Scott Pilgrim vs The World (fight 4 of 4)

For once I’m at a loss to make a video game analogy that the movie itself hasn’t already beat me to.

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+6 Blogger Pre-emption

4) Gideon Graves

The Fighters:

  • Scott Pilgrim, obviously. Much more pissed off and determined than before. Played by Michael Cera.
    • Armed with: Eventually, he gets to use two swords, The Power of Love and The Power of Self-Respect. They’re both in the form of flaming katanas, the latter being more powerful.
  • Ramona Flowers again takes part in the proceedings. Played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
    • Armed with: Nothing much, but she briefly makes use of a standing lamp to defend herself.
  • Knives Chau, the teenage “Scottaholic” who’s been messed up since Scott ditched her for Ramona. She incorrectly blames Ramona for this. Played by Ellen Wong with manic enthusiasm.
    • Armed with: Befitting her name, a pair of short but wide knife-like blades.
  • Gideon Gordon Graves, aka G-Man. The Seventh Evil Ex and leader/founder of the League. A wealthy businessman who has his own record label and several nightclubs, Gideon is manipulative, arrogant and cunning. The comic book incarnation is more overtly evil & villainous, but here he’s portrayed more passive-aggressive, a kind of transparently phony kindness that’s both creepy and amusing. Played by Jason Schwartzmann.
    • Armed with: Two swords, one of which is concealed in the cane he carries with him. The other he seems to conjure basically out of thin air, with a glowing blue blade that makes it resemble a lightsaber.
  • Also there’s some henchmen, who are pretty nondescript.

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The Setup: After a fight with Scott, Ramona ditches him and goes off to be with Gideon, who rubs it in by signing Sex Bob-omb to his label (Scott refuses to come along, and with no objection whatsoever from the rest of the band he’s instantly replaced). Our hero spends a while being lonely and rejected, but a follow-up call from Gideon– oozing obseqious insincerity– spurs Scott to go fight for the woman he’s in lesbians love with.

A series of improbably correct passwords gets him into Graves’ new nightclub (the Chaos Theater, a reference to the amazing game Earthbound), where he quickly finds his enemy, perched at the top of a stage, captive princess and all, like, well… a boss.

"You have no chance to survive make your time"

“YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME”

Sex Bob-omb is playing, feeling conflicted at Scott’s presence but still reluctantly obeying their new boss. Pilgrim tells off the villain and goes to charge the stage, but gets repeatedly stopped by Gideon, who pretends to act confused at Scott’s hostility. When Scott explains he’s in love with Ramona and fighting for her, he gains the Power of Love sword, which emerges from his chest and increases his level.

Of course it’s never that easy, as Graves demonstrates when he snaps his fingers and summons several henchmen. At G-Man’s request, Sex Bob-omb plays some accompanying music.

The Fight: Pilgrims and the henchmen waste little time throwing down, but he makes short work of them– really, Lucas Lee’s stunt men were more of a headache. Though that’s to be expected, because Scott is not only armed with an amazing weapon, but he’s also got some serious narrative momentum on his side.

The sequence, though light, is shot with Wright’s usual dazzling style, switching effortlessly between multiple camera angles (including one excellent, extended tracking shot) as Scott cuts them down one by one, leaving a man-shaped pile of coins each time.

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With no one standing in the way, Scott & Gideon leap at each other to exchange mid-air sword blows a la Ninja Gaiden, but surprisingly (or not so surprisingly if you played Ninja Gaiden) it’s villain who gets the best of it, his cane sword smashing the Power of Love into pieces. Before the villain can finish Pilgrim off, he’s interrupted by Knives Chau’s arrival. Descending from the ceiling, Knives kicks the sword from Gideon’s hand, but immediately turns her rage against… Ramona.

"You broke the heart that broke mine!" she actually says without somehow making you hate her

“You broke the heart that broke mine!” she actually says, somehow without making you hate her

Knives starts dueling with Ramona, to Ramona’s confusion and Gideon’s amusement. Meanwhile, Graves gets back to the business of attacking Scott, this time more physically since both of them are unarmed. The villain is pretty good hand-to-hand but not great, the two of them seeming more or less even. The ladies’ brawl is a bit more frantic, with Ramona gruntingly denying Knives’ accusations in-between avoiding her attacks.

Filming simultaneous fights is always tricky but Wright handles it well, alternating between showing the battles unfolding both separately and concurrently.

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On the lower level, Scott is eventually able to get the upper hand, or perhaps foot– he wraps his legs around Gideon’s neck and scissor-flips him down the stairs. Then he goes to sort out the cat fight up above, and in doing so has to face the painful truth that what he did to both these women was actually pretty crappy. Even as he retreats back into his old persona and tries to duck responsibility, Scott is suddenly stabbed from behind by Graves.

No visual symbolism there.

No visual symbolism there.

