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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: December 8th, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG-13

I once knew a kid in junior high school that was the complete opposite of me. He looked hip, acted hip, and had a ton of energy every day. The only problem was that he tried to please too many people and ended up looking foolish. If this movie had existed in the year 2000, I would have nicknamed this guy Scott Pilgrim.

The character of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is just a typical Hollywood twenty-something dork. He plays guitar for a band (there's your first game reference), lives with a weird roommate, and of course he can't get a girl. At least not the ones he really wants. But this is no American Pie movie. (Thank goodness for that.) This is the story of a kid fighting for both his dream and his life.

It all starts when Scott falls for the colorful clothes wearing Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She's the girl of his dreams and now Scott will do anything to win her heart. That means trying to shake off his clinging current girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). And it also means being forced to duel seven of Ramona's crazy exes (most of them guys) one by one.

If you think the previous sentence makes the movie sound silly, that's because it does. You won't find one-dimensional stories like this anywhere except for videogames. Guess what though? The story already knows that. That's why the movie intentionally presents everything in the style of a videogame using real people against a digitized backdrop.

To make this concept work, there are certain rules for consistency that need to be followed and things that need to be avoided. As someone who has played more than his fair share of videogames over time. I feel qualified to judge. I have documented all of the movie's hits and misses and will now present you with the results.

Successfully Followed Rules for Creating a Videogame World.

- Animate your opening title screen to mimic old-school game title screens. Preferably with 8-bit sound bytes.

- Begin each fight scene with a "Vs." graphic between the participants. Finish each scene with a "KO" graphic.

- Each enemy must be tougher to defeat than the previous one.

- Certain action movements should be accompanied by a text label. Slam! Thwack! Pow! Think Batman.

- Keep things colorful. Don't just stick to one pattern of shade.

- Fight locations don't have to be realistic. But it's good to choose places with nearly unlimited potential.

- Upon defeat, enemies should drop lots of coins on the ground for the hero to collect. General rule for videogames: Coins are your friend.

- Use a fast-paced soundtrack. Fighting should never be staged to the sounds of Beethoven or Mozart.

- Give each character special attacks that do lots of damage.

- Everyone deserves a second chance. If the character dies, allow him to use an extra life.

- Reference Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. They deserve recognition for all those quarters you fed to them.

Unsuccessfully Followed Rules for Creating a Videogame World

- The main character should not have many people to confide in. Limit his friends.

- Use no more than three camera angles for a single scene. When's the last time you played a videogame that switched perspectives that frequently, other than the most recent Resident Evil title?

- Never interrupt a fight to progress the story. But it is okay for the characters to exchange a little smack talk between rounds.

- Stay consistent with your fights. If it's a tag team match, make it that way at the start. Don't change your mind later.

- A damsel in distress should stay that way. For example, only Mario should be allowed to defeat Bowser. No help from Princess Peach.

- Zoom in on the cool stuff. Don't pan out when a character is in the midst of performing a mind-blowing feat.

- Reference the "Continue?" screen.

Since Scott Pilgrim vs. The World originated as a graphic novel, the producers felt obligated to stay loyal to those roots. Usually a welcome idea, but here it presents a problem. Rules for graphic novels are different and much more lenient than videogame style. A mistake was made into thinking that rules no longer applied if both styles were integrated. As a result, the movie has an identity crisis.

It's great fun to look at, which may be enough for the target crowd. A lot of geek devotion went into the making of this project. That's why my criticism cannot entirely override my admiration. The moments that hit the bullseye placed a smile on my face. The smile left every time the story's ridiculous pacing became obvious. We don't need to see long drawn out monologues from every villain, especially if they're about to kick the bucket soon. We don't need a phony philosophical lesson on romance, especially when it doesn't make sense. Movie, how about just trying to be yourself instead of acting like that kid from junior high? After all, you must have known that what you had to offer wasn't going to appeal to everyone anyway.

At least you followed the coin rule. For that, I award a 1-up.

Rating: 5


  1. Man, two in a row where I have to say that I liked this movie FAR more than you did. I had never read the comic, so I had no expectations going into the film, other than knowing many critics had liked it (which I was actually a little worried about.) I loved this movie precisely because it doesn't follow the rules for a proper movie. It was almost unique among the many movies I've seen.

  2. It was certainly unique. And to be honest, I wouldn't mind giving this another watch to enjoy the more awe-inspiring moments again. (And Mary Elizabeth Winstead.)