Film Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Graphic novels are all the rage in Hollywood. Every year since 1981, at least one comic book has been made into a feature movie. And it’s happening more and more – in 2011 there will be eight comic book adaptations hitting the theatres. Who said Hollywood’s running out of ideas?

The latest is one you may not have heard of – Scott Pilgrim. First released in 2004, there have been only six issues of the black-and-white graphic novel. It was widely well received, winning several awards, and developed a strong cult following. The film centers around 23 year old unemployed layabout Scott Pilgrim. He plays in a band called “Sex Bob-omb”, is still getting over a bad break up a year ago but finds himself dating a 17 year old high school girl, Knives Chau (“She’s Chinese!” Scott has to continually explain). But when delivery girl Ramona Flowers moves in, Pilgrim falls in love with her. Little does he know that if he wants to date her, he must battle to the death her “seven evil exes”. What follows is a fantastic Mortal Kombat style series of battles complete with level-ups, bonus lives and – of course – coins!

If you think that sounds far fetched – you’re right. Such is the nature of all comic books, I suppose. I’ve never really been into them, myself. I never collected them, I don’t think I’ve ever even bought a comic book. Except for Frank Miller’s Sin City series – and I bought them AFTER seeing the movie! But the beauty of comic books is that they force us to suspend our disbelief and immerse ourselves in a different world. They drag us through the story by our imaginations.

And on the surface, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a cookie-cutter Hollywood action-romance film. There’s the Ben Stiller-esque ‘ordinary bloke’, a love interest, a series of hurdles the hero needs to overcome, a brief crisis-of-confidence before an epiphany, an epic final battle scene and ultimate victory. There’s even a training montage at one point. But really this movie is SO MUCH more than that. There’s very cool special effects (complete with comic-book onomatopoeic sound effects like “Pow!” and “Thunk!”) and great martial arts sequences. It’s at times goofy, other times deadly serious.  I mean, it’s a LOT of fun. It’s very much in the spirit of Kick-Ass, with zany characters in danger, and you really find yourself cheering for them. But on top of all that, the dialogue is extremely tight. Funny, entertaining and very “geeky”, the language and style is very well done and rarely predictable.

But what makes Scott Pilgrim so great is that it’s a totally unashamed geek-fest. It’s packed full of video-game references, mostly the old-style arcade and console games. Even the theme tune from Zelda is recreated, and lots of the music has definite 8-bit overtones. Yahoo!Games has a summary of the video-game aspects here. Shortly after seeing this film I tweeted that it was “thousands of tiny geekgasms rolled into one giant geekgasm.” If you’re into comic books or video games, or if you were EVER into comic books or video games, you will love Scott Pilgrim.

Made for geeks, by geeks, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is easily the best film I’ve seen this year. Go and see it.

Razzie Awards and Why Transformers 2 Sucked

 

The 2009 Razzie Award nominations are in, and over-hyped sequel Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen has been nominated for 7 awards, including Worst Picture. The RAZZIE awards are the flip side of the Oscars – while the Academy Awards strive to acknowledge good films the Razzies acknowledge films that shouldn’t have been written.

Let’s be clear, I loved Transformers 1. It was a cinematic masterpiece, bringing childhood memories to life in spectacular computer-generated form. The plot wasn’t amazing, but it didn’t have to be. Just seeing a Optimus Prime on the screen, and watching him transform into a truck was jaw-droppingly nostalgic. That’s all Transformers 1 needed to be, but like a magician at a children’s party after a while the magic becomes tedious and start to notice the extra bulky sleeves. So while Transformers 1 could get away with eye candy (both the Transformers and Megan Fox), Transformers 2 couldn’t. It needed something more – a story. Something to engage a now bored viewer.

In many respects, that’s the problem with all sequels – the first film creates such an impression that come the next film the shoes are too big and hard to fill. But you have to at least try. Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t just repeat the formula from the first film (great action + great CGI + average dialog + boyhood memories + ok plot = wow), it strips away most of the good bits and leaves the movie totally unbalanced. Excessive action + great CGI + pointless exploitative motorbike scene – great dialog  – engaging plot = epic disappointing fail.

And could Hollywood stop pandering to the 13-year old boy market please? How about an action/sci-fi film for the 25+ age group, eh? Yes we like hot girls and hot guys but this it the age of Redtube, if we want skanks we can find them for free. If we’re paying money for an action movie, show us action. It’s great that you’ve found an attractive woman to star in the movie, but unless she’s playing a tramp don’t dress her up as one.

Marc Fennel, film reviewer for Triple J radio gave what I think is the best review of T2:RotF which he described as “the comedy event of 2009” and “a craptastic spectacular from the Land of No Logic”!

Transformers 2 got the following nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Megan Fox, also nominated for Jennifer’s Body which is also horrible), Worst Supporting Actress (Julie White, the ditzy stoned mum), Worst Remake/Rip-Off/Sequel, Worst Director (Michael Bay) and Worst Screenplay.

Transformers 2 was joined by Will Farrell’s sci-fi comedy Land of the Lost which also had seven nominations, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra which had six nominations.

Which films did you hate in 2009? What did you think of Transformers 2?