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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World might be the first comic book series to deserve a franchise and not attempt one, rather than the other way around. Director Edgar Wright finds a way to weave all of the material together, and provide a satisfying conclusion, but when seven mangas worth of material combines it should yield more than a single film. There simply has to be worthwhile material left behind.

That’s not to say that I’d want to see more of the same film presented. The constant bombardment of referencing could easily spread out over three films and lose nothing. Some of it serves the movie brilliantly, as Wright may be the first director to understand what makes the video game references fun over tedious. By the time that the Seinfeld reference came through, though, I had had enough of them.

The movie’s biggest weakness is its villains’, the League of Evil Exes, lack of character. Each one has a single defining trait (if that) to which the entire character boils down. Nothing positive of Ramona’s past relationships ever comes up, even in metaphor as the rest of their existences, and that would have been more challenging to the Scott Pilgrim character than big punch ups are. Just as each of them represents some form of baggage or insecurity, so should the exes not have been so easily beaten by just punches or weak trickery. The kinds of heady ideas and relationship problems that creator Bryan Lee O’Malley raises in his stories are too complex for brawling to be a satisfactory conclusion.

The protagonists fare little better. For all his valiance in pursuing Ramona, Scott is too cowardly to tell her that he already has a girlfriend when they meet, and his back story shows little more to him. Ramona, beyond looking cute in matching hair and tights’ colors, shows little for which Scott should compete. She just never gets much time to shine as a person, to make the audience understand what Scott really sees in her outside of a couple of omens.

Visually, Wright brings a perfect look to Scott Pilgrim. The layers of effects that he uses from video games of the 16 bit era are phenomenal, from power ups to extra lives to draining meters. The disposal of his enemies, though, loses its charm with each successive victory, though it is very funny the first time shown. Much of the movie is like this, though. It settles for being cute where it could have gone for funny. Scott himself is begging to be deflated through most of the film, in spite of Michael Cera’s underplayed performance.

None of the cast gets a particularly great focus in the film. The best role was Kieran Culkin’s roommate character, sly, wise and the only one who seemed to know what he was doing. That set up never got old either. Anna Kendrick as Scott’s sister and Aubrey Plaza as his foul-mouthed friend both made the absolute most of their parts, too. These two were most likely to keep Scott in his place.

For all my criticism of its parts, though, the sum of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does make a good film. For all the missed opportunities the compressed story may have, it also doesn’t hang around longer than the occasionally weak characters can support the scene. It moves at sometimes too brisk a pace while still feeling breezy. This takes away some of the film’s gravity but this is a film that uses an X-Men sew-on patch for symbolism. Maybe that’s all the gravity it really has coming to it. 3 ½ stars


One Comment

  1. This is the 2nd occasion I have come across your blog post in the last couple weeks. Seems like I ought to take note of it.

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