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“And I kicked his ass so hard he saw the curvature of the Earth.”

I went to see Scott Pilgrim last night. While Resident Evil: Degeneration is a video game movie in atmosphere and overall vibe, Scott Pilgrim is effectively a video game movie in visuals, action, and general corniness. And it works so, so well.

… do I really need to explain the story? I mean, I’m pretty sure anyone even faintly familiar with it knows at least the basic gist. Love story, have to defeat girl’s evil ex-boyfriends, nerd references, yadda yadda yadda. You could try and say that it’s basically a love story of people fighting for the girl’s affection taken very, very literally, but I’ll be frank and say it’s a simple plot. The main attraction is simply the look and feel of the movie.

And my god, what a look and feel it is!

One of my concerns when a comic, game or other non-live-action medium is converted to a movie is whether or not it captures the look of the source material. It’s not a constant worry, mind you, I’m not always wetting my pants in fear that a Spider-Man movie won’t have thought balloons, but when the source material has a good look, you want to stick with it. My personal experience with Batman medium is that of a dark and gritty environment that maintains a sinister style of colour, all with a rather old-fashioned 1920s-esque manner of architecture and machinery; complain all you want about Batman & Robin, but I thought it captured the look of my idea of Batman perfectly.

Scott Pilgrim is (to my knowledge!) a comic about indie bands and exaggerated love stories and geeky medium references. It is set in Toronto. It might not be as outlandish as rich white boys growing up to be killer clowns or dorks in tights, but it has a fast-paced, dynamic and punchy style of editing that really just captures the atmosphere of the movie flawlessly. Ramona Flowers isn’t stripped of her distinctive garments so she can just look more conventional in live-action – she’s still got the dyed hair, the roller skates, the colourful clothing and the big ol’ hammer. The vegan guy is still a huge, towering mofo with ginormous eyebrows. And Scott’s still an awkward looking dork.

The casting is great.

It’s hard to pinpoint what brings the movie to life so well, though one of the elements is definitely the editing. It’s hard to truly describe! Onomatopoeia springs out of the most mundane actions (and lies on the floor like paper trimmings), passages of time are done snappily, and captions float in for additional punch lines. I mean, I could say the visuals as a whole just work with the film so well. Even simple things like how each shot is framed, the use of shadows to blur out anything that isn’t relevant during important discussions, it really just works with the story and actions so well. It may be regular Toronto indie-scene environments, but the movie is just shot in such a manner that the transition from comic seems so seamless.

Also, oh my godthe fight scenes!

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched a new movie that had fight scenes I found genuinely enjoying all the way through, without a single feeling of “ehhh, they could’ve done that better.” Scott Pilgrim has fight scenes that are well and truly a blast to watch – and there’s six of them! They don’t cut to new angles every half-second just to look edgy, they don’t film the fights with hyperactive cameras that blur out half the action, and we aren’t just treated to the boring old chop-socky we’ve seen plenty of times before. The battles are dynamic, energetic, vibrant, and bursting with character. Each fight takes on a slightly different style, all of them truly entertaining, and it’s just a serious joy to watch. Who knew you could make a generic anime fight scene a dozen times more engaging just by filming it in live-action, but keeping the exact same vigorous actions and editing?

Heck, I was even pleasantly surprised by how relatively clean the movie was! I was mildly astonished by how it only had a 12A rating – when a film is chock full of fighting, has lust act as the primary reason behind most actions and is full of geeky nerd humour, I generally expect things to turn sour at some point. But no! There’s little in the way of bad language, it never decides to think 4chan humour would be so hilarious when put on a film screen, and despite the brutal (albeit hilariously exaggerated) fisticuffs, there’s only one glimpse of blood in the whole thing. Defeated foes merely burst into showers of coins – a simple River City Ransom reference that appeals to absolute dorks, but also an effectively quirky way of achieving bloodless violence. I wholeheartedly respect it for the manner in which everything is presented. Despite my crude internet mannerisms, I have the utmost respect for clean entertainment, and while Scott Pilgrim probably isn’t a fun-for-all-the-family flick, I imagine it’s easily got the sort of action and visuals that’d appeal to any child who watches Saturday morning cartoons.

It’s a long movie, and I won’t deny that I didn’t notice, though I’d hardly say I was bored either. It’s got to compress six years of comics into a two-hour running time, and from what I’ve heard there’s a lot of stuff cut out, though even as an outsider I can tell – some characters are given very little time to shine, Kim especially, and you get the impression it’s going out of its way to avoid exploring Scott’s past just so he won’t have to fight his own personal league of evil exes, but it never really bugged me. I will say that about halfway through some of the segments between fights just been a bit of a drag- there’s some laugh-out-loud humour and the general bouncy atmosphere of the movie always keeps the momentum going, but the dorky nerd humour wears thin very quickly. All-purpose humour, great, but dorky nerd humour about dorky nerd references and how dorky nerds act, it wore thin pretty quickly. For being a man who writes about video games on the internet, I’m a bigger fan of more general humour rather than the kind that relies on dorky nerds knowing what they’re like so they can laugh “ha ha, dorky nerds!”

I will say I’m a fan of the term “dorky nerds,” though. I’ve a bad feeling I won’t stop using it. Somebody help me.

So… yeah! Lots and lots of fun! I had never even seen the trailer and my familiarity with the comics is zilch, so I hadn’t a true idea of what I was getting into, but I enjoyed it, my dad enjoyed it, and the whopping seven other people in the audience seemed to enjoy it. You get your money’s worth for the ticket price, and I might have to go against my very morals and say that I may actually but the DVD… within two months of its release! That’s something I’ve never ever done before, you know.

I’ll also say that, man, it’s really spoiled my appetite for the video game. Yeah, it looks okay, but it doesn’t look freakin’ awesome like the movie does. What, so I have slowly jump kick the Bollywood guy to death rather than exchange blows via dramatic high-octane anime-style flying punches? Where’s the fun in that?

Here’s a guy with big feet. That’s the only productivity you’re getting out of me today.


  1. Wes wrote:

    complain all you want about Batman & Robin, but I thought it captured the look of my idea of Batman perfectly.

    Except for the nipples, I hope! ;)

    Who knew you could make a generic anime fight scene a dozen times more engaging just by filming it in live-action, but keeping the exact same vigorous actions and editing?

    The Japanese! Also, the Chinese, the Koreans, and the filmmakers of pretty much any East Asian country. :D

    Still, it sounds like a cool movie! I look forward to grabbing the DVD. (And hey, remember me? I hope you’ve been well! :) )

    Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  2. The guy with the big feet looks like Mash Man from Action52.

    Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  3. Ragey wrote:

    I’ve got a feeling Batman & Robin is your personal Bat-Signal – every time I mention it you just swoop in out of nowhere to remark about it. =P

    Also doyyyy, that obvious fact slipped my mind. I can’t even say “I haven’t seen any Eastern movies” as an excuse for not mentioning it, as what little I’ve seen of the Casshern movie was certainly like an anime brought to life. It didn’t have floating textual sound effects, though. Those were half the fun of Scott Pilgrim’s fights!

    And it’s great to hear from you again! It’s only recently I found out you’ve been posting more on Articulated Discussion, so I’ll have to catch up on your stuff there!

    Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink