Getting To Play In Edgar Wright’s Sandbox

There are few things more satisfying than being able to lay back and let a director take you into his or her world, especially as there are few things are harder in film making than to do exactly that. We’re a very literate culture, very aware of all the narrative tricks of the trade, jaded by “behind the scenes” features, so on and so forth. For whatever reason, Edgar Wright has just the right amount of smarts and talents and ass-kicking awesomeness to keep me enthralled every single time out, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is no different.

There isn’t a lazier genre than action. It’s simple stuff, really: big explosions, good kiss-off lines, a hot chick (or as many as you can pay), an at least one decent bad guy…then some more explosions for good measure. Sure, this makes for some great shots of robots fighting other robots created in a computer, but it usually comes at the expense of caring for the characters, so if one of those robots takes an errant step and crushes the “hot chick,” well, they’ll just find another one, right? Edgar Wright never seems to settle. In fact, most of his movies have big concepts (“Zombies attack suburban England!!” “Action movie junkies get to act that out in the real world!!”) but they’re never the focus of the movie.

Shaun of the Dead starts as a comedy with zombies and very subtly turns into a zombie movie with comedy. The turning point seems to come at the expense of a character we’ve spent a good hour not really enjoying that much. But when his guts get unceremoniously ripped out of his stomach, the audience reels, because that could mean a grisly end to Shaun, Liz, or Ed, the people we care so much about. And it isn’t until that point, really, that we all figure out how much we actually have invested in this dopey movie that included a zombie sing-a-long and murder via vinyl. The same could be said of Hot Fuzz, which became a kooky redemption tale of a man who wants to find purpose in his life and career. A helluva way to get there, but still, a genuine story of one man’s struggle.

The best stuff might have been saved for Scott Pilgrim. This movie is nearly overwrought with great visuals (a usual for a Wright film) and homages to video games from the past: the “pee bar” that devalues as Scott, uh pees, characters in peril blink red like in NES games of yore, the hyper-realistic (and totally unexplained) fighting levels and the boss-level-like structure. All fun to watch, sure, but I care because of Scott.

Here is a guy unable to get over his past relationship while also being sad-sack enough to not realize the damage he is causing with Knives, his teenage crush who means a whole lot more to her (love) than to him (not being alone). Relationships at that age, especially with a much younger member, are conundrums; they could be ended on a passing whim but have the emotional gravity to pull someone down for a long, long time. It is captured so beautifully in this movie from so many directions: the dumpee, the dumper, and the tons of people who were tossed aside and now have kung-fu ninja video game battles over it. And aren’t those battles some sort of escapist fantasy anyway? Who wouldn’t want to battle a girlfriend’s messy history and defeat it and your thoughts of inadequacy?

There has been a lot of detraction from reviews about how little the depth of the relationship is between Scott and his new beau, Ramona. It should take a lot for someone to fight The League of Evil Exes (seven in all) and we never really get that detail. And yes, that certainly is rational thinking. But the love life of young adults has nothing to do with rationality. I’m not sure about you guys, but if Ramona wandered into my lonely life, I was able to gt a taste, and then told me to fight forty men for her, that would not be a problem. And I’d make some nice money in coins as a bonus. The characters are at an age where “why would you go after her like that?” makes as much sense as “where did you learn to kung-fu fight like that?”

The film looks fantastic, like probably a lot of directors could probably do with this material. But the magic of the movie is in those true character beats. Some people might remember the great fight sequences, but I’ll take away the scene where Scott simply says “I’m sorry” to one character and the difference it makes on her face. That’s something most directors would throw on the editing floor. But this movie has a very real beating heart, shown in 8-Bit through the Edgar Wright Entertainment System. I eagerly await the next time Wright allows me to come over and watch him play.

Photo credit goes to: The LAist! Find the original article here

If you’ve seen Scott Pilgrim, feel free to discuss it below. If you haven’t, seriously, go see it. It’s fucking awesome. Or you can geek out on Shaun of the Dead. Or whatever, do nothing, it’s cool. I understand.

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