Josh Kopin vs. The World

SPOILER: This is gonna get mushy, so look away if you're squeamish.

I saw Scott Pilgrim. It's a very good movie, that much I know for sure- it'll take another viewing or two for me to decide if it's a great movie. Mostly, that's because I have a hard time separating the movie from the books; there were moments when I'm pretty sure I was enjoying it simply because I wanted so badly to enjoy it. That Edgar Wright was able to make a movie that wasn't beholden to either the original plot or the original imagery was essential to my ability to separate the two and enjoy the movie for what it was blah blah blah BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Look: by now, you know all that. You know that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a successful comic book movie precisely because it's influenced by the originals rather than being dominated by them, and that it successfully translates Bryan Lee O'Malley's work to film because it does what film does well, rather than trying (and failing) to do what comics do well on film.

Given that you've probably already read that review in a hundred different places, I want to talk about something else: I want to talk about why Scott Pilgrim works, even when it shouldn't. I want to talk about why I want to be able to hand the six volumes to my children (who, being my children, will surely have the same interests as me. That's how parenthood works, right?) and say "Here. Read this." In other words, I want to talk about why I love Scott Pilgrim.

While it would be easy for me to be all "Well, it's the best romantic comedy since Annie Hall, what's not to love" (which is pretty much true), I'm going to go a little bit deeper than that, and that story starts like this: once there was a girl who broke my heart. It happens to all sorts of people all the time, which means there wasn't anything particularly special or unique about the experience, but I did take it pretty hard. Eventually I got past it but, even when I did, a lot of the gunk (the guilt, the anger, even some of the sadness) stuck around. I'm still dealing with those feelings, with that gunk, in a lot of ways.

Then again, so is everybody else. Our new relationships are built on the ashes of our old ones. We learn from the experiences, we figure out what we did wrong, and we try it again. And that's what Scott Pilgrim is all about. Even better, the couple at the center of the whole damn thing is, in every way that matters, an everycouple: Scott's made mistakes, but Ramona's made them too- and whose are worse is irrelevant, because it all happened.

And that's why I love Scott Pilgrim. From the beginning, it's been about figuring out what the next move should be, based on the last one. It's about making mistakes, the dangers of stagnation, the problems with moving from place to place without ever actually moving very far at all. It's about learning to live with what's happened, about fighting your demons (sometimes more literally than others), and, eventually, it's about getting better. You want to know why, ultimately, both the film and the comics are so damn effective? The key is right there: they wore these themes on their sleeves (not unlike an X-Men patch) using characters that (provided you look past the slick, relatively hip, video games and music and manga dressing) everyone understands because everyone sees a little bit of themselves in, and they did it masterfully, without falling into a sappy, saccharine, puddly mess. More importantly, each iteration does it in its own way, in a way that works well within the medium being used: Scott Pilgrim and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are two related but wholly separate entities that hit on precisely the same themes in a way that works with the advantages and limitations of the way in which it was presented.

This is not to say that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World didn't, sometimes, feel like a comic book (the way that the editor translated a comics gutter into something intelligible in film was particularly cool), simply that Edgar Wright took a six book epic, compressed it into one relatively short film, and still made it all work (although- there isn't exactly anything simple about that, is there?) Even more impressively, 'inna final analysis, the movie took those same issues that the books deal with so well and made me think about them in a different, although extremely complementary, way. This is, ultimately, how the movie must be viewed: as a complement to the books. Both of them, independently and taken together, helped me get better. Both of them, in their own ways, helped my clear some of that gunk. So, yeah, that girl still broke my heart. And, yeah, I felt pretty bad about it for awhile. But poor, oblivious Scott Pilgrim? He's had that problem too. And so has everybody else.
Earlier this evening, I learned that a friend of mine, Abraham Mendoza, died today. This one's for you, Abe.

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