USA 2010 Directed by: Edgar Wright Story by: Bryan Lee O’Malley Written by: Edgar Wright, Michael Bacall Production: Edgar Wright, Marc Platt, Eric Gitter, Nira Park Cinematography by: Bill Pope Editing by: Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss Music: Nigel Godrich Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Brie Larson, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Mae Whitman
I don’t think it’s necessary to write another synopsis, or general review, of SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD at this point as it is one of the most buzzed-about and well-marketed American films of the year so far. Moreover, it’s the film the New York Times considered important enough to have it reviewed twice (by A.O. Scott and by Seth Schiesel, albeit the latter not formally being categorized as review), so how can we ordinary bloggers compete with that extraordinary level of attention and sincere discussion?
Instead I asked myself, after watching two hours or so of love and madness and drama and laughter and sadness and fantasy worlds and harsh realities, what exactly made the New York Times (and all the others) think that SCOTT PILGRIM is worthy of being the subject of heated debates. Was it because the president was on his summer vacation? Was it because the military operation in Iraq officially ended? Was it because the INCEPTION effect was wearing off?
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD may very well be one of the most creative contemporary Hollywood films to date, a feast for the eyes and equally stimulating all other senses. You know where the ridiculously high budget went when you see the movie: it is rich and refined in every respect, there’s simply nothing to complain about. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a truly accomplished work of art.
What it has in common with KICK-ASS however is being a geek property, and as such it is trying to find its target, hoping to appeal to a larger audience than just nerds and fan boys. But that’s like looking for the famous needle in the hay stack, you can somehow tell that, before the movie was launched, nobody could say for certain how it would score with the mainstream (just like KICK-ASS).
Now the story the box office tells is that SCOTT PILGRIM is too niche, too geeky, too hip to break even anytime soon. Or maybe it’s just that too many people hate Michael Cera, who, however, shows another great performance here (in a familiar Cera-role that goes to great lengths to evolve the ceraesk stereotype without destroying it). But maybe the problem lies somewhere else.
The film’s critical acclaim and raving reviews cannot hide the fact that it simply doesn’t pull you in the same way other movies do. Despite emotions and feelings playing a major role they just don’t seem to be ours. And I don’t think that’s because not all of us are part of Generation Guitar Hero (but if that was the reason then it would certainly explain the box office results, wouldn’t it?).
I read a comment from Kevin Smith and I think it might unintentionally have addressed a crucial point: “nobody is going to understand what the fuck just hit them”. Exactly. Mainstream audiences have most probably not been ready for a movie that is hard to grasp, a story that is anything but conventional, a formal presentation that defies all Hollywood standards and a marketing campaign that makes the movie literally look like a Guitar Hero adaptation for the big screen, or like a film about a high school rock band, or like a Michael Cera fan club project minus a love story.
Personally I appreciate how serious SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is about everything, how much it tries to carry out its mission. It doesn’t bend, or back down; it is honest and hopes for audiences to be open-minded enough to embrace a radically new aesthetic and mode of storytelling. It gives it all it got. And at the end is trying too hard.
It is overwhelming, bombarding us with extreme visuals, with clever and witty dialogue, with unexpected twists and turns and extreme gimmicks and ideas. And more and more it begins to blur its conflicts, ambivalence and self-doubt (A.O. Scott) that make SCOTT PILGRIM stand out, and instead focuses too much on being different, expressive, violent and sexy. Maybe they weren’t aware of how much the film shifted towards formal excellence while forgetting about what audiences who are unfamiliar with this territory could have related to if it just was clearly visible.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is not being misunderstood because audiences don’t want to understand, but because it chooses to cater to a niche without considering anyone else. You could say it’s the perfect Hollywood movie, one that doesn’t follow compatibility checklists and test screening results; but it is also a failed experiment because it needs a broader target to justify its existence.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD would be losing touch with the audience at some point if it ever had been in touch in the first place. So while we haven’t seen anything like it before, while the movie is brilliant, funny, excessive, artistic and simply cracking good, it lacks only one, but one very important ability: to connect us with the characters and make us sympathize with them.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say the film has no heart and soul, but the way it plays the melody sounds slightly out of tune.
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