Aug 10

Sex Bob-Omb: The Scott Pilgrim Musical!!!

Do You See8 comments • 1,383 views

Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a musical. It is a therefore somewhat of a pity that much of the music in it is pretty anonymous, there are no showstoppers here. It is exactly of a sort, though, the sort that you might imagine no mark Toronto indie bands making. This should therefore be successful within the movie, since the movie is partial about the travails of a no-mark Torontonian (Torontian? Torontoed? Torontinoed?) indie band. And thus, happily in the music within Scott Pilgrim vs The World (The Movie) we have a perfect metaphor for the problem with the film Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It is too faithful to its source, its internal world and its own sense of doing its on story justice to succeed. Edgar Wright has delivered a stupendously entertaining movie, but one which you know could have been better. Just as the music played by Sex Bob-Omb in the film is good, and correct and accurate could also, in a perfect world, also be catchy and fun and sing along on the way home.

Edgar Wright partially has a Watchman problem, that the original material probably does not need a film version. The original Scott Pilgrim books are, for their manga styled archness, pretty dense with character and incident. And it works in a comic, where relationship drama can coexist with non-diagetic metaphorical action sequences. The film works really well up to its first action sequence, at which point it steps up a gear becoming an elongated Spaced style diversion. Its only when you realise its a diversion you won’t get out of that the trouble kicks in. The last two thirds of the film lie in some sort of limbo between fantasy, extreme fantasy and oddly surreal comedy which makes the stakes f the action in the film difficult to assess.

If Wright had made one decision about this material to go off canon and piss off all the fans, the most obvious one would have been to shorten the number of fight sequences. Seven (six really) is too many, and the metaphorical load held by each is not always well explicated. Pilgrim goes from being a dick to being a different kind of dick to being the hero in ways which are not always clear to the audience. Indeed what Wright has done is cleverly make a film where the two romantic leads are not only somewhat dislikable, but we are ambivalent about their eventual fate. He also manages to people the film with supporting characters who we care about because we know they don’t need the life lessons Pilgrim and Flowers need (via hugely entertaining onscreen battles). Indeed the metaphorical load of these arcade style bouts is partly where the film really is a musical. Instead of song and dance sequences however we get punch and kick sequences – which to all but the ardent gamer may be less entertaining (especially when the song sequences leave something to be desired). So it lives in that strange limbo of films which are wonderfully entertaining whilst you watch them, and well made, whilst you know they could have been better.

So what next now Scott Pilgrim has been a flop? Well Wright comes out of this one smelling of roses, and one hopes that he still manages to plow his considerable talents into character driven special effect comedies. No-one can effotlessly deal with sight gags, verbal gags and play with the language of film with light comic effect like he can. But back to something original from his own head I think. Or, even better, a proper musical. That he would do with apl-omb.


  1. 1
    swanstep on 27 Aug 2010 #

    Interesting review. I’ll watch this eventually, on dvd or whatever because I enjoy Edgar Wright’s stuff, but right now I’m utterly bored with super-powers, etc.. I feel like I’ve been asked to think about them, what they might really portend, and so on, almost constantly for the last 15 years (they barely seemed to come up before that), and I’ve had enough. A 20 year moratorium on projects about characters with superpowers, or who think they have superpowers, or who are vexed by their not having superpowers, or… would be useful. (Exceptions granted for any Incredibles sequels.)

    As for the gamer connection here: I don’t game, but I gather there’s some interesting stuff going on there these days, e.g., Red Dead Redemption *sounds* like it’s drawing a lot from Leone, Peckinpah, Coens, etc.. And Godfather and Goodfellas and Sopranos have always been in the mix for GTA games. In general, then, at least some modern vid. games seem to draw v. productively on some of the very richest film sources of the last half century. In the other direction, however, things are much less promising: movies including Scott Pilgrim increasingly seem to draw on some of the most moronic features of games (forgivable if you are the one holding the joystick perhaps) – superpowers/endless strangely consequence-free fighting/’levels’, and so on. Bleech. So SP is definitely just an eventual rental for me, and in general I’m more likely to start gaming (e.g., with Red Dead) than I am to start grooving on gamer-influenced, comic-book films.

