Category: Comics

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Ten years in the making, Avengers: Infinity War is finally here. The first Avengers film entirely free of Joss Whedon’s influence, Infinity War continues the Russo brothers’ streak while effortlessly incorporating the best of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Thor: Ragnarok. This is a big undertaking, and it’s amazing how few missteps Marvel has made along the way. The overt shift to explicit science-fiction and mysticism, and away from the tech-worship of early installments is both welcome and effective, and if you give a damn about any of the characters across the 18 movies that lead to this, it’s difficult not to feel consistently impacted by this two and a half hour barrage of event.

 

Read my full review on Trespass.

 

 

Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman-The-Killing-joke-movie-poster

“It doesn’t have to be good to be a classic.”

The Joker says this partway through the new animated adaptation of The Killing Joke. Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, which took the comic world by storm in 1988, has long been controversial for some of its more extreme character decisions. Not everyone agrees that the choices Moore made were wrong and, one way or another, pivotal moments have stuck in the canon almost thirty years later.

Regardless of your stance on The Killing Joke ’88, The Killing Joke 2016 makes it look like a masterpiece. From its insipid original material inserted to pad the running time and provide characterisation that does more harm than help, to its actual adaptation of the source material quite late in the piece, there is very little about The Killing Joke that works.

The first half of The Killing Joke deals with Batgirl chasing down Paris Franz, the presumptive heir to a prestigious Gotham crime family. Paris is a notorious womaniser (read: sexual harasser), and Batman doesn’t approve of Batgirl working the case. This is of course an excuse for Batgirl to work up a head of sexual frustration with Batman and to force her to have talk it through as Barbara Gordon with her gay librarian sidekick – which is approximately as good as it sounds.

The back end is the actual adaptation of The Killing Joke comic, with the Joker having escaped Arkham and buying an old amusement park for nefarious purposes involving Commissioner Gordon and, of course, Batman himself. Interspersed with the Joker’s plot are unreliable flashbacks to a failed comedian’s sepia toned life …

The Killing Joke ’88 was a 47 page comic, much more about shock than substance – some good lines thrown between Batman and Joker, and some great art, but a weak scheme from the laughing man and a fateful decision that DC has been dealing with the fallout from ever since. The efforts to make the animation longer – still short at 74 minutes – were wasted, as all of the new material is less than optimal.

Barbara Gordon is a pivotal part of The Killing Joke‘s story, but Barbara was never really a character in the original instance. Her utility as a plot device (and how she is used) is one of the biggest sticking points about the property, but Moore’s reliance on the audience’s in-built recognition of Barbara’s place in the Batman universe works better than what we get in the new and “improved” version.

What you’ve got to understand is that Barbara Gordon gets her own story in The Killing Joke 2016, and it’s one about how hung up she is on Batman, not even Bruce Wayne, because Bruce Wayne only gets a single scene in either version of The Killing Joke. Her duality equates to nights as Batgirl wanting to jump on Batman, and days in the library, complaining to her coworker about her complicated feelings for her “yoga instructor” (“and they say the gay scene is complicated”).

Batman is deliberately paternalistic towards Barbara, and if the script had stayed that way, if she had some sort of Electra complex going on that was being gruffly shot down, it might have flown. Instead, we’re supposed to read this as sexual tension. It is understandable that the Bat life might predispose you towards a more unconventional relationship than, say, your camp library aide, but later in the script – the parts drawn from the comic – Barbara mentions having been a child the first time Batman and the Joker clashed. It’s not creepy, but it rings alarm bells.

FullSizeRender-6The Batman of The Killing Joke is an emotionally frozen version of the character, and that is fine, but it also means that he should not take the direction that he does here. It’s one thing that Barbara is not solely to blame for the actions that she takes, but it’s quite another for her to have this reaction to them. To reduce what is supposed to be a complex and headstrong character – personality traits that are by design absent from The Killing Joke ’88 – to a woman who cares less about the crime she fights and more about her semi-requited feelings for a man who dresses up as a bat, is to do her a disservice greater than any perceived or real misdeed perpetrated by Moore in the first place.

