A lot has been said about Scott Pilgrim. At times over the past few weeks it's seemed like there are more opinions being tossed around than people who have actually seen the damn film, and that's probably not far from the truth. So I figured I'd go and decide for myself.
The truth is, it's not a movie I was particularly looking forward to seeing. The good word of mouth and the pedigree of the people behind the film persuaded me to give it a try, but the trailer suggested a horrible "Dude, Where's My Car?"-esque experience to come. Thankfully the trailer was deceptive, but I suspect it probably had plenty to do with turning off people who had no clue about the source material. If I hadn't had a bunch of friends raving about it, you wouldn't have caught me dead going to this one. A movie where a slacker dick has to fight a bunch of evil exes in a video game style to win the alternative princess? No thanks.
And I would have missed out. Scott Pilgrim's a fun, funny and engaging experience. Is it a nerd film? Well, certainly it's a video game nerd film. I wouldn't have classed it as a particularly geeky movie otherwise. Scott Pilgrim in the movie's a slacker, but not a geek. He plays in a grunge band, has a girlfriend who worships the ground he walks on. Of course, Edgar Wright, the movie's director, is a huge geek, as Spaced proved, but the movie seems more clearly focussed towards the video game nerd than the indiscriminate approach of that show, although other influences creep in.
Not having read the comic book series it's based on, (I have the first two volumes but have yet to pick them up), I'm not entirely sure what to make of the central characters. Presumably they're a little more fleshed out in the comics, but as the movie opened I found Scott (Michael Cera) to be a self-pitying, slacker jerk with a Asian schoolgirl fetish and a basic lack in interest and respect for others. That opinion didn't really change throughout the movie. (Although Cera was actually more appealing than I expected.) Likewise, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) never seemed to be a character at all, just a trophy for Scott to attain. Deadpan and mysterious translated as bland and uninteresting for me. So, if the two paper-thin, souless central characters and the chemistry-less core relationship of the movie held no interest for me, what did?
Really, the main reason to see the movie is the supporting performers. There's not really a weak character in the bunch and everyone seems to be having enormous fun at what they do. A lot of column time seems to be going to Kieran Culkin as Wallace, and deservedly so. He has some great lines, puts in a wonderfully arch performance and it's refreshing to see the "gay best friend" trope presented without dropping into offensive stereotype or cliche territory. But by no means does Culkin steal the movie. Each of the ex's brings something wonderful to the show. Satya Bhabha is hillarious as Matthew Patel. Chris Evans totally steals the movie... for the ten minutes he's in it as film star Lucas Lee, until Brandon Routh skips in to play the evil vegan with special vegan powers. Jason Schwartzman is gloriously hammy and funny as all hell in his role as the final ex. Likewise, Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick, Mark Webber and others all pop up as well defined supporting characters you'll probably end up wanting to see more of. And special mention to Ellen Wong, who's kind of a revelation - brilliant and funny and touching as Knives Cho (Aged 17).
The plot itself is pretty slight, mostly a hook for the great characters and amazing visuals to hang on. In terms of style and direction, the movie excels, capturing the frenetic video game visuals and comic book panelling with great aplomb. The movie totally commits to that energetic style, whirlwind visuals and the genius is in the detail. There's so much humor in the direction, editing and look of the movie, as well as the performances. It's probably the closest Hollywood cinema will come to the slapstick genius of Stephen Chow. And you quickly realize you just have to go with the flow of the bizarre plot and have fun with it. And you do.
I left the cinema with a smile on my face. At the end of the experience, whether Ramona and Scott are characters I cared about doesn't matter. Because it's the ride that's the fun part and the people you meet along the way, not who's in the carriage with you.