Friday, June 10, 2011

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) - a relationship is like a gotta beat the shit out of it and raise your arms in victory

Folks, it’s a jungle out there.

I should know, growing up on the streets and all. Well, technically it was a cul-de-sac, but close enough. Let’s not split hairs here folks.

A lot can happen on the mean cul-de-sacs of America. One time I was getting out of my car, sipping a frappuccino, when some punk kid on a skateboard came by and knocked it out of my hand! The unruly BALLS it takes to stoop to such unscrupulous lows.

Maybe that’s a “white person problem”, but destroying other people’s property is a crime whether it’s a tasty frozen coffee drink or a Porsche 911. Thankfully, the neighborhood watch eventually found the kid and had him drawn and quartered. Sometimes you just gotta let the bad guys know who’s boss. Being that I was the victim, I got to see the whole thing for free. Yes, it was fucking awesome. I guess the whole fiasco was worth it in hindsight.

Supernerd Scott Pilgrim has his own “white person problems”. He’s trying to upgrade from a hot Asian girlfriend (maybe plain looking and nerdy by Hollywood standards, but not mine) to an even hotter non-Asian girlfriend. This titular “world” has the nerve to deny him his god given right to dump his worthy girlfriend Knives (a seemingly perfect match to boot) in order to consummate a superficial relationship with hot chick Ramona.

The first half hour or so is a great setup, as Scott pines for dream woman Ramona and manages to land her, despite already dating Knives and not bothering to tell her. He quickly finds himself in woman trouble when he invites Ramona to a battle of the bands and Knives happens to be there. Patented Cera awkwardness ensues. The film slyly and humorously digs on these hipster types and their hipster ways, as well as presenting a world that is stylistically skewed through Scott’s pop culture prism.

In order to land Ramona, he has to defeat all of her ex-boyfriends in a series of Matrix-y fights. This central conflict becomes the fatal flaw of the film. The story starts off with a naïve geek struggling to deal with relationships, under Ramona’s spell to the point that he acts like a total dick to Knives. However, once the battles progress, he becomes the invincible hero who will no doubt succeed in his quest to “upgrade” from Knives to Ramona.

Just as the “relationship” between Ramona and Scott becomes one note (a guy seeking his superficial dream woman), the battles become a series of one note struggles. The fighting scenes (and, to a lesser degree, the battle of the band scenes) overwhelm the movie, to where it’s no longer about a nerd dealing with women, but about a good guy that simply has to defeat the bad guys. It’s also as forced in as conflict can get. It comes across as a lazy way of appeasing comic book movie fans with fight scenes, and eventually destroys any detailed characterization that had been built up.

The fight scenes also demonstrate why I don’t care much for traditional superhero stories (minus the first two Superman movies). You have a good guy that doesn’t have to follow the rules of reality defeating bad guy(s) who will always lose. This is about the least interesting dramatic plot I can think of. I think the main reason for its popularity is the positive feeling an audience gets when good defeats evil in simple, black and white terms, much in the same way that a forced happy ending is “feel good”.

The movie sets up a world where Pilgrim filters his world through pop culture, and they could have continued in this direction, a genuine, awkward romance visually presented through nerd metaphor. This would have been a great direction to take, in my opinion, but it’s mostly dropped for this hipster superhero plot. This may have been exactly how the graphic novel was constructed (I haven’t read it), but that’s no excuse. It simply doesn’t fit together.

Granted, the empty spectacle on display is somewhat entertaining in and of itself, but also disappointing considering what could have been, maybe a stylish, hipster nerd Manhattan. Instead, we have a forced story of perfunctory good vs. evil, a hero saving the princess. Meanwhile, Knives is, quite literally, left out in the cold.

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