What are we to take from Batgirl removing her costume while Batman stays fully clothed as we pan up to a gargoyle leering down at them? What can reasonably be made of a shot of Barbara jogging, close up on her butt and breasts – her legs and head carefully cropped from the frame so as to be unreadable? Fan service has been around for years, but in some properties it is far more obvious and obnoxious than others. You can’t invite us to be horrified by one form of Barbara’s exploitation while promoting your own unseen camera’s version of the same. It especially doesn’t work in the same title in which Batman gives a lecture about the evils of objectification. The Killing Joke 2016‘s two halves already have no cohesion, but to make each half internally inconsistent is several more layers too far. You can’t strengthen a character by weakening them, and you can’t show one thing and tell another unless you’re a comic book villain yourself. More than before, Barbara Gordon’s role in The Killing Joke 2016 is a tragic misfire.

Where the first and second parts of The Killing Joke clash in particular is the use of technology in the Paris storyline; Batgirl tracks Paris across the city through a series of obnoxious smartphone prompts, which is not in itself a problem, but it becomes one when it grinds against the completely un-updated adaptation of the comic. How can The Killing Joke be set in a modern day Gotham if the pseudo-recollections of the proto-Joker are still situated in a fifties-era tenement apartment and dive bar? Even if you reject the flashbacks out of hand as a concocted sob story that the Joker tells himself – and you probably should, as the whole point of him is that he’s a force of nature rather than a figure to be pinned down and analysed by way of an origin story, plus it’s near certifiable to think that the Joker came about specifically in that way  – their incongruously dated nature lend them no credibility whatsoever. To have director Sam Liu take that decision away from the audience is not just insulting, it’s counterproductive.

There is a lot wrong here, and much of it comes down to the use of the Joker. You can’t have a Joker story where the man himself shows up only halfway. Certainly you can get away with that if he’s a spectre looming over the story, or if there’s a build up to him. By having a completely unrelated storyline in order to beef up one character, very little credence is given to the real content of The Killing Joke. Easily the best thing that you can say about the entire project is that Mark Hamill is back as the Joker, and he easily outclasses everything that surrounds him. Good voice work canlift animation out of the doldrums – and The Killing Joke certainly looks like the doldrums –  and you can almost forgive The Killing Joke in the brief moments that Hamill gets to enliven proceedings. Ultimately, however, you can’t. The parade of grotesquerie that the Joker brings to the table makes The Killing Joke more unpleasant than when it was a by turns dull and unintentionally sexist frippery.

 

One thing that you can and should demand of a Batman property is that, at the very least, the art is good (don’t tell Frank Miller). For all of The Killing Joke ’88‘s flaws, it is hard to deny that Brian Bolland’s art and colour work (for the 2008 reissue) is exquisite. The aesthetic used for this animation doesn’t read as pale imitation or even shallow parody, but comes across as a lumpen mess. For all of the focus on making Barbara more of a character in her own story, there are frequent instances where shehas either a wonky eye or an almost featureless face. Her most important scene is rendered in a  distressingly cartoonish fashion, and its more horrific underpinnings – the ones that arouse the most complaints about the title – are rendered entirely more graphic under the circumstances. Panels are not frames, and a tableau does not translate so well to the screen, but there are definitely times when less is more. The Killing Joke 2016 doubles down on the horror that it has tried to downplay, made it more uncomfortable and unforgivable than it ever was before, and begs that we take it for the apology that it was intended to be.

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In taking Bolland’s striking black-and-white with carefully selected highlights away from the flashbacks and render them in sepia with no elements outstanding, you take the grotesquerie of a couple of panels at the fair and stretch them out forever, make them uglier, and set them to music, DC has committed something of a crime against one of their tent poles. The Killing Joke was written in a feverish rush in the first place, but Alan Moore was never so lazy as to depict Batman throwing a dwarf into a pit of spikes. That’s kind of what Batman does not do, and exactly why people had so many problems with Batman v Superman earlier this year. There are things you don’t do in a Batman story and murdering dwarves is one of them. There is not a Batman style guide at hand at the time of writing this piece, but it is a safe bet that it does not endorse Batman inflicted fatalities.

