Normally my opinions on film don't go for longer than a paragraph or so. It's not that I don't care, as I can talk about movies for hours if given the opportunity. When it comes to actually sitting down and writing about them however, the words usually just aren't there. Then I watched Scott Pilgrim vs The World.
People who know me would probably think I'd love this movie. And if you were talking to my 18-year-old self, they'd probably be right. It's chock full of gaming references, campy action sequences, girls with blue hair, lots of stuff that the old me would have probably eaten up. That Richard is gone now though. Well, except for the blue hair thing. That's hot.
I expect some depth from my stories now, something on screen to stir an emotional reaction in me. Scott Pilgrim has none of that, even though it's supposedly composed of things that I love. Instead I saw wholly unlikable characters and a thin, unbelievable romance designed to rope people like 18-year-old Richard into thinking it's good.
Scott is the single biggest problem with the whole movie. Not only is Scott an unlikable douche throughout almost the whole film, Michael Cera's performance exemplifies his bad traits to the point where they're excruciating to watch. I don't hate Cera as much as some people I know, as his jittery teenager character works in a lot of instances (Arrested Development, Superbad, etc.), but here he's disastrously cast as a hero.
Making a character flawed or less than moral is fine-in fact it's great. But there's a big difference between being a lovable buffoon and a desperate jackass. Scott begins the movie dating a high school girl named Knives (who I'll talk about in more detail later) for the sole reason of getting over is previous girlfriend. Knives really cares about Scott, but it's clear that Scott is only using her as a trophy. So we establish at the very beginning that Scott is an insecure jerk, something that never truly changes.
Contrast this with a character like Jack Sparrow. Sure he's kind of an ass himself, and he's motivated by selfishness more often than not. He has actual redeeming qualities though. He's funny, and despite being a thieving pirate he's still likable because his gregariousness overshadows everything else. Scott has none of these things. Instead of being what most teenage/early 20s guys want to be, he's what they are.
The loser persona is never really alleviated, even after the final battle. He's still an annoying whelp even after he supposedly saves the day, and Cera's presence only makes it worse. I need to be able to relate to Scott, but almost everything he does is so cowardly and reprehensible that it's just impossible. He utterly fails as a main character.
Ramona is the girl of Scott's dreams. Or so we're told. It's hard for me to tell since she spends most of the movie looking completely disinterested in everything around her, including Scott. I understand that her character is supposed to be somewhat cold and distant as a result of her past, but she never really comes out of her shell. Instead she's just a stone-faced, blue-haired sex object for Scott to pursue.
We're also never really given any sort of detailed information as to why she is the way she is. There are the animated snippets of her past with the evil exes and her cheap explanation of her infatuation with Gideon, but even then she still appears to be the same emotionless doll, only there to serve as angst material for the exes. This isn't a strong enough character to carry a lead role no matter how much ass she might kick.
Scott + Ramona = Loveless Romance
As a result of the things I list above, the relationship between Scott and Ramona is a load of crap. First, it's never really clear what Ramona sees in Scott. He clumsily hits on her and then concocts some strange scheme to get her to deliver something to his house. Despite all this, she goes from "go away" to "let's have sex right now" in a very short amount of time for no apparent reason. What is Scott doing that suddenly makes him so attractive?
On that note, I don't get why Ramona is so worth fighting for. She never returns Scott's affection in any meaningful way, so the only thing Scott can be fighting all the evil exes for is the chance to finally have sex with her. Even when it looks like Scott is about to be murdered she still doesn't seem to really care. Sex certainly can be a powerful motivating factor, but sex alone isn't interesting enough in the context of a story unless we're talking about a porno. Hell, this whole movie would've probably worked better as a porno.
Relationships are undoubtedly complex, consisting of lots of thoughts and feelings that don't always make sense. Sometimes it is possible to love someone (or think that you love someone) for no real reason at all. I'm not saying these things never happen. Nor am I saying that all romances need to be deep and meaningful—not every movie needs to be Lost In Translation. However, I need to understand the attraction between the two characters involved to at least a small extent. Seeing them grow on each other bit by bit over the course of the story makes the relationship believable. It's especially important when only a limited amount of time is devoted to said relationship. None of these things are in Scott Pilgrim, and the movie suffers terribly for it.
