ramona’s and Scott’s first real date concludes with them cuddling in her bed in their underwear. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her underwear, but what I’m about to say is a service to any gal reading this:
You don’t have to go far on the internet to find talk on “what is consent” (here’s 1 example). Of course, everyone agrees on the black and white extremes of consent, what is debated is the gray middle. If you ask me, consent is given by body language as much as notarized forms. Thus, if you invite someone into your bed while you both wear nearly nothing: that’s pretty much consent. Girls, well guys too, if you change your mind (like Ramona does in the scene) then don’t continue to leave the invitation open. Kick the other person out of your bed, go put more clothes on (preferably a suit of armor), go sleep in another room – or zip code – whatever. Yeah, the other party should have self-control but 1) counting on it will end very badly and 2) lead others not into temptation – don’t be a dick/bitch. 3rd most important rule my dad taught me about life: Hope for the best in people, but never count on it.
But let’s end on some positive notes. The comedy is pretty funny (I laughed the hardest at the window scene) and the fight choreography is BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, I wish more fights in movies were done like this. I also appreciated that they really stretched what a movie is capable of – pushing the limits of the visual medium.
All in all for me this was about…
It’s pretty good, it did make me laugh a lot, I wouldn’t hate seeing it again, but it’s not something I’ll be referencing often or buying when it comes out. There’s certainly much much worse movies out there.
UPDATE: I would be remiss if I didn’t link the very handy cracked reference to it.