With none of Barbara Gordon’s positive characteristics on display and Batman and the Joker being either absent, watered down or uglied up for the duration, there’s nothing to recommend here. Animation, if it can’t surpass the comics from which it is drawn, should at least supplement them. Producer and Batman animation visionary Bruce Timm – under the influence of a sackful of cash from DC – had hoped to add flesh to something that has been notorious for the entirety of its lifetime. The Killing Joke adds pablum rather than substance and does not even brag Timm’s distinctive aesthetic into the bargain; hideous, pointless and offensive is a triple threat in entirely the wrong direction, and it’s hard to say who has erred the most in the production of The Killing Joke. Are we to blame Timm, Liu or screenwriter Brian Azzarello, who has had respected runs across several DC titles? It’s entirely possible that The Killing Joke was a terrible idea from inception to premiere, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who will take responsibility for the fact.

 

The Killing Joke ’88 is a heavily flawed work, but one that boasted excellent art and enduring influence for better and worse. 2016 takes what was viewed as exploitative in the original work and underlines it, runs it through an ugly filter and removes what little beauty, both artistically and thematically, it once had.

2016 is a more progressive place than 1988, and both what comics have to offer and what their readers demand have changed with the times. In taking what was already a throwback, throwing it further back, and pretending that it has somehow evolved, The Killing Joke is more offensive today than it ever was 28 years ago. If you were on the fence about The Killing Joke ’88 before, or if you thought that it was a travesty, don’t watch The Killing Joke 2016. Congratulations, DC: The Killing Joke ’88 is now a goddamn work of art.

Louis C.K. – Sydney Opera House, September 4 2011

I don’t know how to review stand up comedy. I can’t exactly do a joke by joke dissection, because then everyone dies – the joke most of all.

I will start by saying that Louis CK’s Australian accent is atrocious: “tonight’s perfarmence”. It was really hard to place what he  was trying to do with his voice, and that was apparently what he was going for when he introduced his first support act, a nervous but funny ringer from Melbourne whose name I didn’t catch.

 

The second support was the established comic Tom Gleeson, who I didn’t think was as funny. He had a more consistent feel and was less awkward than his predecessor, but his style of comedy was in line with the “happily married with no children” school and that’s not something I can strictly identify with.

Did you know that married couples have sex, but not in the same way the freewheeling young folk do? Did you know that the Australian middle class talks about nothing but goddamn real estate? Tom Gleeson will tell you all about it!

 

On to Louis C.K., who is the important part: man is dynamite. He came on stage to say that it was first time in Australia, and we might know him from Youtube, or from stealing his TV show. But we couldn’t steal the ticket to tonight: “You paid for that! That’s right in my pocket!”

C.K. is one of those special comedians who can appear off the cuff even if he’s not necessarily doing so; if he’s done the bit about an effeminate God creating flowers while his disapproving room mate looks on before, I don’t want to know about it.

If C.K. had a set in mind, one that he wanted to slavishly stick to, it didn’t really come across that way. I still haven’t forgiven Dylan Moran for performing substantively the same material for me a year apart, and Bill Bailey reused a few bits with a couple of years separation while openly courting hecklers, it seemed.

Louis C.K. didn’t have to worry about any of that. The closest he came was when he returned for his encore and someone shouted “We love you Louis!” and he told them “No you don’t, you’re just having a good time. You don’t love me.”

C.K. owned the stage, at one point literally walking to the end of it and standing in the curtains to see how much slack his microphone cord would allow him. “I’m wasting your money right now,” he told us, as audience members in the balcony craned over the edge to see him leaning against the wall. That and the ticket bit might make it seem as if he was lording over the audience for having paid to see him, but it didn’t come across like that at all. The night being at the Opera House he seemed suitably humbled that someone could have played violin since four just to get the chance to play at the venue, while all he has to do is talk about fucking the fat he plans to develop “after I’ve driven away all of my loved ones” – and he doesn’t have to share the money with the rest of an orchestra. The level of self-deprecation and shame was just right without being too on the nose.

