Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, July 19, 2013

Why Scott Pilgrim Is Important (Yeah I'm Assuming You've Seen The Movie)

You know what? When I do that big post about why I like Kevin Smith a big chunk of it is going to based around young adult slice of life realism in movies. This is what he makes his bread and butter out of, but what got me thinking about all of that in the first place was me continually thinking that I should eventually get around to explaining and defending Scott Pilgrim vs the World.  Why?

Because once you scrap away all the shine and especially if you take all that shine as visual metaphor Scott Pilgrim is basically one of the best young adult coming to grips with life movies I've seen in years, with the possible exception of Adventureland. See in a big way I always thought that Scott Pilgrim was Clerks, but for Gen Y instead of X and with a budget and better actors, and camera movement. Keep in mind I do really like Clerks.

For a better version of what I'm about to say see Spoony's review.

Alright so lets get started. Scott Pilgrim along with Titan A.E. and Death to Smoochy is on my list of good movies that broke the studio.  A lot of people said that the movie was all style and no substance, but I say it was more of a case of the style overshadowing the substance.  There is a lot of visual comedy, even 4th wall visual comedy. The movie very often uses a lot of screen, composition, and sound effects to communicate contextually. And whether you loved it or loathed it, it was the most defining thing about the film.


Regardless of everything else I am about to say, on an academic cinematic level this is why you should watch this movie. See film is a medium. And a lot of the execution of the narrative deals with the form of the medium. No matter what movie you're watching it is a movie and has to deal with the form of its medium.

Think about it like this. The cut. Almost every feature film you've seen features the cut because it's a specific tool of the medium. This movie uses cuts or even the noticeable lack a cuts not just as an accepted part of the medium, but as a communication or even narrative tool in and of themselves. Most  movies do this kind of thing, but Scott Pilgrim is one of the most blatant movies I've seen in this regard.

Conventional wisdom is that you want the audience to be aware of the medium as little as possible. You don't want people thinking metatextually, i.e. this happens because this is a movie. Or I feel this way because x was written or shot y way.

This movie says screw all that and in doing so those medium tools take on a life of their own. They can be used to make a joke, reference, or visual metaphor, and while the tool becomes obvious the joke, reference and metaphor becomes subtle, Causing the audience to ask why? Why is this shot this way? Why is there a cut here? Why is there not a cut here?  And because of the sheer craftsmanship of the movie you know there is an answer. Without that craftsmanship rather than ask why the audience would just assume accident and laze. Hell, some did that anyway.

A great meta-meta textual example of this is the song in the "So Sad, So Very Very Sad" it clocks in at about 3 seconds short for song, it's medium, making the audience go why?

The Soundtrack...Visualtrack... Narrative Thingy of Our Lives
Apart from the language of film the movie also seeks to take advantage of the fact that my generation has been inundated with multimedia;  music, comics, video games, TV, anime even text messaging and twitter.  I feel that this is one of the defining traits of my generation.

All of these other mediums have their own media tools and the film attempts to adapt them all to be usable in the medium of film. This inter-texuality at least for me, makes the film incredibly relatable.  I experience life through media. If you want to know what's running through my head any given day, check out my recently watched queue, or Rhapsody mixer

The movie seems to be ... aware of this and uses these tools accordingly.

Anyway, as evidenced by the last 10  paragraphs that's what people focus on when talking about the movie. But it has a lot of other stuff going on.

The Heart
As state previously all of that stuff is kind of academic. As I sort of started saying Pilgrim is my generations' Clerks.  Let me qualify that.

Clerks is ultimately about a Dante Hicks coming to grips with and dealing with his own laze, narcissism and indecisiveness, as manifested by his inability to break up with his current girlfriend when he realizes he still has feelings for his ex.

See Dante views himself as the put upon only sane man, so when his much more self aware best friend calls him on his bullshit he denies how unfair the situation is to both his respective beaus. Not only that but again his best friends tells him that despite everything Dante's beleaguered lot in life is more or less  his own fault for being so wishy-washy.

The point of Scott Pilgrim is more or less the same, and yet I feel it's the more emotionally complex movie, especially if you take the plot as a metaphor for relationships.

I like to think of the evil ex's, the guys Scott has to fight for Ramona's affections, as metaphors for her emotional baggage. Not unlike Clerks the movie is about Scott's journey to self-awareness, a realization that he is not as awesome as he thinks he is.

The biggest example of Scott pre-revelation, is when just after the fourth fight he decides he doesn't want to deal with Romona's past anymore, not realizing that he's got his own emotional baggage that Ramona has to deal with, i.e. Knives, Envy and his own kind of douchey personality.

After burning with jealousy, literally becoming a green-eyed monster when he sees her with the last boyfriend, Gideon, he mulls things over with cocoa.

Eventually he finally decides he loves Ramona not to give up on the relationship and with the visual metaphor of a kickass katana called, "The Power of Love" he goes to take on her last evil ex who "controls her mind".
... And he loses.

He dies and gets sent to the, "Desert of Loneliness" where he finally realizes he's not the hot shit he thinks he is. After that he gets a do-over and a new sword, "The Power of Self-Respect," with which he is finally able to get past all the crap and beat Gideon.

The ultimate resolution is him finally coming to grips negative aspects of his personality, "Nega-Scott" and going out for coffee with him.

How the hell can you say it has no substance.

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