It looks like Game Over, with Scott seeming to drift into the afterlife as he says goodbye to Ramona (and also learns that Gideon was controlling her via computer chip in her neck) in a limbo-esque subspace desert.

But then we’re reminded: Scott has an extra life, having collected the strange icon after his battle with Exes 5&6. In the book, the 1UP was employed in a more arcade-traditional way: Scott simply got back up to fight some more. But here, Wright employs it more ingeniously, like starting the whole level from scratch or picking up from the last save point. In a rapid montage, we see Scott run off to the Chaos Theater, only this time he accesses the club more smoothly, makes amends with his band, and wastes less time on Gideon’s small talk.

Most importantly, rather than declaring he’s fighting “for love,” Scott answers that he’s fighting for himself– for his own dignity rather than any tangible reward. This is apparently worth way more experience points than before, because it gives him the Power of Self-Respect sword, and a Level-Up that’s even stronger than the first time through.

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See? Check the stats.

Scott makes even shorter work of the henchmen this time, a veritable purple blur. He faces down Graves again and this time it’s Scott who wins the Ninja Gaiden-off, breaking through the villain’s sword and cutting him on the arm.

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Graves collapses for a while, giving Scott time to call out Knives and try to dissuade her from attacking Ramona. She drops down in a frenzy anyway, but Scott cuts her rampage off early by coming clean and apologizing, to her and Ramona both. Through some unexplained means, this shuts down Ramona’s control-chip.

But Scott and the Evilest Ex still have unfinished business and, in true genre fashion, the previous incarnation wasn’t even his final form.

Silly Canucks don't even know how to spell

Silly Canucks don’t even know how to spell

In his upgrades form, Gideon fights with a kind of lazy but graceful power, often holding his sword in just one hand with the other poised oh-so-aristocratically behind his back. He is able to work a good number on Scott at first, but things look up when Knives decides to enter the fray (looks like a simple “I’m sorry” can do wonders for a girl). Their first assault against him is enough to make him swallow his gum, which he reacts to with disproportionate outrage.

The next stage of the fight is more overtly video-gamey than ever, with characters flashing red as they take “damage” and even flickering a bit.

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The Pilgrim/Chau team does quite well at first but soon Graves is able to knock Knives off the platform, and soon after he hits Scott’s sword hard enough to break it, too. With the hero stunned, Ramona walks over to Gideon, who still thinks she’s under his sway. She surprises him with a knee to the groin (attack his weak point for massive damage!), which earns her a block that sends her down the stairs. Fortunately that’s just long enough for Knives to recover and disarm the villain.

The attack on Ramona gets Scott incensed as well, and Graves is looking at a tough combo.

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It goes higher than two, trust me

Without his glowing sword Gideon is no match for the team, and they pepper him with a furious onslaught of blows in a brief, exciting and stylized montage. Knives delivers a devastating attack at the end that whittles his (visible) life bar down to the very last, leaving him to utter a final bitter monologue while he flickers on the edge of death.

Scott has little patience for it, and delivers the final blow himself.

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Easily the best fight in the film. Not much in terms of laughs, relatively speaking, but it makes up for it with some sneakily-affecting character work. The gimmick of Scott’s extra life extends the fight in a way that feels both natural and not tiresomely repetitive. Though the staging is all combined to one very tight location, the fluctuating number of fighters and varying weapons still makes it quite dynamic indeed. Indeed, this is Scott Pilgrim’s finest hour.

Grade: A

Coming Attractions: YOU ARE NEXT!

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Scott Pilgrim vs The World (fight 3 of 4)

Girls, girls, girls….

Always fighting over a boy. Sorta.

Always fighting over a boy. Sorta.

3) Roxy Richter

The Fighters:

  • Scott Pilgrim, as always. Played by Michael Cera.
  • Ramona Flowers, Scott’s new girlfriend, joins in on this one. Turns out she’s a pretty capable and aggressive fighter in her own right. Played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
    • Armed with: A giant sledgehammer, which in true video game fashion she can produce at will from her deceptively small hand bag due to her skill at accessing sub-space (or perhaps more accurately, hammer space). She can wield the heavy weapon with surprising speed.
  • Roxanne “Roxy” Richter, a female ninja (or “half-ninja” as the comic elaborates) and Ramona’s fourth Evil Ex. (Their relationship occurred as a result of what Scott calls her “sexy phase” but what Ramona merely describes as “experimenting.”) Roxy is cranky, aggressive, and humorously insecure. She also has the ability of short-range teleportation, which she uses quite cannily. Played by Cera’s erstwhile television love interest, Mae Whitman. But I like to call her Annabelle because she’s shaped like a…….. she’s the belle of the ball!
    • Armed with: A very loose whip-sword she’s quite skilled with.