He briefly had me in tears, talking about the only people who he is bigoted towards (people who go camping with only a tent and a bike) and the special word that he has for them (which is an unfortunate coincidence). Otherwise I was laughing pretty much the whole time, with nothing falling flat – although he did notice that no one thought that “I fucked the wrong woman and had two beautiful kids” was a particularly great line; I think that I just assumed that not every sentence had to provide a laugh, as long as most of them facilitated either future laughs or overall cohesion.

Other bits that particularly got me were his discussion of evolution and the acknowledgement that the only voices he knows how to do are “stereotypical gay man” and “stereotypical seventies black man” and the fact that he talks to himself in these voices at home. His black bee was a delight.

 

Unlike Gleeson, with whom I couldn’t really identify, I felt that C.K. was speaking to me even when he was talking about marriage, fatherhood and frequent heterosexual intercourse. I even knew what he was talking about when he described deep sleep as a “whore goddess”, speaking in ancient tongues (of which she had forty to fellate him with) and secreting heroin into his penis with her tongue. It’s in the delivery, it’s in the tone, and it’s in the set of the man. I’m not being a cultural cringer in playing favourites here, but C.K. really seems to know how to sell his stuff; he’s an unassuming man and he’s willing to believe that his own material is funny, and to accept that the audience finds it so.

After a brief walk-off, C.K. came back for his encore and wondered what he would say to us, as we’d had enough “dick and cum jokes” for one night. He decided on a story about barely avoiding death, closing the night out on a great note that effectively established four characters and showed that the man is a genuine storyteller rather than a simple joke thrower. There was substance to everything that C.K. said on the Opera House stage; I learned a little something about packing comedy, and damn if I didn’t have a great time.

 

Green Lantern

 

Given the two month release delay and the awful trailers, I always knew that Green Lantern was not going to be a good movie. Periodically I see movies that feel more than anything like I’m sitting in a darkened room, staring at a screen, and Green Lantern falls precisely into that elite circle.

 

Green Lantern is a special kind of bad movie. It’s not dull, but it is singularly unengaging. It has a relatively good cast who either don’t bother or founder in its roles. Its action is stupid and the CG is unforgivably bad for a 2011 production. There is very little indeed to like about a film that is more toyetic than anything else; this is the first comic book film since the 21st century “renaissance” that is blatantly geared towards children and the sale of toys.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty good film. Technically the fifth in the Marvel universe that has been forged since 2008’s Iron Man, it is the chronological first. I would go so far as to say it’s the best one that they’ve offered yet, completely failing to pander to easy nationalistic pride while presenting a valid hero’s journey and allowing Chris Evans to create a character with some nuance and likability. Intensely stylish and pure of heart, Captain America: The First Avenger is surprising in many ways … except for its wholly and depressingly unnecessary subtitle.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

More than a Pilgrim!

Remember how, a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim as a comic but had some misgivings? In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright has taken all of the aspects that I had misgivings about and vomited them onto the screen as a candy-coated exercise in overstimulation.

Yes, meth amphetamine laced cinematic upchuck, liberally applied to a silver screen near you! I know that I’m going to get in trouble for this (realistically I’m not, because no one is going to care what I think), but I really did not enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

There is too much … Everything. Except, naturally, where there’s not enough of anything. Imagine for a moment that you have to fight seven evil exes. Now imagine that you’re fighting them because you saw a girl with pink hair. That’s the only reason you’re fighting them. You don’t know anything about this girl besides her hair colour.

Thing is, you’re never going to know anything about this girl. It’s not in the script. It was never going to be in the script. What you want is break neck set pieces that get remarkably samey after a while.

Why should you give a good goddamn? It’s your beloved Michael Cera! He’s talking about video games and punching people! You know all about video games! You wish you could quell your simmering rage with the application of fists to flesh! That’s all you need in a film! You are, vicariously, Michael Cera! You’ve got to lose your virginity before graduation or the world will end!

The first, and most fundamental, problem with the movie is in the title: Wright and co writer Michael Bacall have taken the character of Scott Pilgrim and rewritten him into Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim is supposed to be manic, enthusiastic and a little dumb: a fool who always lands on his feet, and a lovable one at that. That is to say, not Michael Cera.

