Scott Pilgrim vs Utena Tenjou
Like, for reals, folks. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the Revolutionary Girl Utena live action Hollywood revisioning we never expected and never realized we wanted.
And I mean that in every possible positive way possible.
In the end, Utena wasn’t really about love conquering all. Yeah, Utena wanted to “save” Anthy from her fate and wanted to help her friend, but in the end that wasn’t what Utena came to learn. She realized that she couldn’t save Anthy. Anthy had to make the choice and “grow up” on her own, and Utena’s quest throughout the entire series boiled down to her coming to that realization as well– she couldn’t win in the end because the duels and Dios and all of the conspiracies going on at the Academy were a bunch of childish games that she had to grow out of, and the only way to come to that realization was to experience them firsthand. You gotta be that dumbass punk kid before you realize you have to grow out of that dumbass punk kid phase and move on with life. It’s only when Utena proves to be that example that Anthy and the others can see “the light” and start moving on as well while showing that Akio is just an overgrown dumbass punk man-child.
That’s basically what’s going on in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Scott’s a dumbass punk kid who thinks it’s cool to string along teenaged girls and have no job and basically dick around life without any goals. He’s the sort of slacker that gives the rest of us slackers a bad name. He’s screwed up in the past, he’s hurt people, and he doesn’t quite realize it. It isn’t because he’s evil or any shit like that. He’s just completely oblivious to it all because that dumbass punk kid phase blinds you to those truths.
He’s basically the male, post-modern, hipster version of Utena. He gets wrapped up in a childish (and awesomely conceived and choreographed) series of duels with a student council League of Evil Ex’s that want to kill him so Anthy Himemiya/Ramona Flowers will never be happy ever again. Each of said Evil Ex’s has their own personal baggage that causes them to be so willing to essentially kill someone they love because of love. Their issues get worked out, to varying degrees, by means of somewhat-surreal battle sequences that help represent their fucked-up lives.
Yeah, it’s exactly like Revolutionary Girl Utena.
The similarities don’t stop with the basic premise. In the end, when Scott faces off against the ultimate Evil Ex, Gideon Graves, it doesn’t come down to “love conquers all.” Much like Utena, when Scott summons said power in an attempt to save The Likes-To-Change-Her-Hair-Color-Every-Ten-Days Bride, he gets his ass wailed on and dies. You know, kind of like what happens to Utena at the end of the series. Utena essentially loses to Akio, and it’s only in her failure that she realizes that it wasn’t Anthy that she should have been fighting and searching for– it was herself that needed to be rescued.
The same goes for Scott. He dies, he goes to the afterlife, and he gets a cutscene that helps him realize that before he can ever truly win Ramona’s heart and help her escape from the clutches of her Ex’s, he needs to man up and fix his own fucked-up life before he becomes the Eighth Evil Ex. So, with his Sword of Love shattered in the previous life (which was drawn out of his chest Rose Bride style), Scott draws out the Sword of Self-Confidence (also Anthy-style) and kills Gideon with that blade.
Then Scott and Ramona drive away naked on a car. Except replace “naked” with “clothed” and “on a car” with “through a space-time portal.” They try to make the best of their somewhat-repaired-but-still-screwed-up lives now that they’ve grown up a little, exactly like Anthy finally realizing that all she needs to do is leave the school and search for Utena– her Shining Thing that might make her life complete, or at least make it more enjoyable.
So, yeah. Scott Pilgrim is totally rifting on everything that’s awesome about Revolutionary Girl Utena, and it’s all the more awesome because of it.
As for the rest of the movie: It’s pretty fucking amazing. Awesome fights that rift on several video game and anime tropes while making it all seem not at all reference-ish. It isn’t a collection of “OMG LOOK AT THAT” Family Guy moments. The movie takes these bits and makes a cohesive world out of them. It totally makes sense for one scene to be a bass guitar battle where Scott’s strumming the Final Fantasy battle music while the next involves two chicks fighting like Ivy and Rock from Soul Calibur. It’s the most perfectly realized “world” I’ve seen in a movie since Chronicles of Riddick (Yes, that’s a compliment for both movies. If you don’t love Riddick, you don’t know good sci-fi. Fuck Avatar, even if it’s damn pretty and worth watching just for the visuals. OMGRANT!).
Scott himself basically takes the classic “luckless anime boy” stereotype that we’re all so used to seeing and makes it not only bearable, but interesting. He’s pathetic, but it’s in a “I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m gonna do it anyway” sort of way rather than the “Help me girl that looks like my mommy will you hold my hand and sit in the snow with me” sort of way we see in most anime series. He doesn’t know what he wants and doesn’t know what to do with what he’s got, and all the while he just drifts about life like some sort of slacker messiah. He’s kind of what you get if you personified “Loser” by Beck, and he’s kinda relatable because of it.
Ramona’s pretty awesome in her own right. She comes off as the “magical girlfriend” type we see, not just in the anime sense but in the Hollywood sense. The Hollywood types aren’t Norse goddesses or manifestations of VHS tapes, but more often than not in these somewhat-male-centric romantic comedies, the chick in the relationship is some sort of ideal type that seems to have been conjured out of the guy’s subconscience. She fits everything the guy wants in a woman, is carefree and “liberated” from responsibility, and basically represents everything that the guy wants out of life. She’s the Dharma to Scott’s Greg.
Except Ramona’s just as pathetic and desperate as Scott when you get down to it. All of her previous relationships were sabotaged largely due to her actions. She cheated on them, used them for her own whims, and basically did a “What, bam, thank you ma’am” to all of them. She’s their Frankenstein– she created them, and now Scott gets to be that little girl who said Frankenstein throws into the lake. Except she knows kung fu.
Scott had to grow up and deal with his indecisiveness. Ramona has to grow up and not be so fickle and distant. In a way they sorta complete one another through their dysfunctions. Scott’s just enough of a weak target that Ramona doesn’t feel threatened enough to run away (Not to mention he just killed a bunch of people in the name of stuff) while Ramona clicks just enough with Scott’s nature that he’s actually willing to make choices to be with her. Whether they live happily ever after is irrelevant at the end of the movie. What matter is that they’re living happily at this moment and know that the bulk of their fucked-up lives is behind them. Funny enough, the movie it best compares to in the end isn’t the myriad of other video game movies or lame teenaged sex comedies that Michael Cera’s been in or anything like that. Scott Pilgrim best matches up with the likes of Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
It’s a damn good movie. Easily the best I’ve seen so far this year (And considering how good Kick-Ass, Toy Story 3, and Inception were, that’s saying a lot.). Hell, I think it might make it onto my personal top ten list after I see it again. If I get the same vibe after rewatching it as I got today, it’ll be up there.
I also foresee myself acquiring the comic series in the very near future. We’ll see if this is a case of the comic being even more awesome, of if this is a case where they movie dudes took something and made it better.