Monday, August 30, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Fabulous Light Cycle Voyage

Other than knocking out an occasional Tetris game on my outdated cell phone, I'm not what you would call a gamer.  The only substantial game I've ever passed was the original "Super Mario Bro.'s" back in junior high, and the closest I've ever come to joining a LAN party is playing the plastic drums in "Rock Band."  Yet I've recently seen two movies that feature video game themes as a critical part of their stories:

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"

I was a little nervous going into my viewing of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."  The one preview I had seen suggested the film was going to be a bit heavy on the EMO hipster side, but in the aftermath of Pilgrim's epic battle, the only EMO quality of the film that really bothered me was the 75-pound beanie-wearing doofus sitting in front of me who kept texting through the movie.  

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is about a lot of things, but mostly it's about a kid who meets the girl of his dreams, then has to fight his way through a series of her "Evil Ex's" in order to date her.  These fights are illustrated through the use of a video game metaphor.  Each battle is presented like a fight from "Mortal Kombat," with animated point totals that pop up whenever he finishes off an opponent.   Even as a non-gamer, I still think the device is the most astute true-to-life aspect of the entire film.  When the dust clears, the dating game definitely feels like a battle, and along those lines, more like boxing than chess.

In spite of its branding as a box office bomb, I really enjoyed the movie.  It definitely leans on the 18-22 side of the audience spectrum, but not so much that I felt completely alienated (or nauseated).  Instead, the creativity of the film inspired me, and the heart of the story connected to themes and feelings that were universal, even if they were universally painful.  The Beck and T-Rex-fueled soundtrack is great, which shouldn't be a surprise once you learn that the film was directed by the same guy who did "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz."  Plus this movie marks the first time in memory that I've ever found myself attracted to a girl with blue, green, or purple hair.

I guess there's a first time for everything.


The first and only time I had seen "Tron" was at the Davis Drive-In when I was a little kid.  After re-watching it last week--in anticipation of the re-boot/sequel coming out later this year--I know why.  "Tron" is a cool movie, but it sails over the head of a five-year-old.

As simply as I can put it, "Tron" bounces back and forth between the "real world" and the "virtual world," where computer programs are personified by characters in neon suits who run around CGI-generated environments trying to battle a huge evil program (Master Control Program--MCP) that wants to take over the "real world" as well.  At the end of the first act, Jeff Bridges gets assimilated into the virtual world, where he teams up with the programs to fight the MCP.

It makes sense to me now, but there's no way I would have grasped this as a little kid, let alone appreciated its foresight.    But now that I do, I'm excited to see "Tron: Legacy" this December, and not just because the GGI is going to be so much better.  Special effects aside, the philosophical concept of the original film  was pioneering in its exploration of "Matrix"-like virtual reality, and it's especially interesting to note the religious metaphors and parallels that are present.  Namely, the "real world" programmers are called "users" by their personified programs in the virtual world, and one of the primary philosophical battles in the virtual world centers on the debate as to whether the "users" even exist.  One could even take the metaphor a step further when you realize that Jeff Bridges plays a Christ-like role in the film, as the one "user" who enters the digital world on behalf of the programs.  Pretty heady stuff for Disney.

But if that's too out there, just see the new movie for the light cycles.  They look way cool.