I’ve always been more of a Michael Cera apologist than most, but this was the point that I realised that he must be stopped. Cera is not making an effort to refine his shtick; with each passing movie a wheel will fall off the Michael Cera wagon until eventually he loses control and is pitched off a cliff into oblivion.

Cera could stand to learn from co-star Jason Schwartzman, who has always been recognizably Schwartzman but with a career diverse enough and movies memorable enough for it not to matter. One goes to a movie because they enjoy Schwartzman’s work, but I can’t imagine anyone ever doing that for Cera’s sake; I’m convinced that a lot of people are seeing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in spite of, rather than because of, Cera’s involvement.

Normally if I love a movie I think, but never say out loud, “this is why I love movies.” Scott Pilgrim vs. the World actually embodies a lot of what I hate about movies. I love “movie movies”, but this is a “movie movie” that tries very hard to stamp its filmic nature all over you, while simultaneously trying to assert its video game and comic credentials. It succeeds at precisely none of these ventures.

My friend Raymond said that he enjoyed the film because it was “new and novel”, but that’s exactly the problem with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: it really isn’t anything that you haven’t seen done before and done better. Inserting on screen energy bars and pee meters does not make your movie a video game. Putting sound effects on screen and constantly splitting the screen into “panels” does not make a movie a comic book. It didn’t work for Ang Lee in Hulk and it doesn’t work for Wright here.

A big deal is made of the fact that this movie is the ultimate video game experience. After Elton offered the headline “as Interesting as Watching Someone Else Play a Video Game”, which is blatantly untrue: given the right game and the right player, watching someone else play a video game is akin to an artform. Observe me playing Dead Rising or Uncharted and tell me you’re not having a good time and I’ll call you a goddamn liar.

To say that a film is like a video game is normally reserved as “the ultimate insult”, which doesn’t make much sense because video games are good and have their own place in society. Some complain that video games are becoming too cinematic, to which I say “pshaw”.

There is nothing saying there cannot be a perfect fusion of both film and game, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is most assuredly not it. There is only one video game conceit that works properly here, and that is the 1-Up. Even that was used better, and more deftly, in the comic. I will also make a concession for the coin outlines in the Chaos Theatre, because they were kind of cool, but by that point in proceedings they were way past second hand.

We have bred a culture that shuns the original and gleefully embraces the derivative and referential: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the embodiment of this sort of laziness. It gets off to a promising start with its application of music from A Link to the Past, but then it overeggs the pudding: potent elements are applied too liberally, and they eventually become bland, intrusive and even tiresome.

You have a Zelda reference. It sends chills down your spine because it appropriates something that you know and love into an exciting new context. It is good. Thing is, a few minutes later, there’s another Zelda reference. And another. You’re used to seeing Zelda applied to Scott Pilgrim at this stage, and consequently the reference has been rendered meaningless. Zelda has not been normalized; rather, you’ve been desensitized to Zelda. This is a tragedy in anyone’s books.

You have an underworked reference to Double Dragon, you have a pretend video game (“Ninja Ninja Revolution”) that implies that Edgar Wright somehow doesn’t know how a video game works (when you win, an arcade game should not ask you for more money if you want to continue – the whole point is that you’ve defeated the game and you only spent 25 cents in the pursuit of that victory), which I am sure is the opposite of his intent. Video games get misrepresented in movies often enough that one would think someone who actually plays them would be adamant about getting them right.

A key element of pop culture nihilism is that the audience “gets” the material and knows that the authors are throwing them a knowing wink. It’s the mutually assured destruction of original thought. That Wright would so clumsily grapple with a basic conceit of the video game form lends yet another layer of disingenuousness to an already deeply dishonest film.

In this sort of work, little things are just as likely to annoy as much as the big things. Why, for instance, do Crash and the Boys get killed off in a throwaway gag when it would be easier to leave them alive simply because it wouldn’t upset anyone (i.e. me)? It’s because Wright has tried to give the story a cleaner through line: he wants Sex Bob-omb to have a goal, to win a battle of the bands and to get a recording contract.