You earned the power of self-respect… I think
Scott's climactic moment of epiphany is supposed to be when he finally learns that he isn't fighting just for Ramona, but for himself. But let's step back for a second here. The first sword (the red one) is supposed to represent love, which Scott is finally ready to admit. Again, I don't know why Scott loves Ramona. She's never given any indication that she loves him back or that she even cares about him at all outside of a mild physical attraction.
Then there's the second sword that represents self-respect (the blue one), which Scott gets after he admits that he's fighting for himself and not Ramona. But let's step back for another second here. If Scott is acknowledging that he needs to be content with himself before pursuing Ramona, why is he still willing to fight for a loveless relationship? Outside of Ramona, what is his "beef" with Gideon? Wouldn't the self-respecting thing be to just walk away and not put himself through all of this for someone he doesn't really know that well? Someone does indeed learn self-respect in this movie, but it isn't Scott. Or Ramona. It's Knives.
Knives is the best thing in the movie
OK, there's probably a credible case to be made that Wallace (a great job by Kieran Culkin) is the best thing in the movie, but he's more of a comic relief provider than anything else. Knives on the other hand is the only person that seems to grow up in a movie that is supposedly about growing up.
At the beginning she's young and enthusiastic, tremendously excited to have her first boyfriend. She clearly has really strong feelings for Scott. Then Scott dumps her so he can chase after a doll, and we see her despair as she gets her heart broken for the first time. She then goes through the expected range of emotion that comes from such an event, going from sadness to jealousy and eventually to anger. She becomes a total badass on her own and tries to avenge herself—she has real motivation to use all those cool video game powers…or so she thinks.
See, at the end she's the one that has the epiphany and not Scott. She realizes that she doesn't need Scott to be happy and that he isn't worth obsessing over. That's called maturing. That's what Scott and Ramona are seemingly doing but actually aren't. Instead they're the same uninteresting hipster jerks we met two hours ago. Knives' arc isn't perfect by any means, as it's obscured by all the other crap going on, but it's the only actual character growth in the whole damn movie. In a world of shallow douchebags she is the one person I could actually relate to, and even root for.
Yes, this is a videogame movie, I get it
Scott Pilgrim's association with gaming (outside of the actual game of course) is apparent from the start. It's also woven in with all the subtlety of the t-shirt section at your local Hot Topic. The constant in-your-face game references come off as something that's absolutely desperate for geek cred rather than an homage to anyone's childhood. I'm guessing this is meant to cover up the fact that there isn't much of a story to tell here, which is a shame because the movie actually does a really good job of dressing everything up.
The idea of Scott Pilgrim is great. It's original and it's got loads of potential for fun action and characters. It's an extremely visually impressive film, which is saying something in an age where flashy effects are commonplace. I think Edgar Wright did a great job outside of the script. I loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and the style from those films fits here. Scott Pilgrim tries to gloss over script deficiencies with pretty visual effects and slick cinematography, but at least it's good at that.
I really wanted to like this movie. Just because 18-year-old Richard is gone doesn't mean I don't remember him, so the idea of real people interacting in a game world is appealing to me. However, I just can't look past something this shallow anymore. Instead of being a story about growing up, Scott Pilgrim is a reminder that I've grown up.
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By itself it makes zero sense and is hard to watch, based on feedback it sucks compared to the comic and has almost zero association bar name, pisses me off that movies like this are made and supported by people financially.
I’ve seen so many references regarding this movie that I’ve decided to finally watch it (also. for the girls in the cast). To be honest, through the entire thing I had no idea why is it so popular and liked (especially that it seems to be somewhat culturally important for young Americans???). Scott has to be one of the most mediocre main characters to exist. I was able to watch the first hour and then I turned it off because it seemed like a waste of time; I did not smile once, it did not make me reflect on anything… Read more »
I feel like that by itself, the characters are shit yes, but it is a solid and even good movie. But when you look at it compared to the comics it is bad. So as a person who saw the movie and hasn’t read the comics but is planning on it it is a good movie, but to the people in the comments who have read the comics, the movie is bad because it didn’t live up to the books, even though that is impossible.
