Usually there are games in this blog on this games-orientated website populated by those who share a passion for video games. This isn't one of those blogs at all.
So a few days ago I stepped off the beaten usual trail of trying to do entire journalisms about video games and into something vaguely relevant: A short collaborative opinion piece of Scott Pilgrim (yes, I know it is a 2010 film, wasn't my idea to do it). During which I realised something somewhat odd and interesting about the film I hadn't noticed before.
It is a film (which you may recognise as being non-interactive and therefore not a game), but it is loaded with more video game references than most films/books confidently and comfortably are able to swing about. Usually you have to be cautious around someone using games that much in a conversation about a topic very much different. They are either robots with human skin trying to blend in by clutching to pop-culture or the elderly trying to stay relevant as slowly they become forgotten (since, as you all know, pensioners operate by American Gods rules where they only die upon being forgotten).
Yet, the film Scott
Pilgrim Vs The World works for the reasons it doesn't.
If you were to tie the
film to a rack, break its ribs open with a mallet and then carve your
way into its chest with a hatchet, you'd find at its core it is a
conversation about romance during the late-teens early-adulthood
period where people are stupid and immature at it (likely due to
inexperience and crazy amounts of hormones). It is a topic designed
for an audience who'd roll their eyes into the back of their skulls
in boredom, and I guarantee if the graphic novel didn't do as well as
it did then it wouldn't have been greenlit. In terms of subject
matter, it would be like trying to sell to an audience of middle
class elderly a biographical piece about NWA.
"My favourite part was when Ice Cube gave that woman a bit of a slap for covering the NWA/Ice Cube debacle! That showed her to depict my main dog Ice Cube as a violent ruffian, yeah!"
Yet, Scott Pilgrim
works otherwise you and I wouldn't know of its existence at all
beyond an uncomfortable sensation you can't put your finger on. The
reason behind it working is the videogame/graphic novel hat-tips
running thickly through-out like a paste. The idea of seven evil exes
that run parallel to boss battles, the use of a life system where it
pulls a rewind of Scott's actions and even the concept of bonus score
after each boss fight are all there.
However, the magic
isn't just they use references that are familiar to the target
audience, but these nods are used in conjunction with the point the
film is trying to drive home through your front window. In order, the
“evil exes” are acknowledgement that people will have emotional
baggage prior to a relationship, life system to show the right and
wrong reasons to do something (i.e. don't do stuff for your love, do
it for yourself) and the score is just positive reinforcement and
closure that the baggage is accepted. By using familiar concepts,
the film drives home a point that meshes delightfully with its target
Except, that last part
is why Scott Pilgrim is a product of its time. A good few of the
references are arcade/classic game nods. While these are
conversations we can still have today, as most people will know what
I'm talking about when I talk about The Sims, Pac-Man and Contra,
people who are currently 15 to 25 don't have that emotional
connection those part of that age group five years ago once had
with. Not to mention current games have steered further from the fun,
colourful and silliness the film was trying to emulate at the time so
it feels less like an emotional bridge. The best it achieves is
audience acknowledgement of what the film is trying to do, and when
your subject matter is as emotionally-loaded as love is this cold
understanding of reference is just, well, wrong.
I find it interesting
that five years ago I did actually enjoy the film. It was loud and
proud in a film scene that was dry of video-game acknowledgement
(beyond cash-ins of film translations of games at least), while also
talking about love which I did (and still do) have only a crude
understanding of. Put simply, it spoke in a language I understood to
explore concepts I had no idea. Five years later, well, it feels
non-applicable to me. I can not relate to what is going on beyond
simple cold acknowledgement and its silliness felt too crass for me.
As much as I hate to use the term, as it needlessly belittles the
film and its audience (who I understand if they enjoy it), I did grow
out of it.
Media (like films, music and games) are like clothes: You may grow out of them for various reasons, but I believe that doesn't make it any worse for doing so.
a film about getting over previous relationship mistakes, I highly
recommend Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. At least for me, now
in my mid-20s (and damn I feel really old and like I've done nothing
with my life), its quaint attitudes while trying to deliver an oddity
does hit me a lot harder than Scott's childishness or Ramona's regret
of dabbling in a lot of relationships as she tried to find her place
in the world. Even the graphic novels feel more holistic, reaching
beyond just a talk about romance into more of a wholesome “coming
of age” story, although I still find it interesting how Scott
Pilgrim vs The World does something slightly daring (i.e. connect
with a game-orientated audience over love, without talking down or
alienating accidentally) and it did pay off at the time. Sadly
though, I think it is a product of its time and will continue to not
age well due to the cultural references the film strongly hinges
Anyway, I hope this hasn't been too off-topic or dated, as I think it is interesting to see how it has aged (as well as potential ways to improve videogame-themed films). Let's now march for the recaps.