Thursday, 2 September 2010

Scott Pilgrim VS The Box Office

Scott Pilgrim VS The World 2010 US
Directed by Edgar Wright
Screening at UK cinemas now

There’s something strange about my reaction to Edgar Wright’s movies when I first see them. I always, almost but not entirely, see nothing much special about them on my initial viewing but I always somehow have to see them again (oh, that person who’s not seen it wants to see it and has nobody to go with so it might as well be me I suppose) and then I end up loving them from the second time on. I’m telling you this right now, up front as it were, because I want you to know that... so far... I’ve only seen Scott Pilgrim VS The World once.

Scott Pilgrim is almost entirely unlike anything Edgar Wright has directed before... I say almost because, like a regular Edgar Wright movie (and there have only been two... Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz but I’m also counting both series of Spaced too) it is jam packed with loads of pop culture references. Oh... and it’s also a comedy. So that’s two things it has in common with an Edgar Wright movie. That being said, however, there are a lot of things in this which are really not indicative of his style... and maybe he will turn out in time to have one of those directorial non-signatures like Francis Ford Coppola where almost every movie he directs doesn’t have any real fingerprints on it.

Scott Pilgrim is a not so bad, quite fun movie based around the concept of computer games, which is one of the title characters’ hobbies. And when I say, one of the title characters’ hobbies, I mean Scott Pilgrim’s hobby... not “The World’s.” I know it’s not “The World’s” hobby because the box office numbers have not been so good and that’s a big surprise to me actually as I thought there’d be more comic book and computer game fans coming out of the woodwork for this movie. Which just goes to show, I think, what percentage of comic book fans actually come out for those Spiderman and Iron Man type movies as a percentage against the non-comic book fans who landslide those kinds of movies to the number one spot.

So... Scott Pilgrim. A movie based on a comic book about a guy who is part of an amateur rock band and who plays video games with his high school girlfriend. All that changes, however, when he meets the new love of his life Ramona Flowers and he finds that in order to stay with her, having gained her interest, he has to defeat each of her seven evil exes in mortal combat. And as we go through the inevitable boy gets girl, boy kills some of her exes, boy loses girl but still wants to kill that last, creepy ex and thus wins her heart all over again plot, it’s to Wright's credit that he manages to make all of the fights look a little different from the last one. Which is actually tougher than it sounds because he’s using both the language of comic books (think Ang Lee’s take on the HULK as the best example of another movie which actually uses the syntax of comics and substitutes it into the syntax of movie) while also using the information-overload, saturate your senses style of a large number of computer games thrown into the cinematic mix as well... which means your brain may literally fry if you even try to catch all the little on screen details simultaneously. The movie blurs along at an unnerving pace and it’s a bit like watching one of those kids playing Defender or R*Type (of whom I was one) hurtling through level after level and trying to take on the whole world... hmmm... apt title then.

There’s not a whole lot of stuff to complain about in this movie... in fact I can’t think of a scene that didn’t play out just right. In some ways it feels like this years Josie and the Pussycats (and I don’t say that in an unkind way, I’m one of those few people who actually adored the Josie and the Pussycats movie) but with a lot of extra and expensive looking sizzle but maybe not quite the same emotional hit. I’m actually wondering if that’s not a judgement based on trying to process so much information from the movie the first time around... suspect I’ll get a lot more emotional depth out of it when I’m not trying so hard to keep the pace the second time I see it. Another reason may be that there are no real standout scenes because they all achieve a level similar to each other and so the heart of the movie may seem a little flat on the first time in. Although there were some extra nice touches in it. When one of the characters kisses another character’s ring just before the last act of the film, for example, I noticed they’d used exactly the same sound effect as the little question-mark pop up when a gloved hand picks up Emperor Ming’s ring in the 1980 version of Flash Gordon. I actually laughed at this but soon realised there were obviously no other Flash Gordon fans in the audience :-(

I’d wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone because it's quite quirky and inventive and it’s worth seeing just on the strength of that (although it’s not as quirky or inventive as a Jeaunet movie so don’t go expecting miracles). And as for the box office numbers, which weren’t that good in the US from what I understand... well I’m sure Edgar Wright doesn’t need to worry on that score. This movie is definitely going to find its audience on DVD... and there have been a fair few box office underperformers that have started successful franchises on the back of the DVD figures (The Transporter or Austin Powers anyone). Definitely worth a trip to your local cinema. Edgar Wright has a strong creative voice and he needs to be allowed to make a load more movies so we can find his weak points and grumble at them... or at least stand at the opposite side of the road as he goes past and point cheekily.

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