The movie is trash, and it’s only redeeming quality is the music. The comics are far more superior, and that’s not a matter of opinion it’s a fact. At least in the comics Scott redeems himself in the end. If you like the movie that’s fine, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not reading the comics and then trying to watch the movie again. That’s something I could not bring myself to do.
but its a good movie
Nah, it’s a passable movie that pales as an adaptation of its far superior source material. This review gets it right.
i completely agree and i was hoping someone would say something about it, and for those of you who say it’s what makes the movie charming: at the end of the day it’s completely personal. some people are the type of people who care about written characters being respectable people, or at least being characters that would earn their respect in real life. other people are the type of people who don’t care about that and don’t mind not looking into a character’s behavior.
i completely understands where you’re coming from, but i think the reasons you listed are what make the movie charming to most. its choppy, quirky and full of shitty characters. it was fresh and funky for its time.
THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER! NOTHING IS WRONG WITH IT!!!
The movie is crap… but not for the reasons you listed above. For starters, non of the character are anything like then ones in the comic and the movie has this dumb teenager ala american pie vibe, the comic has mature themes, but it’s never vulgar… but even as it’s own thing, it just isn’t an enjoyable movie.
Mmm I don’t see how those reasons that he mentioned are different to yours. The big difference here is that the seems unaware of the source material, but without knowing he did mention some of the reasons why the movie fails to transmit what the comic does: they focus too much on humour and too little on developing characters and their relationships. There’s too much story on just one movie, ignoring every part of growth and reflexion that the comics had in order to focus on action, special effects and jokes. The casting is also terrible for the most part,… Read more »
So many jaded comments. Everyone in this film is narcissistic. Get over it.
The fact that Scott has these bad traits is kind of the point: Scott’s journey is recognizing that he’s been a dick (all of his friends call him out on it) and taking steps to make amends. Ramona appearing cold/distant is a real issue with the movie! This is because the film was initially made to pair Scott with Knives (as the book series was in development and the author of the books hadn’t yet decided how to end it); Bryan Lee O’Malley said this on his website. The film neglected Ramona’s development as a result. The ending was changed… Read more »
The point of the story is growth by the character realizing his mistakes. Scott does have flaws since the comic, but the movie has so much story resumed and so little development on some parts of the story by making changes or straight omissions like him remembering that he began the fight with Eve when they broke up. By focusing on humour and action for the most part, Scott is portrayed as a douche and other characters have little to no importance in the story or used for comedic purposes. I’m quite surprised that people that have seen the comics… Read more »
I remember seeing this back when it came out and loving it in context of the comic, but in retrospect, it’s a terrible adaptation with unlikable characters. Now it just kinda reminds me of how terrible my friends and I were as St. Louis high schoolers in 2010.
The movie is bad because it tries to boil down a great series and looses everything that made it great. Fans of the comics still like it because we already know all the background that you guys are missing. Scott pilgrim is an unlikable self centered douche who acts like hes the mc of a video game, thats why the world is like a video game. Its about him learning that this isn’t true. In the comics you see him have to confront his issues and change in order to become a better person and create a lasting and meaning… Read more »
It’s the opposite with me. That’s exactly why i dislike it, because I know all of that and it makes me see how terrible it is as an adaptation. Even if it was it’s own thing I’d still dislike it because it would still be a movie with unlikeable characters trying to convince me of how cool it is because it makes video game references.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote. I just watched it for the first time, and I really wanted to like it, but it fell flat. It seemed almost like it was made more for sexual gratification of a straight male audience than an actual story. Romona is sort of a manic pixie dream girl, but even most MPDGs have more depth than Ramona. She’s edgy and hot. That’s basically it. She has all these crazy exes and yet the whole story is centered on a creepy and douchey man, who will probably just end up yet another evil ex.… Read more »
honestly the comic is based off of is so much better
Well go watch Legends of the Fall then, the movie did exactly what it was supposed to do and did it wonderfully and I loved it and laughed all the way through it. Everything was a battle of the bands and kung fu fights woven with the thread of gaming overtones and I liked Scott and his roommate and all the persona’s of the evil ex’s and Ramona and the extremely enjoyable special effects and fantastic soundtrack. Just because Im not 18 anymore doesnt detract from any of these things. You sound like you used to be a gamer but… Read more »
Nice, insulting people. I am a gamer and found this movie to be a bore. Loved the comic it is based off of, just because someone disagrees or doesn’t like something you like, does not make them “old farts” and a “bore”. I also had high hopes for this movie nd had heard all the hype, but was disappointed in the end.
