Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a movie I really wanted to dislike. I wanted to because, on the surface level, its seems pretty vapid, its preview was really annoying (I am a book cover-judger), and the title doesn’t make it seem any less annoying.
However, I really liked it. I guess it just confirms Edgar Wright’s skill as a director. This is the kind of film I usually dislike: early-20-somethings mid-life crises with an atmosphere that’s over-colorized and a female lead whose hair is ripped from Eternal Sunshine. I expected the annoyingly snappy (?) dialogue from Juno, but instead got actual one-liners that were funny.
A bit of quick plot: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera…how long can he keep pulling this schtick off? He did it here) is bummed over a past breakup. He’s in his early-20s so it’s big gossip when he starts dating a high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Then he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls head over heels in love. When he finds out that she has seven evil-exes and has to fight them it’s a fairly nonchalant decision to do so aside from the weak protestation. He’s also in a band that is concurrently in an epic and important battle of the bands competition.
Reasons why SPVTW is good: the world is as believable as the filmmaker wants to make it. Once everyone in the audience within the film accepts the absurd, supernatural fight sequences we do, too. Wright’s hyper-stylized direction of whip pans with “woosh” sounds underneath, diagonal split screens, and fanboy humor is perfectly suited for the source material (I think…I’ve never read it). The characters are human even when they’re endowed with super-powers and some of the elements of heartbreak actually feel realistic.
There’s a hilarious fight scene involving a sometimes-vegan Brandon Routh (whose cameos are becoming funny enough to make us forget Superman) where Wright’s direction really shines in his ability to amp up a scene and quickly bring it to a small close with one-upsmanship and humor.
Another of the better fight sequences is when Scott Pilgrim meets one of Ramona’s ex-girlfriends. His refusal to fight and ultimate puppet status in the scene is really well done.
SPVTW isn’t perfect, and sometimes I really wished that Scottie-boy would just man-up (is that term outdated? It should be. Why can’t we say ‘person-up’) and figure things out instead of moaning in his “I wish I was still 12 year-old Michael Cera” kind of way.
It’s funny that there’s some Gondry visible in Wright’s work, as both have had forays into the superhero world of late. Wright’s Scott Pilgrim is far more successful than Gondry’s Green Hornet, however. Strangely enough, it’s not all source material that’s the difference. Wright’s direction and visualization is actually far more solid here.
A few throwaway lines about The Lincoln Lawyer. I kept hearing from people how this film was actually good. And how Matthew McConaughey finally doesn’t take his shirt off (I’m pretty sure he’s shirtless in here). Disagree. Boring film.
Standard murder/courtroom drama. It’s kind of Witness For The Prosecution meets The Verdict. Just nowhere near as good as either. Matthew is the “Lincoln Lawyer.” The case of a spoiled brat accused of attempted murder (Ryan Phillippe) falls into his lap and he finds himself in the midst of lots of twists and turns and dramatic pouts via Phillippe.
What is so special about this film? The plotting is fine and it all works thread-wise. I was rarely, if ever thrilled. The final act was predictable. And the direction leant nothing new to the material. It was kind of life low-level Tony Scott fodder.
So there you have it: a bad version of Witness For The Prosecution and The Verdict if directed by Tony Scott and with Matthew McConaughey only removing his shirt once. Sound like a grand ol’ time at the local cinema?