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Pilgrim

Posted on Friday, August 20th, 2010

Dave!Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a good film which could have been a great film if it hadn't turned out to be Michael Cera vs. The World.

My relationship with the original Scott Pilgrim comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley is a long story. Five years ago I was introduced to the book because of a girl I really liked. She was geeky and cool and cute and everything else you could possibly want in a potential girlfriend.

Except I was stuck in the dreaded "Friend Zone" with no hope of ever escaping.

A friend who knew of my predicament was more amused than sympathetic, and his solution in consoling me was to loan me Scott Pilgrim Volumes 1 & 2. Which, as anybody who has read those books would realize, is not much of a consolation at all.

But they were an awesome read. I became an instant fan.

The story of Scott Pilgrim is funny, smart, crazy, random, complex, beautiful, bittersweet, epic, and wholly entertaining. I've read each of the subsequent volumes as they've been released, and made a point of not seeing the movie until I had finished the final book of the series, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour...

Scott Pilgrim Books

Since I read the finale last week, it was just a matter of finding the time to see the film, and tonight was the night. Off to the theater I went with all my expectations firmly in check. Sure the movie was lauded at Comic-Con, critically acclaimed by Scott Pilgrim fans, and getting good reviews in the press... but it was also bound to be a very condensed version of a highly complex story that ran over a thousand pages in six big manga-sized volumes. But would it be enough?

Scott Pilgrim Poster

Yes.

And no.

First of all, I was shocked at the amount of heart they managed to keep in the love story given how much of the background to the relationship was lost in translation to the Big Screen. I was anticipating that the movie would simply be one stylized fight scene after another with little room for anything else. This was pretty much the case. Except... director Edgar Wright managed to squeeze in just enough to make you actually care how things work out in the end. That was unexpected. That is what elevated the movie to near greatness. That is why I want to love the movie so much.

Because what's not to love? Boy meets Girl. Boy has to defeat Girl's seven evil exes so he can date her.

With one major exception, the cast was flawless. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was inspired as Scott's love interest Ramona Flowers. Kieran Culkin was genius as Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells. Ellen Wong was a revelation as Scott's high-school ex-girlfriend Knives Chau. It was one home run after another. Even the "League of Evil Exes" made a big impression despite their extremely limited screen time...

Scott Pilgrim Evil Exes

Where the movie fails... and fails massively... is the casting of Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim.

It was an awful, awful choice that dogged the movie from start to finish. Michael Cera was NOT Scott Pilgrim. He was Michael Cera. He's Michael Cera in everything he's ever in. Don't get me wrong... I liked his nervous geeky schtick the first time I saw it in Arrested Development. I even liked his nervous geeky schtick in Superbad... and Juno... and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist... but I'm done with it now. I wanted to see Scott Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim, and it never happened. You can surround Michael Cera with all the incredibly cool special effects and kick-ass fight scenes you want, and it doesn't change the fact that it's Michael Cera up on the screen... he never lets you forget it...

Scott Pilgrim Kroww!

Sword Fight 8-Bit Style!

Because after all that fades away, you're left with MICHAEL CERA BEING MICHAEL CERA...

Michael Cera

I can only guess that the decision to cast him was made to please some movie studio executive so they had a "known name" to sell the film. It was a decision that pretty much sabotaged the flick in every way possible, and it kills me to say that. So much went right with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that it could have survived just about any flaws that managed to creep in. I mean, they overcame so much just to get it all to come together so beautifully. But when that flaw is the main character?

In the end, my love of the Scott Pilgrim books makes me mostly love the movie too, despite a near fatal weakness in the lead role. It's one of the most imaginative and artistic flicks I've ever seen, and miraculously manages to capture the core concept of a highly complex and lengthy story. It's well worth your valuable time to check out.

Next up for Michael Cera? He will be playing Gilligan in a movie remake of Gilligan's Island, which I fully expect will end up being Michael Cera's Island.

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Categories: Movies 2010Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. Sybil Law says:

    I haven’t read the books (didn’t even know they existed), haven’t seen the movie, but I can completely see what you’re saying. He IS the same person in every movie. It’s why I can’t stand Keanu Reeves – he’s always Keanu Reeves. (Except I, too, like Michael Cera.)
    Huh.

