A few nights ago, my girlfriend and I watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Walking out of that theatre and thinking about how much I enjoyed that movie put me in a weird mental space. On one side, the gamer in me was really happy to see video games represented with a level of love and respect that movies have failed to deliver on. On the other side, the movie watcher in me wasn’t so sure I enjoyed it for the all the right reasons.
Video games have almost always been poorly represented in other forms of mass media. Oftentimes, the people referring to video games don’t know a thing about them, which leads to content that doesn’t get it, tries too hard to pander to its audience or at worst, be completely wrong. Video games haven’t necessarily done the best job of representing themselves in other media, either.
What Scott Pilgrim has going for it is that its based on a graphic novel written by a guy who really gets video games. The graphic novels do a great job of making direct reference to video games as a whole, specific games and alluding to certain game elements without alienating the portion of the audience that isn’t into gaming. I cheered on the inside when the movie started with the Zelda theme, when a certain action sequence was framed like the Ninja Gaiden intro or how the evil exes exploded into coins, just like the enemies in River City Ransom. This movie is filled with enough good video game references to pull a video game fan’s heart strings all the way through.
What I fear though, is that all of the video game love coloured my overall opinion of the movie more than it should. It’s an entertaining movie overall, but I think it has its fair share of flaws. I felt that the structure of the fiction and the time restraints placed on the film hurt the pacing of it. Once the boss fights got rolling, the movie just jumped from level to level. In a game, that’s cool. In the movie, it felt a bit disjointed. It also hurt character development. The whole movie is supposed to be held together by Scott and Ramona falling in love, but you never really see that happen. They go from strangers to being in bed with each other without really giving you a sense that their relationship was headed that quickly along. Even as Scott had overcome a number of obstacles in his way to earn her love, I never really got the sense that Ramona actually appreciated it. The video game structure of the movie also hurt the overall movie for me, as the experience felt kind of thin on story and meaning.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to me is like the nerdy Generation Y equivalent of the summer action movie. What it lacks in substance it makes up for with the nerdy equivalents of guns, explosions and attractive women: Zelda music, bad guys exploding into a mess of coins and attractive women that look like they might dig a nerdy guy. As an overall package, it’s not as solid as I would have wanted it to be, but it was a fun movie experience and a step in the right direction as far as video game representation in other mediums goes.