  2. 2
    Al Ewing on 28 Aug 2010 #

    I’m slightly astonished nobody’s looked at this in terms of magic realism.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 28 Aug 2010 #

    I thought about the magic realism aspect but I am a big hater of magic realism (its neither magic, not particularly real). The games being riffed on in Scott Pilgrim are nigh on twenty years old as well, which again is odd from a hipster perspective. The weirdest thing is that the most obvious games for it to play with (if perhaps too literal) is the Rock Band / Guitar Hero ones: it almost uses it with the battle between the twins but then that turns into another more impressionistic fight scene.

    The odd thing is that the life lessons in the film are really interesting for a romance (and actual very similar to the ones in Shaun Of The Dead) – its not love that conquers all but self respect. The Knives Chou story is more interesting than the Scott Pilgrim one (since she makes the realisation he makes a good seven years earlier).

  4. 4
    DV on 2 Sep 2010 #

    Isn’t Scott Pilgrim a nonce or something? I read that one of his girlfriends is still in high school. Stoat the baw!

  5. 5
    Andrew F on 2 Sep 2010 #

    One of the best things about Scott Pilgrim is that we are at no point asked to consider what these powers portend :)

    The other best things about the film are all the things about the film.

  6. 6
    LifeRequired on 4 Sep 2010 #

    Christ, it must be awful to be you. I mean, you go to watch a film and instead of enjoying what is a funny and genuinely entertaining movie, you sit there just looking for little tiny plot holes to bitch about. I pity you. Just been to see the movie with a group of twenty friends and we all came out of the cinema absolutely buzzing.


    As for swanstep…seriously…you say “I don’t game” and then go on to say “movies including Scott Pilgrim increasingly seem to draw on some of the most moronic features of games (forgivable if you are the one holding the joystick perhaps)”

    Moronic? Really? You don’t play games. How the hell can you judge which parts of games are moronic and which parts are more “acceptable”? Games are VERY different to movies. They don’t HAVE to make sense. If I come back and play a game because the last time I played, I failed to get the super-power jelly doughnut on level 4 and ended up being killed by a goat with four heads, then the game designer has done their job. Reason being that I actually DID come back and play.

    Escapism doesn’t have to be realistic.

  7. 7
    swanstep on 4 Sep 2010 #

    Moronic? Really? You don’t play games. How the hell can you judge which parts of games are moronic and which parts are more “acceptable”? Games are VERY different to movies.
    I didn’t really want to take up a position about the value of gaming so I’m happy to retract ‘moronic’. I thought, however, that gamers themselves were happy to concede that a lot of games are very formulaic and mechanical and repetitive and that the satisfactions they offer are non-narrative and non-melodramatic and are more straightforwardly addictive and obsessive-compulsive. *Those* sorts of games would seem to have little to offer film… whereas there’s a lot of room for games to become more narrative etc.. Perhaps this is something you concede, in which case we don’t disagree about anything substantive – I just spoke incautiously. But at least some big gamers and game-designers have found in this sort of point reasons to detest Scott Pilgrim, e.g., here. As I mentioned in my original note, however, I’ll see SPvW eventually, but in general I’d need a very good reason to pay real money to sit though another jolly superpower/wannabe-superhero tale, and that it simultaneously geeks out on low-level gamer culture isn’t it (anymore than a sideline in, say, stoner culture would be).

  8. 8
    sean on 5 Sep 2010 #

    I think the mistake is in assuming Scott Pilgrim has superpowers at all. He really does not. There are two ways of viewing the fight scenes in SPVTW: 1)That they’re simply an exaggerated retelling of events courtesy of Scott’s warped worldview or 2)That they take place in an alternate reality where *everyone* has superpowers and thus they’re no more interesting than the fact that most folks can walk upright and talk.

    The movie certainly expends no energy on addressing whether he has superpowers, and there are no expository discussions explaining them. The fact that no one takes notice of these so-called powers and that all of Scott’s opponents appear to possess them as well (including at least one of his ex-girlfriends) would seem to place it in one of these two. That part of the basic plot is that we tend to remember things from a somewhat self-centered perspective places it firmly in #1, for me. But it’s obviously open to interpretation.

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