As a result, most of the variety of the comic is lost. Three of the seven battles involve Scott playing music and then punching people, or the other way around.  Sex Bob-omb’s music is supposedly provided by Beck but Beck has done a great job of making his music sound like so much noise. You get to enjoy it for the bass battle! And the twins battle! While you’re witnessing them, you notice that the sounds are totally indistinct. The obnoxiousness is nowhere near the level of Michael Bay, and it’s always easy to see what’s happening, but it’s damn near impossible to care about any of it.

The majority of the fights are massively predictable. Of course you know that Scott is going to win them, but not every battle should run “looks like Scott’s winning! Oh wait, now the evil ex has got him! How will Scott survive?! REVERSAL KO!”

When they’re not predictable, they are stupid. “Demon Hipster Chicks” are as discordant here as they were in the first instance, but their tomfoolery is compounded by Matthew Patel launching into an “Indian dance” for easy laughs based on cultural stereotypes (the best kind of laughs!). Lucas Lee, at least, isn’t too poorly handled except he’s dispatched too quickly. The worst offender is Roxy, who has been so violently mistreated by the film that Mae Whitman should probably have complained. That is not how you defeat a half-ninja, Edgar Wright, and you damn well know it.

Wright has colossally mismanaged the passage of time in the film, with almost no down time between most scenes. When Scott isn’t lamely wooing Ramona, he’s lurching from one evil ex to the next. It really doesn’t feel like Scott has any life outside of the fight, to the point that the only reason he’s shown walking anywhere is so a half-ninja can attack him. It feels like he’s only placed in scenes to trigger plot advancement, which seems considerably less than natural. A movie should never feel like it’s on rails; it should feel like the rest of the world is outside the confines of the narrative, and we simply don’t see it. Scott Pilgrim exists in a bubble. Every character exists solely for his convenience, to boost him. None of them have their own lives outside of Scott’s Precious Little Life. I understand that this is a movie, and it doesn’t have room for everything, but look at it like this: all of these characters are Michael Cera enablers. No one should enable Michael Cera. He is a monster.

Ramona Flowers was never much of a character to begin with. She was always an object for Scott to doggedly pursue. Mary Elizabeth Winstead somehow brings less to the character than the little that was there in the first place (I checked a few panels and saw that in the comic, at least, she had facial expressions and the good grace to be embarrassed by her past). I hate the gimmick of instant love. Scott has no reason to have any interest in Ramona and even less to fight her League of Evil Ex-Boyfriends.

The already poorly explained sway Gideon has over Ramona in the comics is even more lazily treated in the film. A stupid prop is all she gets by way of justification for her actions and somehow everything is forgiven. Jason Schwartzman is a good Gideon and the best parts of the finale are those taken directly from the final volume (which was incomplete at the time of filming), but the whole thing is clumsily handled. The whole film is clumsily handled, so slickly that it’s amazing none of the actors slipped over and face planted in production.

Believe me, every actor except for Cera tries (and Winstead just isn’t given enough to work with to bother trying to make a go of it), and they are mostly successful. Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram has the most thankless task of all with deliberately painfully clumsy dialogue, which is less “funny” than it is “painfully clumsy”. If you’re laughing it’s because you just want the scene to be over; for some reason, this particular spot of dialogue was deemed fit to make it into the trailers.

Similarly, Chris Evans is given such direction that suggests he’s playing less of a person than he is a syncopation machine, but that’s not his fault. He does what he can with his singularly lacking material, and the worst of it is that he isn’t even the most shortchanged character. Of the exes, that’s a tie between Roxy and the Katayanagi Twins.

Why the Katayanagi Twins have their robots replaced with keyboards is entirely beyond me, because people like me (i.e. nerds, your key demo!) are supposed to love robots. O’Malley knew how to escalate drama and stakes, and volume five was the most dramatic volume of Scott Pilgrim at the time of its publication. The Katayanagi Twins are little more than an afterthought, resentfully jammed in by Wright for appearance’s sake, when in reality they should have brought gravity to proceedings. Instead, Cera’s Pilgrim is allowed to float away on a cloud of his own smugness – not a character, but just a jealous Cera like so many other teen protagonists before him (and yes, I know he’s supposed to be 22).

