Film & TV

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Doubting Public

After watching Edgar Wright’s latest directorial work, I went to the urinal with my mate. As we stood there I felt compelled to break the Men’s Loos Code of Not Talking; I simply had to ask him: “Joe, what are we going to say when people ask us what that film was about?”

This is not a criticism. Far from it. In fact, as I sat there I realised that I was watching a groundbreaking, innovative masterpiece. Edgar Wright has discovered a new art form, that which is ‘The Mindfuck in Film’. Imagine the way the first audience of Dumbo must have freaked out over the pink elephant sequence. Then imagine 112 minutes of the pink elephant sequence, and you’ll understand what I mean.

I can see why this film has – and will continue to – split opinion, but I can’t physically stay on the fence for this one. Like a fat kid losing his balance on a seesaw, all I can do is choose the side to fall towards. Most of the bad feeling resulting from the film is from older generations and I think I know why. Films nowadays are specifically tailored to fit the public’s perceived needs and not much more – sure, you’ll get the odd Synecdoche New York, but how many of you have heard of that? I myself simply stumbled upon it at an arts cinema, and that even stars Philip Seymour Hoffman!

The great thing about this film is that it was distributed well; the bad thing is that it was marketed terribly. The trailers are useless, using out-of-context clips lumping them together the same way a Neanderthal would mash potatoes – brutish, simple and without care. Even posters were scarce and failing to catch one’s eye. The only reason I knew about it was through Empire magazine and I’m so glad I did. This is not to say that older generations are shallow and simple (on the whole, having asked many a weathered filmgoer) but more that they are accustomed to a certain way films are made, scripted and displayed and anything else must be wrong or bad. Thankfully, although I’ve seen many a film, I’m intrigued by the innovation with which this film is dripping. It’s radical and progressive.

All of Edgar Wright’s work I’ve seen has had this effect, from TV’s Spaced to the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. They have all managed to turn the word ‘genre’ upside down and created something separate, a new take on a standard: the sitcom, the zombie flick, the gun-fest cop summer blockbuster respectively, and now this. It’s a psychedelic soup of pop-culture fusing comics, the age of video games, alternative music and fantasy together- and it works. From the opening Universal logo, you’ll know you’re watching something which sticks a middle finger up to boundaries – I won’t say anything on it, just prepare to be blown away!!

This is why the ‘A.D.D Generation’ gets it – this is why it’ll have a massive cult following. It sums us up. It’s not patronising, it doesn’t cater to the 2-second attention span, but rather addresses the contemporary way of life. Transitions are abrupt – it’s fast paced and has great special effects, but its quirkiness and lack of facade engages us, not just letting us sit there and look at the pretty pictures.

The majority of people who have gelled with this are the young – not to be ageist but from conversations with people and comments I’ve overheard this is definitely the case. At one point, for example, the love interest whacks out a bloody great Paladin-style sledgehammer from her purse referencing nearly every Final Fantasy game where huge weapons are concealed during game-play unless specifically being used, and that’s just one example in a long list which made the younger people in the audience almost cheer while others scoffed.

If you’re at all worried, I’m not going to be dishing out spoilers and – to quote the film – ‘whatever’. It is told in the perspective of the protagonist: when something happens without Scott noticing beforehand, it’ll just occur as a surprise. When an evil ex attacks without Scott suspecting, it’s sudden and real. There’s no actual exposition, no explanation for much of it, no ‘Meanwhile, at the bad guy’s lair…’ It’s just “Oh, now there’s a bassist with telekinesis… Ok, I’ll fight him.” I became immersed.

Those who seek purpose in a film will find themselves lost because that’s not its intention. Things happen without you seeing them build up, a character will appear from seemingly nowhere because clever editing and certain artistic choices will never be explained. Why do these evil exes have powers? And the reason we never find out? Because Scott never asks, because there’s no voiceover, just “Fine, so this guy can conjure fire and has demonic minion-chicks: bring it on!”

I can conjure no single word to sum this masterpiece up because it’s that fresh. There’s literally nothing like it – and I do hope there won’t be rip-offs anytime soon. Everything down to the music – Nigel Godrich making his début in composing a full score – is new and wild and untamed. This film knows it’s juvenile: that’s the point. It’s from the perspective of this teenager, so his outlook on the world is affected by the culture of today.

For those who enjoy the doughnut on its own, the film can only go so far, but those who enjoy the icing will be pleasantly rewarded. I’m talking mega, multi-flavoured, extra large sprinkles, with every flavour icing known to man. It is inventive, it conjures everything, it creates, it destroys, it is contemporary, it is revolutionary, it is an artistic evolution. I give it 112/10 (a point for every fun-filled mindfuck minute). Supporting cast are magnificent, costumes are vibrant and creative, directing and editing styles are amazing, leads are strong, special effects are eye-popping and wonderfully comic-book-esque. This is to our generation what ‘Withnail’ was to those before. Scott Pilgrim vs. the doubting public? Scott Pilgrim wins. KO.

Christopher Beale

Film & TVFilm Reviews

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