Monday, August 23, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Girls

So, while I am a newcomer to the world of comic books / graphic novels, it is a medium that I have really enjoyed getting to know a little bit about, and that I am eager to spend more time acquainting myself with. I have never read an issue of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Canadian nerd saga, so I went into the Edgar Wright film adaptation with no expectations. I cannot really review the movie in the context of whether or not it was a good adaptation, but watching the movie definitely raised some questions about the series.

I'd like to first say that I really liked the casting choices - for all of the supporting characters. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was completely believable as the gorgeous and supercool mystery girl Ramona that guys fall in love with after just seeing her across the room. Kieran Culkin, Alsion Pill, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza made a great team as Scott's long-suffering friends, and were entertaining whenever onscreen. Ellen Wong was adorable, annoying, and impossible to hate as Scott's scorned teenage girlfriend Knives Chau. And finally, all of Ramona's seven evil exes (well, the ones who had lines, anyway) fleshed out their caricatures well - Brandon Routh was a particularly nice surprise.

Arturo R. GarcĂ­a wrote about the film's portrayal of Asian-descent characters on Racialicious, and I will quote the following as it pertains to Ramona's other evil exes:

"...other characters fare a lot worse ... the first of Ramona’s League of Evil Exes, Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) gets turned into a Bollywood joke during his fight sequence ... and the Katayanagi Twins (Shora and Keita Saito) go from being tech-savvy villains in the comic (they lure Scott into battle by kidnapping yet another ex of his) to their own QAS Daft Punk pastiche, complete with (ugh) dragons shooting out of their turntables."

Anyway, Jason Schwartzman will always have a place in my heart (did I tell you that I totally shook his hand once? It was awesome), Chris Evans was a well-played parody, and it was awesome to see Mae Whitman battle her former flame from Arrested Development.

Which brings me to Michael Cera. I guess he was well-cast? I don't know, you tell me. My friends who've read the comics did say that so much had to be condensed into the film, but I'd like to know if Scott Pilgrim is as devoid of personality in the source material as he is in the movie. Yes yes, Cera plays the same role in every movie. We loved it about him in AD and Superbad, and then immediately got tired of it. Wasn't he quitting acting or something? Whatever. I miss George Michael (not the singer-songwriter).

I guess if you strip away the flashy and cool fight sequences and just look at the story presented in the movie, it makes more sense. Boring unemployed 22-year-old in a band who lives across the street from his parents is believably edgy enough to impress a 17-year-old overprotected schoolgirl. And rightfully should incur the derision that it does from all of his friends. And while it's difficult to imagine that Ramona would want anything to do with this loser, I guess given the high drama of her past relationships, someone with absolutely nothing going on in their life might appeal. I'm just over the trope of an average-looking dude with very little to offer being the main obsession of multiple women who have a lot of promise.

Anyway, the fight scenes were exciting to watch, even for my parents and I who have extremely limited experience with video games and comics, where most of the stylized inspiration seemed to come from. I felt engaged throughout the movie with its frills that were surely culled from the pages of the comics. That said, Winstead and Wong were on a "Girls Who Kick Ass" panel at Comic Con, and given that they basically learned a limited amount of fight choreography for one movie, I do not think that title should necessarily be applied to those actresses.

So, the movie was enough. I would like to read the comics to see if there is more material there to be entertained by. Also I want Brandon Routh and Chris Evans to have a douchey buddy comedy, please.


Bryan said...

Saying you're over something means you were with it for some time, which would be weird in this case. Although I'm an below average looking person with nothing to offer and I've had girlfriends who deserve a lot better. So I think otherwise smart are dumb in this respect. But maybe I've just been the beneficiary of movies changing culture to allow such inequality of relationships.

Gretchen said...

I don't know if Scott is any more interesting at the beginning, but in the graphic novels he shows a *lot* more character development. He gets a job and struggles toward financial and emotional independence and he finally realizes that he was the dick in his previous relationships, and he works to make amends for that and move on.

Ramona's past gets more attention, too, and at the end of the story when they wind up together, it feels like they've learned a lot about themselves, have grown as people, and are ready to work to be grown-ups together.

I think that taking responsibility for yourself is what marks your passage into adulthood, so it's really the story of this kid learning how to be a grownup and be a decent person. It's a good transformation.