Kieran Culkin brings a tiny ray of sunshine to proceedings with his portrayal of the super gay Wallace Wells, but he brings a different brand of gay to proceedings than his inky counterpart. Wallace manages to provide most of the films more legitimate laughs and it’s good to see that a movie made to appeal to video game nerds featuring men making out without saying “ewww” about it. That’s the best that can be said, because Culkin is also given unfortunate “reaction” shots, which means for parts of the movie he is relegated to the role of the “gag animal in a J-Lo movie”, the most shameful role that any actor can ever be asked to perform.

Anna Kendrick does well in the seemingly expanded role of Stacey Pilgrim, the normally funny Aubrey Plaza is painful in the role of Julie Powers (ahahaha, we’ve CENSORED HER SWEARING AND THE DIALOGUE DRAWS ATTENTION TO THE FACT), and Alison Pill is really rendered fourth tier as Kim Pine.

Ellen Wong probably comes off best as Knives Chau, although some of her material is simply embarrassing (the wafting “love” is not the least of it), and they’ve done strange things to make her augment the existence of Johnny Simmons’ Young Neil (who in some ways is a different character thanks to the changes in plot structure).

Similarly, Brie Larson is perfect as Envy Adams but unfortunately the character itself has been assassinated. You know how at the end of everything characters are supposed to learn vital lessons from those around them? Envy isn’t given a chance. She’s just left hanging, and consequently Scott has even less of a character than he had a right to have – and that’s one thing that’s entirely not Cera’s fault.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is less than a bubblegum film: it loses its flavour shortly after the opening credits sequence, when you realise it’s not going to get any better. There’s just going to be more Zelda music, two separate but identical Cera-excruciating “Scott explains the origins of Pac-Man”, more faux-DDR jokes, and the pounding of lesbians into the ground.

It’s the sort of movie that ambushes you later: you’re sitting around minding your own business and then you’re reminded of, say, the Seinfeld sequence (there’s seriously a Seinfeld sequence) and you cringe. You’re supposed to remember an isolated part of a movie (example: Wright’s own Hot Fuzz – “I don’t wanna be Judge Judy and executor!”) and smile or laugh at the thought of it. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a head-shaking movie characterized by regret at what never should have been.

I suspect that my stance on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is going to be unpopular. I don’t care about the whole hipster thing: everyone hates hipsters so much that I’m not convinced that they actually exist. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does not embrace hipsters, but rather a demographic. This movie embodies modern popular culture, which is to say that it is a mirror facing another mirror; it is an endless corridor devoid of meaning.

At one point I considered saying that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is basically a cinematic version of Family Guy, but I realised that is something I would never be able to take back. I genuinely respect Edgar Wright and loved his last two films. I want Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to do well not because I liked it – and I think you can tell that I assuredly did not – but because I would like to see more films from him. Shaun of the Dead had a legitimate heart – the shot that Shaun had to take inside the Winchester horrified and saddened me even as it made others laugh awkwardly – and Hot Fuzz was the second best mainstream homosexual romance comedy of the 2000s, after Superbad.

More films are going to be made like this, and worse. If zeitgeisty films like Zombieland can sidestep annoyance (let’s not talk about the Eisenberg Principle), there’s no reason that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World could not have done the same.

In Shaun of the Dead, Wright undeniably helped to pave the way for the zombie and vampire mania of the modern age, but here has bitten off far more than he can chew. Cramming six books into 113 minutes, the first thirty of which are approximately 75% of the first volume, he has left the film with the sound and myself with the fury.

This isn’t simply a case of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World being a bad adaptation of the comic – and it is undeniably that – it’s about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World being a plainly bad movie. Noisy, heartless and empty, it is the perfect symbol of the worst excesses of modern pop culture. If this is what my generation is supposed to worship, I’m going to excuse myself – and I’m not going to go quietly.

