Saturday, April 16, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the video game movie

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, A

As per usual, I’m going to ignore a lot of components of this film in order to get at points I don’t hear discussed very often.

Summary of ones I’m ignoring:
a) Very funny
b) Amazing action
c) Awesome music
d) Ridiculously fun experience
e) The graphic novels are amazing also

Scott Pilgrim, strangely like Mark Zuckerberg, is a representation of an aspect of The Facebook Generation. He’s a result of the way this group was raised with a silver spoon. There are very few Facebook teenagers with Zuckerberg’s drive because we’re used to never really being in danger. If school gets hard and the class does poorly, the grades are curved (everyone in the class gets extra points so people have higher grades). If a kid is having a hard time, they’re placed into a more comfortable situation. If we want that brand new cell phone or iPod, we often times get it. Edgar Wright is suggesting that very many of us are indifferent, lacking passion.

         Scott Pilgrim, the lead character, is a boy who makes all of his choices based exclusively on short-term benefit. The main component of the plot is that he’s dating a high school girl named Knives, but then falls for a sort of hipster princess named Ramona. He takes no responsibility for his actions and remains ignorant to the way his actions affect others’ feelings. In order to date Ramona, Scott has to fight her seven evil ex’s. He goes through these battles nonchalant as something he has to do, never grasping the significance of what he’s really fighting for. This relates directly to modern schooling. A scary amount of teenagers have no idea what they want to do with their life yet they’re aimlessly participating in high school clubs that they think will help get them into college, or declaring their college majors without having a decent level of certainty. This tires them out and leaves no time in the day to figure themselves out ( = mass identity criss)! Thus, we’re becoming this strangely aloof generation, going through the motions as Scott is, just because we think it’s the right thing to do.
         The film portrays all of this through a video game style and sensibility. Like a video game, the objectives are stated clearly. Like a video game it’s so saturated with action and color, it becomes borderline campy. Like a video game, the stakes are never quite raised. Most importantly, like a video game, there are never any consequences for your actions (whether those consequences be physical or emotional).

         And then the film starts to tackle these issues. The first moment of evident development is in the awkward backstage conversation between The Clash at Demonhead and the Sex Bomb-Omb crew. Todd punches Knives and Scott immediately reacts, standing to begin the fight against Todd (interestingly more inspired to fight for Knives than Ramona in this instance). His next emotional growth occurs in the battle against the Katayanagi twins, and this time he gets some credit for it. Scott gets a second life on the grounds of his love and affection. As Scott accomplishes his pivotal third development by admitting to Knives and Ramona that he cheated, he is killed by Gideon, an act that represents the fight (verbal realistic fight, not crazy action movie fight) he would’ve had with the two girls about his poor actions. Fair is fair, and he lost, right? No. When you show affection and you give back in a relationship, your friends/significant others will give back to you in your time of need.
         It is here, with the help of Scott’s friends, that he learns to do something for himself. Scott breaks out of his aloof state, and finds passion. Instead of sitting around and accepting death, he finds his second life. He takes a second chance at making things okay instead of just letting them crumble.

         The ending of this film is quite strange. The first two times I watched this I found myself unsatisfied by it. Scott chooses Ramona over Knives (although Knives encourages this). At first, I found it as a flaw in the film because there’s no sense of resolution, like he doesn’t really belong with either. Now I realize that this is entirely the point. Scott has been living his life in this safe video game-like shell, he doesn’t really know either of these girls, they are caricatures. Knives is the Chinese high school girlfriend who’ll tell him nice things and support him. Ramona is the perfect match for him because she’s both cool (which we know he desires given he dated Envy) and attractive. Neither Scott, nor the viewer, really knows much of anything about these people. Now that Scott’s learned the value of friendship, it’s time for him to start learning.

Even more than that however, the ending is about self-respect. Scott fights and afterwards makes choices with a purpose, not just because he thinks he is supposed to. The moment with Nega Scott is tremendous in stating the necessity of self-awareness. Instead of fighting his “bad sides,” Scott embraces and makes peace with them.

         So in the end, things are definitely not perfect. Neither girl is a great match, both are okay. However, unlike many other moments in the film, Scott doesn’t run away, he makes a choice. Ramona may not be the right choice, but it’s a choice. The film ends on a countdown reminiscent of arcade games. It counts down asking if you’re to continue playing. Instead of letting someone else hit play (as Knives has to earlier in the film) Scott takes the initiative. It’s time to start living life on his own terms.

P.S. –
a) It’s hilarious that upon using his second life, Scott quickly goes through all the elements of that level he already did. Epic reference to all of our impatient rushing in this similar situation in actual video games.
b) There is also a lot to say about teamwork and the dynamic of friendships
c) You could write an entire review about how this film is really about Knives and her emotional growth, as she has the most profound satisfying transformation in the end when she tells Scott to go to Ramona. 

1 comment:

  1. SP was an interesting experiment, but the film ultimately did not connect with the public-at-large...not even it's intended audience. The last time anime- or video game-influenced film-making clicked was The Matrix...that was already a world away...and it didn't even hold up the two sequels. The mass audience in America still doesn't get anime...and yet, filmmakers still try and die by it ala Speed Racer and the Last Airbender.

    I give the director a lot of credit for trying...but Michael Cera just wasn't compelling, and his act is wearing a little thin....and that's coming from someone who watches Juno every chance I get.

    Love the blog...keep on going!