Normally I can and will finish watching and movie or series I started, no matter how awful it. Heck I forced myself to read the entirety of Twilight just because I got my hands on the first book (and let me tell you, it’s one of the most awful things I’ve ever experienced) but despite that, I just had to quit watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World after about 20mins. It was so awful I just couldn’t bear to watch anymore. If the fact that someone, who hated but was able to suffer through Twilight, can’t take this movie isn’t… Read more »
Your joking right? You quite watching a good movie but read the entire of a series that is one of the worst ones ever?
Same here. I hate twilight and still I managed to watch it but quit this movie. It’s just lame. Ready Player One did a way better job
Well put. I quite agree.
I think that’s exactly the fucking point. Scott is a douche, Ramona is an ass and Knives is a great person. I think that’s exactly how it is supposed to be. I actually did identify to Scott and Ramona ’cause I’m an asshole too uwu
Maybe you saw it with “good eyes”. You aren’t probably a dipshit so the characters seem awful to you. That’s 100% understandable.
you give scott way to much cridit he isn’t a teen ager because the fact that he is an asshole dosent come from a greater purpse or hews persenal philosophy, he is an asshole because the writers (incloding wright) dont know nothing about teenagers adger never ever wrote a teenager before they are usally a literal punching bag,backround characters or both, Scott is characterised as any other “teenager” in an Adgar film but he is our MAIN CHARACTER
I disagree it’s a bad film, it’s one of the very rare movies that I have endured without turning it off halfway through. It’s campy, fun, incredibly well done visually, with a fantastic cast and great soundtrack. I don’t like Scott but I don’t think the movie ever aims for him to be likeable. The biggest problem is Ramona and the ending. Ramona is the classic manic pixie dream girl and nothing more so it didn’t really make any sense for him to end up with her, they didn’t even actually do anything together throughout the movie. I think the… Read more »
In the comics they break up at the end and scott having become a better person gets back together with Knives
This is not correct: The comics has Scott end up with Ramona too. It is the original filmed ending of the movie where Scott gets with Knives in the end. This original ending is in the DVD Extras.
To Jenna: Indeed the film was originally filmed for Scott to end up with Knives. At the time the film was made the comic was ongoing and the author wasn’t sure how he would end the comic.
However Bryan Lee O’Malley (comic author) disliked this ending as he felt it inhibited Knives’s character as she was supposed to realize that she should let go of Scott. Also test audiences were 50-50 divided over the first ending. Therefore the ending was re-filmed for Scott to go with Ramona.
So this movie is no worse than other remake and/or mediocre movies? Actually, I agree with that, but that said, this movie is fan-service that doesn’t even do that well. The characters are wooden as hell, the story tips its hand early and feels tedious, the love interest has next to no personality (she’s just cool), and the main character really isn’t likeable in any way. I appreciate the action sequences and the game references, but the whole film begs the question “Why?” that never seems to leave the forefront of my mind. Granted, maybe I wanted too much for… Read more »
The original film script had Scott end up with Knives, which would have made more sense according to how the movie played out (Knives helping Scott fight and all…). But the comic had him end up with Ramona (where it was Ramona who helped Scott fight Gideon PLUS so much more that she did). I guess the film writers did not want to completely change the story and earn hatred from fan-boys. Annyway since the film initially wanted to have Knives win Scott but changed their mind at the last minute, you are left with such disappointment as to How… Read more »
Actually the end of the comic came after the movie……
I stumbled across this blog, which had a tremendous discussion on the Scott Pilgrim movie. The original post is well thought out and the comments contribute greatly. Checker out.