Scott Pilgrim

He's going to troll your wife

There is a whole culture of people like me who (mis)spent their youths playing Nintendo games and watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These people are now in the age range of 25-30. They are “tastemakers”. There is nothing that they want more than to relive the glory days when their biggest worry was finding a warp whistle to get to world eight without realising that, not having played the majority of the previous seven worlds, they were way behind the learning curve.

Their creative contemporaries aid them in this quest: if I make a reference to Super Mario Bros 1, 2 or 3, then other people in my age group will instinctively “get” it, and we can bask in the glow of the mid-eighties to early-nineties!

Then there are the people slightly younger than that, people who weren’t strictly around for the video games when they were new, but who are into the alleged “8-Bit” aesthetic. They firmly believe that because something is old, it is automatically good. They may not have lived through it, but goddamn them if they’re not going to get into it right now.

Scott Pilgrim was written for both of these demographics by a guy in the first demographic. It’s easy to kind of love Scott Pilgrim, but also equally easy to be baffled and mystified by it. What is it trying to say? Why does it feel like it doesn’t have much substance to it so much of the time, and why does it expose my snobbery? I look at these six volumes and I wonder why they took six years to write.  I know basically nothing about the comic book creative process except that in Japan the authors and artists are chained to their desks and forced to produce a chapter a week.

It’s always going to take you less time to read something than it took the author to write it. Condensing six years of presumably hard work into a few weeks of casual reading is going to alter your perspective of it somewhat.  Scott Pilgrim is a work that appeals to what might be termed the “Jeremy Parish set”. It is through him that I first heard of the book, after all. It is also that sort of semi-obscure faux-joke that characterises the series.

Rather like Toy Story 3 was written for people who were 10 in 1995, Scott Pilgrim was written for people who were 23 in 2004, not for people who are 23 in 2010. The demos are fairly wide, to be sure, but Bryan Lee O’Malley undoubtedly wrote this for Canadian men born of a very specific place and time – how can something be so very “zeitgeist” but so obviously the product of one man’s mind and experience?

One of the major “problems” with Scott Pilgrim, such as it is, can be summarized by presenting the pull-quote from the back cover of the final volume:

Scott Pilgrim is the best book ever. It is the chronicle of our time. With Kung Fu, so, yeah: perfect.”

-Joss Whedon

Yes, Joss Whedon. I frequently get into trouble for criticising the man on the internet. He has done some good work in his time but the cult that has formed around him has always caused me to roll my eyes so hard so many times that I am now intimately familiar with the workings of my own brain.

But that’s enough of a pre-amble. You must click on to find out what I think of this “epic of epic epicness” (oh God, kill me now … that word used to mean something).

Advance word on an Advance Screening of Scott Pilgrim vs The World

My friend Melinda was somehow invited to a market test screening of something that was described to her as “indie/slacker/comic book”. Upon consultation with her brother, she theorised that it may be Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Turns out she was right. Attached are her brief impressions of the film:

“Yo it was Scott Pilgrim- no food stuffs provided, a thought that was a little stingy, considering they didn’t pay us and expected us to do a survey as well.

It’s clearly a niche film, and not really being a Michael Cera fan meant that I didn’t laugh at all the jokes, actually I thought a lot were pretty lowbrow. (pee jokes enough said) not that there’s anything wrong with that humour, but I am not charmed by Michael Cera. He needs to work harder than that to make me laugh.

There were parts that were weird for the sake of being weird, and it felt a little long, it was a solid two hour movie- but the fight scenes were good and the video game feel/ style made it a little different from your usual action movie.

I gave it a 7, good enough, even if it wasn’t something that i’d pay to see. My bro loved it and wants to see it again, so there you go.”

There you have it: the inside word on Scott Pilgrim from a woman who is interested in nerd type things, and a mention of her brother who I’ve never met – but I believe we’re not so very different, he and I (translation: nerdlinger to the maxtreme).

As for myself, I haven’t watched any of the trailers, and my exposure to Scott Pilgrim in general is very limited – but I have enjoyed Edgar Wright’s previous work and I was definitely going to see it anyway … even if “Sex Bob-omb” is a ridiculous idea and is the very reason that the terrorists hate us (even Canadians!).

Post script: Just watched the trailer, now my interest is piqued.