I do have a little bit of sympathy for the old people reviewers though, since it’s a movie that constantly makes you question whether you belong in the audience. I mean, I love videogames and comic books, so I’m part of the group, right? But then… I am pushing forty, and if not for arrested development I’d have kids the age of the people in this movie, and I’m not even a little bit Canadian (thank God). Did any young people see me walk into the theater? They’ll know they’ll know!
It even gets worse: I’m not a particularly big fan of the comic book. I only got three volumes in before I had to give up — there was a lot I loved about it, but the rest just kept pushing me away from it. And most damning of all: I’m not a big fan of Edgar Wright’s other stuff, either. I always feel like I should like it more than I do. Spaced was the most frustrating, since it seemed overwhelmingly targeted at me. Directionless videogame-obsessed manchildren; I even had almost all of the music on the soundtrack. But again, every time I’d find myself enjoying it, it’d just take it a step too far, crossing the line from being in on the joke, to trying way too hard.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World definitely isn’t subtle. Or understated. And I think that’s a big part of why it works so well. It’s so gloriously sure of itself that you’re just forced to go along with it or be left behind. There’ve been so many attempts to be The Voice of My Generation that never got it quite right, we basically ended up without one. So I guess we have to hitch a ride on the next generation and borrow theirs.
What killed most of the attempts is that they could never just jump on the spiral of self-awareness without keeping a hand out to steady themselves. There’s always been a sense of people appointing themselves as ambassadors, explaining this nutty world of videogames and comic books to the Normals out there in Real Life. So everything gets buried under layers of reference and parody. For all the people who are complaining that the movie is inaccessible, all they see is a bunch of references to and parodies of stuff they don’t understand, and they’re pissed that the movie doesn’t step out of itself to pull them in.
And that’s pretty much how I felt about the comic book. The movie gets it right by not treating itself as an extended reference. In the scene where Scott meets Roxy Richter, she says something and he asks, “Where’s that from?” Her answer: “From my brain.” On the surface, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a comic book movie slacker love story overloaded with audiovisual references to comics, music, and videogames. What it really is: a love story about people whose entire world is steeped in videogames, comic books, music, movies, and irony. The Zelda music and 1-Ups and pixellated effects aren’t really references any more than I’m making references to English when I write this post. At some point, you’ve got to stop pointing at what a novel sub-culture you’ve created for yourself, and realize that it’s really not that novel anymore.
That doesn’t make them any less impressive: the movie is pretty fantastic throughout, and I was grinning like an idiot the whole time I wasn’t laughing out loud. Just because it’s not constantly, self-consciously saying “look how cool this is” doesn’t mean it’s any less cool. The penultimate fight (with the Katayanagi Twins) is a lot more spectacular than the actual climax, but the ending is still satisfying. All the casting is pretty much perfect. And the part that seemed like the biggest false note in the comic — the extended Dragonball Z/vegan parody — was wisely toned way down for the movie.
This review on the AV Club complains that the movie seems like it should be better than it really is, but that there’s no emotional center to it: it’s buried under irony and special effects. I say that that’s a perfect example of being on the inside looking out and looking back in. The target audience for Scott Pilgrim has always prided itself on being this insular group, extremely self-aware, targeted by Outsiders for their purchasing power. That mentality is so ingrained, that it seems completely foreign to have a movie that tells its story without translating it for anyone else.
He says “the intensity of Scott’s feelings for Ramona are never articulated,” which is absurd. The movie is the most self-evident allegory possible for infatuation and the beginning of a relationship. And characters frequently say exactly what they’re feeling. It just so happens that they all sound sarcastic while they’re saying it. Anybody who’s been on the irony carousel as much as an Onion AV Club writer should get that.