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Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: Life as a Video Game
There isn’t a clear point of reference to pin down where Scott Pilgrim’s style, worldview or logic originated. It’s a pop culture melting pot where manga, rock n’ roll and video games are mashed up together to form something completely original with its own unique visual language. So much about Scott Pilgrim is unworldly and fantastical that by the time an emo boy smashes through the wall to duel Scott (Cera), it comes off as perfectly normal; if not inevitable.
The film is based on the comic book sensation of the same name where– almost like the classic Super Mario Bros game– Scott Pilgrim has to fight a league of evil exes to get to Ramona (Winstead), the girl of his dreams. And just like in the video game, Scott wins bonus points and collects scattered coins after he completes each level.
Set in the city of Toronto, Scott Pilgrim’s world consists mostly of hanging out at trendy venues, record-shopping, ranting with his friends over coffee and practicing with his garage band, Sex Bob-omb. His life is plagued with callousness and drenched in irony, and even his likeminded peers give him a hard time about his frivolousness. When he first meets Ramona, his infatuation finally gives him the drive to go out and aspire to something.
As Scott engages with Ramona’s exes in one eye-popping fight scene after another; his state of arrested development gets challenged. Here, the film uncovers the insecurity of a generation that is so hung up on being cool; it stifles their emotional development.
Director Edgar Wright (Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) stretches the full power of his imagination here. His cinematic and pop culture wealth serves him best when he transforms the panels onto the screen, pushing the sequences through a video-game filter and then rendering them in flawless, cotton-candy veneer. The inventive pacing blurs the timeline; so the film can follow emotional threads uninterrupted without feeling tricky or conceited.
Despite the film’s visual inventiveness and joyful demeanour; there is a fundamental flaw undermining Scott Pilgrim: the vacant emotional core propelling the central romance. In the nonstop calibration of everything hip and witty, the film can never bring itself to deliver a single moment of genuine sorrow without shrugging it off instantly. When Scott breaks down in front of his roommate in a desperate plea for human compassion, his friend gives him a pep talk right out of a soap opera, which is further emphasized by a sappy score; playing the drama for laughs instead of digging for any hidden truth.
Scott Pilgrim works for the most part, and even though it consciously chooses to shun humility and heart in favour of retaining its edge; its visual and narrative invention are undeniably groundbreaking. From start to finish, the film blasts feverishly with an infectious sense of fun. It’s an invigorating ride in a world where videogame logic prevails, and love is just a push button away.
Directly and unapologetically inspired by Disneyland’s futuristic theme park ride of the same name, one might well argue that Tomorrowland is marketing ploy, designed as a sly attempt to drive more traffic the ‘Most Magical Place on Earth’. But Brad Bird’s science-fiction adventure managed to soften this writer’s admittedly cynical heart.
Tomorrowland is centred on Casey Newton (Robertson); an intelligent and driven young woman – and daughter of a NASA engineer, Eddie Newton (McGraw) – who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. Unexpectedly gifted a mysterious looking pin, Casey soon gets access and a sneak peek into a parallel dimension called Tomorrowland – a land where only the best artists, dreamers and visionaries reside. There, she meets an Audio-Android named Anthea (Cassidy) who eventually sends her on a path to Frank Walker (Clooney); a pessimistic and sceptical man who was once a brilliant and an equally optimistic young inventor.
See, Frank used to be a resident of Tomorrowland but, after learning of the community’s secrets, was kicked out by the dimension’s leader, Nix (Laurie). He has no desire of ever returning - let alone break down the door that has long been shut away from the pessimism of the real world - but he soon buckles under Casey’s relentless optimism as they embark on an adventure.
Bird creates a visually grand and immersing futuristic world; one filled with plenty of imagination, action and colour which will leave audiences with plenty of memorable moments. However, the heavy use of CGI gives the film a bit of an unintentional coldness and the script suffers similarly. The plot and the characters have plenty of heart, but much of the film is spent explaining the finer details of its fantasy world, rather than just letting them play out organically.
As expected, the cast is solid; Clooney is his usual charming self and the chemistry between him and Robertson – previously seen in Nicholas Spark’s The Longest Ride – navigates the story affectively, while Laurie channels his inner-House – successfully of course.
Driven by a series of bold ideas and fuelled by powerful sentiments of positivity and hope, not everything is ideal in Brad Bird’s earnestly optimistic world of Tomorrowland; it’s an intriguing and ambitious science-fiction entry that, despite its flaws, still manages to serve up a pleasing family-friendly movie-going experience.
Spooks: The Greater Good, the big-screen treatment of the long-running BBC television series, comes almost four years after the show’s exit from the small-screen. Known for its devastating twists, fans of the original show will be pleased with Bharat Nalluri’s commendable effort, although those who aren't familiar with it, might feel a little lost in the process and even a little underwhelmed with the end-result.
The adaptation sees Peter Firth reprise his role as the unflinching and emotionless MI5 chief, Sir. Harry Pearce, and the film opens with a long opening credits sequence showing Pearce taking the heat for the escape of a Middle Eastern Terrorist, Adem Qasim (Gabel) during a botched prison transfer from MI5 to the CIA. Taking full responsibility for the escape, he is soon forced to resign from service and, as a result, fakes his own suicide and goes rogue, which triggers an investigation. The man given the find out what happened to Harry is – dramatic pause – his former protégé, Will Holloway, ably played by Game of Thrones hunk, Kit Harrington.
Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, there’s a distinct sense of grittiness and realism that is often missing from similar productions across the pond in Hollywood. The tone is applied well to what is a heavy mix of traditional and modern elements of espionage films and the twists and turns are aplenty – perhaps a little too many to keep a steady track of. But the urgency behind each and every one of them can be felt throughout. Sadly, however, the film’s faults are of its own doing; produced on a relatively modest budget, it tries a little too hard to impress and it’s only when it tries to move things into the kind of grandeur and ambitious action set-pieces associated with its Hollywood peers that it falls a little short.
Firth, who has been playing the same role for the past ten years, is unsurprisingly convincing as the ex-MI5 Head of Intelligence Chief, though Harington doesn’t shake off his pretty-boy persona enough to be as affective. Visually, the film is a winner and the silvery-blue aesthetic it’s coated in perfectly communicates the murky winters of London and the aforementioned gritty tone. There’s a lot to commend in Spooks: The Greater Good, but at the end of the day it offers nothing new to the genre and it’s big-screen adaptation just needed to be more daring and step out of the confines of television.