Perhaps it would be critical to have likable people in a basic “guy fights to save girl” story – although im not sure; I could image a very interesting storys aside this and im pretty sure something like that exists. But in the case of Scott Pilgrim I’m pretty positive to say, the movie dont wanna be a “guy fights to save girl” story. Sure, perhaps it appears at the suface like that, cause the plot cites this typical constellation between a male and female main-character, but actually it works on another level. And this is hard to miss, cause… Read more »
I cannot say, you failed in the goal to point out the lag of character and relation in this movie, but i don’t see why this is a bad thing. Scott Pilgrim isnt a “development novel” (is this the word? in german it is “Entwicklungsroman”) and I suppose it dont wanna be a “Wilhelm Meisters lehrjahre”. And anyway it isnt most the time enough of a argument, to say a movie is bad cause his characters are unlikable. A lot of good movies have very unlikable characters and a distinct lag in relationships – cause thats not the way they… Read more »
@V. Melloy [quote=V.Melloy] And anyway it isnt most the time enough of a argument, to say a movie is bad cause his characters are unlikable. A lot of good movies have very unlikable characters and a distinct lag in relationships – cause thats not the way they work. [/quote] You’re right in that lots of good movies don’t have likable characters. However, we’re not talking about something like Clockwork Orange or American Psycho here. We’re talking about a pretty basic “guy fights to save girl” story. So here I think it’s critical to have likable people and a believable relationship… Read more »
If I hadn’t seen Scott Pilgrim beforehand, this review would have given me the impression that it’s a very serious movie. I’m not saying comedies don’t deserve in-depth analysis and criticism. It’s just that the ideas you seem to have the most problem with aren’t really the focus of the movie. I don’t think a strong emotional investment is necessary to enjoy it, and I’m not convinced that one was ever intended. The only sort of investment needed is a vague desire to want Scott to win. You thought Scott’s negative qualities far out-weighed his good ones, I guess. I… Read more »
You lost me at the Jack Sparrow comment.
Hear hear! Why was he even referenced?
The thing about this review is that you’re right about a lot of things. Scott is a douche and Ramona is a shallow character without enough characterization to make the audience feel like she’s a goal with going after. HOWEVER, with that having been said, the movie is tremendously fun to watch, has a very very well written script, great acting from all the evil exes, great music, great special effects, and a great style that has never been seen on the big screen before. So your super condescending review about how mature and smart you are makes YOU sound… Read more »
You know what? I love this movie to death and truly admire its attempt to balance romantic concerns and flashy staging, but you actually convinced me that when it comes to providing a worthwhile “goal” to Pilgrim’s “quest”, it is quite lacking. I believe the idiosyncrasies more than make up for it and I don’t think it ruins the story half as much as you do, but I won’t even try to argue against it. I’m just glad we agree about Knives’ charming growth as a person.
From a long-time reader.
Fantastic bit of criticism, here. I was referred by Twitter and have also decided to retweet myself. Never heard of this site before now, but I will add it to my RSS feed. Good work. 🙂
I didn’t see Knives as having her epiphany about not needing Scott until after she fights Ramona, which makes sense since she still wants revenge for Ramona stealing Scott. After she learns the truth Knives realizes that the whole thing wasn’t worth so much heartache, and lets go of it.
That alt ending makes a lot more sense. I’m curious as to why they chose to change it.
It’s hard for me to be objective about this movie, since I read (and loved) the comics before it came out. The person I watched with hadn’t, and when she pointed out all the bits of shallow characterization I realized that in almost every case I had simply failed to notice because I had filled in with knowledge from the comics. That said, it was blindingly obvious even to me how unconvincing the Scott/Ramona relationship was. It was completely unearned in the film. Naturally much of this is better in the comics (there is a lot more depth, especially for… Read more »
It’s no worse than the Ateam,Push or Air bender(condition hell, it would make a better 1-3,1-6 film series). Like most alt fiction(comic book like sci fi or fantasy) its rushed. Tho at least the fiction itself is not pissed on like Xmen and most comic fiction. If anything its overly cliche and shallow kinda like most comic and or action films. Speaking of which Push was better. All in all I enjoyed it but it could have been much worse and somewhat better, I really have no hope left for good to great alt fiction films as the drugs consumed… Read more »
Yeah, exactly. The cornerstone of the whole movie is that Ramona is so perfect and wonderful that everyone she’s ever been with is driven mad with their desire to be with her.
Why? We never see what’s so special about her to inspire the kind of devotion it takes to form a cult around someone. She’s just kind of….there.
Nice post Richard. Can’t say I agree with everything you wrote as I count myself as someone who really enjoyed the movie (up until the end). I do agree with everything you said about Ramona and Knives though. Scott Pilgrim fans might argue that the Ramona/Knives/Scott love triangle is better fleshed out in the comics/graphic novels leaving no doubt why the couple winds up together. And maybe that is the case. But as someone who didn’t read the comics and has no interest in doing so, I have to say that Scott Pilgrim vs the World’s writer failed at his… Read more »
I agree with a lot of your points. Including the one where I expected to enjoy it and didn’t.
The thing is, Ramona could have been replaced with a sack of rice and the movie would still have played out the same way. Scott loves the rice, the rice appears wholly uninterested and the rice’s exes come back to fight over the bag of rice.