    • Dave2 says:

      Keanu doesn’t bother me quite as much. Yeah, he seems about as smart as a pile of bricks in every role (whoa!) but at least I can buy into the characters… Ted in “Bill & Ted” felt a different kind of stupid than Neo in “The Matrix” and “Speed.” But yeah, I see how Keanu could kill a movie for somebody.

      Some actors have a talent for becoming new characters (Aaron Eckhart comes immediately to mind) and others just don’t. I feel Michael Cera is definitely in the latter camp.

  2. Avitable says:

    See, with this I don’t think you could be more wrong. Everyone says that he’s always Michael Cera. If you’ve read any interview with him, he’s extremely witty and comfortable with himself.

    The differences might be subtle, but George Michael and his Juno character are very, very different. In Superbad, he’s foul-mouthed and perverted. And in Scott Pilgrim, he’s much more confident, with relationships that he’s destroyed on his own. He’s bitter, but he also shows that he’s a bad ass.

    I think a lot of people tend to generalize his acting, but the reality is that it has everything to do with the characters being written that way and nothing to do with him. Look at Adventureland. Jesse Eisenberg was nervous and geeky and had all the same traits – the part was written that way, but if Michael Cera had played it, everyone would have complained that it was Cera being Cera.

    • Dave2 says:

      I’ve read interviews. I’ve seen interviews.Yes, he seems like a nice person. I am just tired of him as an actor because he never disappears into the roles he takes. He always acts the exact same. If there are subtle differences, they are so subtle that I don’t notice. The dialogue may be different from character to character, but he’s always Michael Cera to me. And while he may be perfect for those same roles over and over again… that “character archetype” was not Scott Pilgrim from the books. He shouldn’t have been Scott Pilgrim in the film.

      If I had this issue with a lot of actors, I’d think it was my problem, but I don’t. It’s only with Michael Cera and a few others (Jean-Claude Van Damme comes to mind). Maybe I wouldn’t have cared so much if I hadn’t liked the original books so much, but I can’t change that. Scott Pilgrim in the comics was a very different character, and the movie would have been so much better had they cast to that.

  3. Avitable says:

    Wow. I just wrote a book. I guess I should admit that I’m gay for Michael Cera.

  4. Peggy Archer says:

    I agree with you. He was great in AD, but he’s rapidly becoming one of those actors that are a dealbreaker for me when I’m looking to see a movie.

    • Dave2 says:

      He actually bothered me in “Superbad,” because he acted the exact same as he did in a guest-spot in “Veronica Mars” that I had re-watched just before seeing the movie. But I didn’t really care for “Superbad” and so I dismissed it. Then “Juno” came along (a movie I loved) and I wasn’t able to dismiss it. By the time I got to “Nick and Norah” I was done… done… done.

      And now with “Scott Pilgrim” I am MORE than done.

  5. I’m going to have to find those comics, though I’ll probably end up seeing the movie first.

  6. Michael Cera is the sole reason I won’t be watching this. I’m so tired of him playing “that role” in every movie. It was amusing the first time. Or maybe the first couple of times. But now? Ugh.

  7. josh says:

    I love that Scott Pilgrim plays the BASS guitar and not the normal 6-string! But I hate that he is using a pick on the movie poster! Wuss.

  8. cheryl says:

    THANK you. I am so SICK of Michael F’in Cera and his Michael Cera hair and how he’s Michael Cera in every movie. Ahem. Sorry.

  9. kyle says:

    completely. totally. agree.

  10. whall says:

    Dude, you just like to complain. You’d probably complain about the casting of Annakin Skywalker in the last two Star Wars movies.

    • Dave2 says:

      How can I NOT complain? Hayden Christensen’s hysterically bad “performance” is only marginally better than Jake Lloyd’s craptastic “acting” in the first prequel film. The only difference is that JAKE LLOYD WAS JUST A KID!

      “It’s your love that makes me beautiful…”

  11. Justin Scott says:

    Being a gay dude with mostly all straight guy and girl friends that are freakishly similar to the characters in the film… I love the movie. I connected with so many of the characters in a way that perhaps only someone who hangs out with these sorts of people all the time would.

    It was pretty much spot on, the reality portions, with the experiences I have had. Even the Culkin’s character reminded me of me haha.

    Plus the effects were fun, the comedy worked and the obnoxiousness was obnoxious enough that it worked without annoying me. But to each his own :D

  12. Aquarian says:

    Nicely put. I totally agree.

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