Ok, did it finally happen? Did I finally get old?
I have noticed my waistline expanding, a growing disinterest with groups of people, noisy bars, the word 'trendy' and have begun to immediately assume that anyone under 21 doesn't have a clue about anything. So, yes, maybe I am finally old.
I have never felt so old, however, as watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
What a depressing cinema experience.
The news, my friends, is not good. The welcomed geek invasion of the last few years may finally have gone too far, over baked itself and this sunken flan of a movie might be the beginning of the end.
It is particularly devastating to me that I didn't like this film because, on a normal day, I love Edgar Wright's stuff. Being a Brit of a certain age I was extremely fortunate to see Spaced on television; as a budding movie geek and student making his first video shot zombie feature I didn't mind being beaten to the idea of a British zombie film by Pegg, Frost and Wright; also, as a fan of Dalton era Bond as well as awesome old British actors in general, I couldn't have been happier with their choice of cast and overall class in Hot Fuzz. As well as liking him, I am a fan of the things that Wright is a fan of: Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, George A Romero, Clint Eastwood etc. and I also love innovative directors, people who really explore their craft and technique, of which I feel Wright is definitely one. As for the cast, Michael Cera, from Arrested Development on, has proved to be a watchable, funny actor albeit one with very little range who I did think that one day, just maybe, his schtick would gradually get old.
These are just some of the reasons that I wanted to see this film.
So, for his first film without Simon and Nick, Mr.Wright picks to adapt a series of quirky Canadian comic books that aim to physicalise the internal battle young adults go through while dating into actual superhero duels inspired by the early beat-em-up video games. I was never much of a serious gamer but I like comics, Canada, Wright and Cera and I thought the metaphor was pretty clever, something along the lines of Pretty in Pink meets Street Fighter. I was willing to go with it.
So throughout production I followed Edgar Wright's picture blog and the odd video he threw up onto the web, I read articles and eagerly awaited the trailer. Now I don't know how much stock I put in trailers but I thought the Scott Pilgrim ones looked pretty awful. I was a little disheartened. It looked like a lot of gimmicks that would get tired quickly punctuated by the odd, not-very-good joke. I chose to ignore the trailers and think 'I bet it's one of those occasions where the studio doesn't know how to market something so they put any old thing together in the hope of it appealing to someone'. I was trying to give Edgar Wright the benefit of the doubt, 'he can't have made a bad movie' I kept telling myself. The irony with all this was that the film was exactly like the trailer multiplied by a thousand and not in a good way.
I should have listened to Bruce Campbell. His saying is that a movie that's fun to make is hard to watch. Well it looked like making Scott Pilgrim was probably an absolute ball. How telling is it that Edgar Wright has hooked up with one of its stars, the so-far-has-yet-to-really-prove-herself-as-anything-but-an-annoying-person-with-a-whiny-voice Anna Kendrick, sorry Edgar old chap but you should've kept your eye on the film you were making (saying that I do hope he's happy).
Within 10 minutes of the film starting the Misses and I were very close to leaving and I haven't thought about doing that since I saw the Blair Witch Project. I was used to the crash bang editing and sound effects from Spaced and Shaun of the Dead but the first 10 minutes of this film were like that in overdrive, like someone juiced up Mr.Wright and his editor with speed, cocaine and high fructose corn syrup and this is why I say, maybe I am getting old but the whole thing started to give me a headache.
I am not sure really why we stayed, maybe it was the $26 we'd paid to get in, but I had a feeling that all this rushing about, jump cutting, knowingly clever graphics and stupid sound effects would all ease off once Scott met Ramona. In a way that bet paid off, the film does calm down just a little on the hectic nonsense once the 'plot' is underway. However, and this appears to be a running theme through movies lately, even once the so-called story did start to move forward, I really can't say I knew anyone's characters beyond their obvious nerd cliche restraints.
For example, who is Ramona Flowers? Why does she like Scott Pilgrim? Why is she worth fighting for? (Her interchangeable-stolen from Eternal Sunshine hair colour??) none of these things were answered, neither did anyone seem to care at all. So why should we?
The film is a mess, the jokes, the fights, the acting, the editing and especially the directing, it's all a mess. If a director's bag of tricks was a purse then this film is the scene in The Breakfast Club when Ally Sheedy dumps her purse all over the couch. There is no denying that Edgar Wright has incredible technical skill but he has to learn when to use what trick and not just throw every magnet at the fridge hoping one of them sticks. I love Sam Raimi, old pre-For The Love of The Game Sam Raimi when his spectacularly inventive use of the camera would jolt and excite you throughout a scene, yet even he knew when to film something normally for one impact and crazily for another. There are moments of the first frenetic and frantic Evil Dead that are completely silent and the set up in that movie is slow and builds atmosphere, maybe the lessons and techniques Edgar Wright should've taken from Raimi was not the crazy ones but the delicate use of calm.
Everything but the kitchen sink film-making of the worst possible kind and with absolutely no character development. Sometimes a comic book should be a comic book and a film should be a film and very often there is a fine line between cool and annoying. On one positive note I will say that after the terrible first 15 minutes the film did settle in to at least being watchable and this was due, in part, to the fact that there was the odd funny bit here and there; including a whole bizarre section about a vegan which was totally bizarre and which I didn't completely get but contained some genuinely humourous moments.
It's all irrelevant anyway, I could go on and on about what's wrong with this film from here until Christmas 2013 and it still wouldn't matter. What I ultimately got from all this was that this film wasn't for me. I am not meant to understand it, I am getting old. I am the Christian parents of the Alabama teenager who don't understand why she likes the Beatles in 1965. I am the old man on the street wandering why all the barber shops have been replaced by chain hair salons blaring out offensively loud pop music and feeling oh so alone. I don't care about what fashion (or lack of it) is important, what industrial complex the latest so-bad-they're-good garage band is playing at, what hobbies are hip and what's not, which retro computer games are cool to mention and exactly how nonchalant about everything you have to be in order to be excepted by all the other members of Generation Whatever. I may not know much about art in the end but I know what I like, I know what I think is watchable, listenable to and classic and although it pains me to say it, Scott Pilgrim is not it but then, for me, I don't think it's meant to be.
Get back to the grown ups Edgar, we miss you.
2 out of 10 bowls of creamed spinach
Points from The Misses 2 out of 10 bowls of creamed spinach