Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

So the reason there was no post yesterday was a sudden change in plans to go see Scott Pilgirm vs The World. My friends and I had planned on seeing it in the evening, so I woke up, ran some errands, and decided to eat lunch then write the post. But plans changed, and we ended up seeing it earlier, so I didn't have time to write. So here's my first entry for today. Apologies to my friend at Nerdemic if it seems like I'm stepping on the toes of his own review of the film.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Let me start this review by saying that I haven't read the comics. This review is not to point out differences between the film and the comics, nor is it to compare the two. I will be talking about the film on its own merits as much as possible.

The first thing I noticed was the Universal Pictures logo at the very beginning of the film. The first few minutes of any movie are important because they set the tone for the rest of the movie. Usually, the distributing studio interferes by shoving their logo in. In rare cases, the studio allows their logo to be altered to fit the tone. In the case of Scott Pilgrim, the logo is pixelated to resemble a classic video game, the usual music replaced by an 8-bit version. The second I saw it, I knew I was in for a good movie.

The film very much resembles a video game, a trait that I'm told comes from the comic books and I'm glad writer/director/Edgar Wright kept it. 1-ups, coins from defeated enemies, boss-level style music shifts and a one-time-only "pee bar" make it almost feel like you're watching a friend play a video game, a unique vibe that I've never seen in a movie. The film balances this with a comic book vibe, as well. Animated lightning bolts, sound waves, narrative or descriptive blocks of text and onomatopoeic sound effect words (think Adam West Batman, but less intrusive) keep the the comic book vibe constant.

Through the comic book and video game vibe, the film displays the Edgar Wright touch. Repeated dialogue, slightly altered repeated dialogue and new dialogue that feels repeated create the perfect atmosphere early in the film. By "feels repeated," I mean the actors recite the dialogue in a way that feels as though the characters have said the same things before in previous conversations. I noticed a similar trait in Wright's earlier film, Shaun Of The Dead, and also to a lesser degree in his Hot Fuzz. Like I said, I didn't read the comics, so I don't know how much of the repeated dialogue is Wright's and how much is from Bryan Lee O'Malley, who wrote the comics. But either way, it has been noticed as a staple of Wright's work, so perhaps he just found the perfect source material for himself.  Another Wright staple that shows up is rapid cuts, especially in the first half hour or so of the film. There's one scene in particular in which one rapid cut after another keep the tone consistant but the topic of conversation changing. The changes are so quick that it took me a second or two to realize it was a different scenario. It reminded me of a cene from Shaun Of The Dead near the beginning, but without a handy copy of the DVD I can't recall what scene specifically.

Well-written dialogue, excellent editing, great acting. The strongest thing Scott Pilgrim has going for it, though, is the music. Several established musicians worked with Wright on the music. Beck wrote and performed original songs for Scott Pilgrim's band, Sex Bo-Bomb. The songs performed by rival band Crash And The Boys were written by members of Broken Social Scene. And Metric (who are from Toronto, where the movie takes place) provided the song performed by The Clash At Demonhead, as well as providing inspiration for the style of their singer, Envy. Bek also wrote a song that Scott writes for his girlfriend, Ramona, and performs in on the soundtrack.

A lot of thought was put into how the music would be used in the film, and it shows. I don't think I've ever seen a movie where the music played such an important part in a film. Even music-centric films don't incorporate the music to the degree that Scott Pilgrim does. Two battles against Evil Ex's heavily involve music, including a "bass battle," during which several minutes of the score are composed entirely  of two bass guitars. Scott's band and their struggle to win a battle of the bands and get an album deal are intricately tied into the story. The score and the chosen songs were written and chosen with care, and in the end that effort makes the movie so much more amazing than it possibly could have been without it.

It should also be noted that the choreography is also amazing. It's a perfect balance of epic action and humor, without the silliness of martial arts parody movies.

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