06
Sep
10

Scott Pilgrim vs. the world

I went to see Scott Pilgrim versus the world after I kept hearing good things about it from various sources, including friends and bloggers who I don’t know.

All in all, I didn’t find the movie that funny, which was the characteristic I kept hearing the most about. I mean, I don’t get me wrong, I thought it was funny, but I did a lot of smirking and smiling rather than laughing outright. I also surmised that maybe I was just beyond the age group that this movie most appealed to, which might explain my kind-of laughter.

But in all seriousness, I did like the movie. I thought it was well done in a lot of ways, and it did a very good job of avoiding the cliches that seem to surround movies these days.

Still though, I don’t know if I would even say I was entertained in the simplest use of that word. More than anything, I thought this movie was, on many levels, prophetic.

There are a few ways to get at this idea. First is that this movie is visually and effectually what I would consider to be the future, in which video games, laser swords, ridiculous stunts, and other futuristic themes are integrated tightly into the movie, but not realistically. Rather, the effects come into the movie in a stylized, almost comic book style way, transforming the movie into the movie/video game hybrid, just as the graphic novel stylized and visualized the standard book. And this is interesting because movie is not only filled with visuals, but with the anti-movie and anti-visual, words. Sometimes thoughts are expressed with a side-bar or the notes of the narrator, who flits in and out of the action.

Also, this movie is from our cultural future in terms  of the way the narrative plays out. In every aspect of this movie, old themes are redeployed in a way that mocks those themes and explicitly moves us beyond them. I don’t want to get to artsy with my language here cause the idea isn’t mysterious. First, there’s a part where they play the music from Seinfeld when Scott is about to be back at his house, and this use of Seinfeld only kind of fits. Its not a homage as much as a kind of in your face “that was the 90’s and we are moving beyond!” There are instances, the most powerful being the quest formula of the movie. Throughout earliest history, there has been stories about quests. At first, these stories were meant to be taken deadly seriously. They contained cosmology or cultural lessons. As time went on, the quest was played with as an idea, but the seriousness of the idea was never called into question. I’m thinking here of Paradise Lost when rather than the hero going on a quest as in the Odyssey, the main evil character (Satan) goes on a quest (or is he really even the bad guy?). The point is that the structure is retained even while the pieces that go into it stay the same.

With Scott Pilgrim though, the quest structure is held up for a kind of thorough once over. At the end, when Scott is facing the evil G-man (Gideon), he plucks the sword of true love from his torso as statistics from a video game scroll in the bottom left side of the screen. Here a timeless lesson is reduced to its statistical role. And then the movie does one better by making Scott realize that love isn’t enough, but that he must do things “for himself.” Again, he plucks the sword of self-esteem out of his chest. Every lesson that our culture used to bandy about in platitudes is put on display here as an empty tactic.

Even the way relationships are dealt with are very next century not last century. Scott, after meeting the love of his life, Ramona Flowers, simply falls into a relationship with here. There is almost no courtship, and this is perfectly appropriate for a sexual culture that is moving more toward hook-ups, grey areas, and sexual dilemmas, then prolonged courtship followed by a marriage. These days, finding yourself in a “something” with another girl isn’t hard, its trying to sort out what it all means for the long term that is increasingly difficult for this century (see, the divorce rate).

Lastly, two quick and undeveloped points. Think how similar this movie is, in some very important ways, to Kill Bill. Also, for all its propheticness, the movie, thank god, doesn’t have almost any connection to “social networking.” I don’t think there was even a facebook reference. Interesting.

But where is at all going? Yea this movie tears down a lot of tired and dying film institutions, but what is the replacement? Nihilism or a relativization of all values? Uggh. I have no answer for that one. Perhaps we should just think short term and remember Nietzsche’s point that in order to create values one most destroy values. And Pilgrim is working on the destruction side of things as far as I can tell.

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1 Response to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the world”


  1. September 6, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    The movie is funny, but not in a ‘lol’, slapstick, or even dark sort of way. In my opinion it embraces more of a a witty sarcastic sort of funny that yes, would usually get a smirk or a chuckle.

    I don’t think that takes away from the humor, I think that is merely the intent. Sarcasm usually gets smiles, not laughs.

    I really enjoyed Scott Pilgrim. The scenes where they are at the park at night for some reason really stick in my mind. Not for any particular line, but the visual mostly I think is very pleasing. – As an aspiring filmmaker I appreciate things like that very much.

    -Beth-


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