Hey folks, Harry here and frankly... I feel like I've been waiting 30 years for the next Edgar Wright flick. Seriously. Rewatching SHAUN, HOT FUZZ and the two too short seasons of SPACED just isn't enough. Wright needs a long filmography that I can enjoy right now. I want at least 15 films all side by side on a shelf that give me that Wright feeling. Certainly the new trailer does that. And from The Mighty Bruce, comes a review that again makes me giddy for this flick... It's budget is modest, but its ambition to entertain seems enormous. Can not wait.
Last week I had the distinct honor of catching a special sneak screening of the new Michael Cera / Edgar Wright epic, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The feature was a rough cut, with a few special effects shots missing and comment card questionnaires at the end. Prior to the screening and afterward, the professionals in charge of the sneak preview warned us and reminded us that this was a work in progress, that our comment cards could affect the outcome of the final cut, and that we would be signing an audience agreement that specified we would not release any information about the movie to anyone outside the screening, especially not web publications. Whoops. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a visual masterpiece, Edgar Wright's finest cinematic showing in terms of special effects mastery, integration of stylized comic-book tropes and the amazing impossibility of wrangling a monstrously talented cast that performs above and beyond the call of duty. Michael Cera's Scott Pilgrim is a throwback to Arrested Development's George Michael, and while many would claim that he's been rehashing that same generic melancholy youth for years now, Scott Pilgrim would change that impression, albeit subtly. There is a beautiful and charming way in which Cera commands the comedic punchline-heavy comic strip dialog in this picture, and his youthful innocence shines through in a way that it never could have in say, Nick & Nora's Infamous Shamefest. The rest of the cast is charismatic and crush-worthy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza providing enough alternating attractiveness and affability to let the film's weaker punchlines slide. Even supporting cast members like Scott's band-mates find moments to stand out and make themselves memorable amidst all the comic book chaos, creating a universe that fans and newcomers alike can easily see themselves revisiting. It's not a flawless picture, and in comparison I still might hold Wright's Shaun of the Dead a little higher in esteem (only because it's a personal favorite of mine). This being a rough cut, there were certainly sequences that ran a little long. Knives Chau, played by Ellen Wong, has a lot of funny and cute moments, but they're mostly relegated to the second half of the movie after Scott's relationship with Ramona fires up and her seven evil exes come into play. I would argue that the only real problems with this picture are in its runtime, and that a shave of twenty minutes could really make this the sleeper hit of the summer. Keeping this mostly spoiler free, everything with Scott's ex-girlfriend Envy is a complete misfire, providing the movie with a screeching train-wreck at its exact molten core. In addition, Brandon Routh is miscast and dull (sounds familiar, right?) and we spend a little bit too much time with Chris Evans' and Satya Bhabha's fight sequences. Otherwise, the fights are energetic and enjoyable, mixing motifs from Street Fighter, Dance Dance Revolution and graphic novels to visually underscore the sheer awesomeness abounding in every frame. Lovable is the key word I would use to describe this picture, and as someone who had never read a single Scott Pilgrim comic I was immediately won over to the characters, the brilliant interplay of dialog and the fun of watching absolutely ridiculous things appear on screen, yet somehow contextually make sense. It's a rare occurrence, and in the same way that the Wachowski Bros. packed Speed Racer with mind-bending visual concepts that were ahead of their time, Edgar Wright does them one better by packing his film with a story as interesting as the acid-trip cinematic effects he jams into every nook and cranny. There's so much humor here and the movie generally clips along at such a pace that there is little time for pure romance, another slight downside. I would have liked more moments where Scott's love was as obvious through his acting or dialog as it was through the visuals. I understand Wright's hesitance to slow down his comic book picture with a schmaltzy moment, but I believe he underestimates his own ability to instill heart into every one of his pictures here, and even a few brief but honest non-quippy moments could have served the film well, possibly pushing it beyond "great movie" into "masterpiece," but such speculation can only verge on the hyperbolic. I don't want to spoil too much by explaining how the romance plays out (as I've heard the ending is still in question, according to one of the talented [read: insanely beautiful and funny] cast members I had the opportunity of speaking to the other night), but everything structurally functions perfectly, aside from a few moments that run long. This cut of Scott Pilgrim was like a delicious Dagwood sandwich with just a few too many pieces of pastrami. Sure, it made the whole thing bigger, but after a while it's too much of a good thing and everything is in danger of feeling bloated afterwards. My advice would be to snip the odds and ends from the first act fights and maybe reshoot some more romance. Believe me, comic fans, there's plenty of ridiculous, explosive combat to be found here. The only thing that's missing is a little bit more authentic sweetness in between. I hope this review convinces you to get excited for this picture. It really caught me by surprise and I hope you have a similar experience with it. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may not be the most recognizable franchise at the bat this summer, but after all is said and done, it might be the only one with legs to stand on in this increasingly visual age. While many people scorn the new 3D, a part of me wishes I could see Scott Pilgrim again with the goofy 3D goggles, just for some of the impeccably brilliant shots at the very end. Maybe I'm just a sucker for cool lookin' stuff, kung fu fighting, and video game violence, but I'd prefer another Scott Pilgrim story to Avatar 2 any day. - The Mighty "Bruce"