Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I've read the first two volumes of the comic, and was left bemused by how much love there is for it. I mean, yeah, the talk is funny and the look is fresh, but this whole relationships as videogames conceit is a little confusing, isn't it? It was difficult for me to read INTO the fights. Metaphor muscled out character.

The film has the same problem. As far as I can see (i.e. the first two volumes) the adaptation from the comics is pretty straight. It zooms along at a merry pace, and the visuals are stunning. But at times I started yearning for it to slow down -- for fewer fights and more dialogue. Give me some time to explore what these conflicts are actually ABOUT, OK?

As it stands, there is stuff I got, and stuff that made no sense to me. Scott's duels seem to be about overcoming Ramona's defences -- the detritus from past relationships that prevent her from committing to this one. But you could also say that they are about Scott as well -- proving to himself and the world that he is BETTER than those guys (and gal). The battles are about both characters gaining the self-confidence to do this romance thing again. As Hickman's Pax Romana says: destroy the past, create the future.

So if this is our paradigm, how does Scott defeat the exes? Patel is a question mark for me (Scott finding out the insignificant reason Ramona dated him?). Lucas falls due to arrogance, Todd because of hypocrisy. Envy's aura of invincibility evaporates in the process, as her bad decisions are exposed. Then there's Roxie. A bit of brouhaha about this one. Ramona knows Roxie's sexual secrets, and Roxie has no equivalent hold on Ramona. But why Ramona fights her bi-curious past with such vindictiveness is a puzzle. Poor Roxie, I thought. Perhaps that's the point. Scott certainly gets tired of dealing with Ramona's trail of broken hearts, and their relationship crumbles.

The twins directly challenge Scott's belief in his ability to express himself (through his god-awful band Sex Bob-Omb), but he overcomes them. Gideon's microchip is interesting. Has Ramona's head been rewired to respond to manufactured signs of coolness? And maybe Scott breaks through them by being earnest? I kinda like that reading -- the revenge of underground nerd culture against the corporate masters of pop culture. Ramona is shown that videogames are better than clubs, Toronto is better than New York. A fantasy, of course. Games are made by corporations too, but what the hey.

What of Knives? Scott is straight with her, she forgives all and lets him go. That was mature of her. The problem with that, and pretty much everything in this movie, is that the videogame metaphor telescopes these character transformations so that they become pretty difficult to take seriously. Too much happens too quickly. Emotion is traded in for dynamism and bright lights. Maybe I'm getting old, but that wasn't the right balance for me.

1 comment:

  1. My friend over at Shark Attack had some comments over on facebook, and I thought it would be useful to post my reply over here, since it clarifies my position somewhat:

    Ah, I'm sorry my disappointment disappointed you. Before cobbling together a defence, I should say that I agree with you on the comedy and the invention. It's deffo an enjoyable film. It gets funnier as it goes on, I think, as jokes build o...n one another.

    Next, a clarification. Scott's 'betterness' isn't some objective value, but a sense of self he constructs by comparing himself to others. I'm not suggesting that he is perfect, but that he is building up his self-belief and power-of-love stats. Thus, I don't see the exes as 'evil' in an absolute sense. They are more like caricatures created by Scott in order to big himself up. That's not necessarily a mature way to deal with things, but it is something people (including myself) do with alarming regularity.

    THAT'S interesting. My problem is that I like smart writing that makes sense, and this metaphor didn't always furnish me with satisfying answers. WTF is going on with Patel, Roxie, or even Gideon, I don't know. How did Knives suddenly become this whole different person? I would have liked the film to tell me. I realize it's a comedy, but for me, that's not an excuse.

    I do wonder about whether this weakness is a reflection of the limits of the art form. With a comic, you can freeze a moment, study each sentence and expression with care. You can cram quite a lot of subtlety in a story otherwise filled with punching. The metaphor can breathe, if you let it. A film moves a lot faster. The jokes and the fights have more of an impact, but you need to be more thorough and more obvious when it comes to character.