The Setup: At an after-party in a swanky night club, Scott’s relationship with Ramona is beginning to clearly deteriorate due to his insecurities regarding her past romantic history. They verbally jab at each other for a while, and Scott asks why Ramona keeps correcting his description of the League to the gender-neutral “exes” instead of “ex-boyfriends” as he’d repeatedly phrased it. But before she can answer, the explanation kicks him in the back of the head.

He gets up, assesses the situation, and puts it together.

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This anatomical depiction of the male brain is the most realistic thing in this movie.

You know what that means.

The Fight: As Ramona starts to explain, Roxy gets miffed at being reduced to a “phase” and decides to take it out on Scott, winding up a big spin kick… which gets blocked, rather effortlessly, by Ramona.

Though Scott will later vocalize his reluctance to fight a woman (“they’re soft!” he whines), Ramona’s motivation here seems mainly to be about finally being proactive in defeating her past. Snarling in defiance, Roxy calls Ramona a “has-bian” which is hilarious, and takes out her chain sword. Ramona prepares her own attitude-adjuster.

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The two have the most complex battle in the movie yet, with some really inventive staging to match Ramona’s slower, bludgeoning weapon against Egg’s Roxy’s longer, faster, cutting one. There are some neat acrobatic tricks & flips, though everything stays much more local than the high-flying escapades of the Patel duel. Neither one gains much of an edge against the other, though Ramona seems to be the more dominant fighter.

They break a lot of surroundings until Roxy is able to use her whip to seize Ramona’s hammer and send it out the window. But the villain gets too caught up in celebrating her accomplishment to defend against a brutal axe kick from her ex-lover, putting Bland to the ground.

After some taunting, Roxy insists that this is “a League game” meaning that Scott has to be the one to defeat her (it’s unclear what will happen if he isn’t. These rules are being unilaterally invented & imposed by one side of the conflict). So, getting by on a technicality, Ramona stands behind Scott and manipulates his limbs to use him as a fighting dummy.

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It looks better than this in practice, I promise.

The impromptu solution actually works pretty well and Roxy gets beaten back, until she employs her teleporting powers again and BAMFs right in-between the couple, separating them. She then punches the vulnerable Pilgrim into the ceiling, and after he falls back down she tries to finish him off with a devastating axe kick of her own. As her heel comes down in slow-motion, Scott & Ramona improbably find the time for a conversation, where she advises him to strike at the “weak point” just behind Roxy’s knee. It’s clear even before Roxy’s moan-heavy reaction that “weak point” is a metaphor for something else.

That's... hot? I think?

That’s… hot? I think?

So, yeah. Amidst the ecstatic moaning, Roxy collapses to the ground and explodes in a shower of coins. K.O.

Another fun if not spectacular fight. Throwing Ramona in the mix allows for a much-needed change, as does the addition of some unusual weapons. It’s also quite amusing on the whole and very fast-moving. Though the talented Miss Whitman doesn’t reach the heights of Chris Evans’ Lucas Lee, she’s really quite funny in what could have been an unlikably shrill role if played poorly.

The climax conclusion of the fight is… unusual. Obviously we all get the nature of the joke, but it seems a bit of a stretch, a double-entendre that’s also literally true. It just makes no sense for that to be the thing that kills her– not just distracts her enough to be finished off but actually kills her– even for this movie’s value of “making sense.” I guess they don’t call it le petit mort for nothing.

Grade: B+

Coming Attractions: The conclusion of the movie-length boss rush(more).

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War does funny things to men.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (fight 2 of 4)

In which Captain America whips it good.

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Scott doesn’t “fondue” either.

2) Lucas Lee

The Fighters:

  • Scott Pilgrim, obviously. Played by Michael Cera.
  • Lucas Lee, the second Evil Ex. A professional skater turned movie star, with plenty of ego to match. Apparently the comic incarnation is based on Jason Lee, who followed a similar career arc, but the movie version seems to be more of a riff on Keanu Reeves, what with his gruffly clueless/intense monotone and friendly relationships with his stunt team. Played with breathless gusto by Chris Evans.

The Setup: Pretty simple. While Scott & Ramona are on another date, they visit the set of a Hollywood movie being filmed nearby (a sly dig at how many movies are filmed in Canada for cost reasons), Scott having been informed of the event by Wallace, who has a crush on the star (and is also on set). As a scene is ready to start, Lucas Lee emerges from his trailer, accompanied by Universal Studios’ famous opening fanfare.

Lee skates over to his marker, and begins filming a tense hostage scene. Unfortunately, and also just as Ramona recognizes the actor as one of her past loves, it’s gradually revealed that the tense threats Lee is shouting are not his script lines, but are directed directly against Scott. Uh oh.

This actually comes later, but whatever

This actually comes later, but whatever

The Fight: It takes way longer than it should for Scott to realize the gravity of the situation; he asks for Lee’s autograph multiple times even as the actor repeatedly punches him, sending him to the pavement. (He’s so star-struck he doesn’t realize he’s getting struck by a star, hyuk hyuk.)

As Pilgrim lies dazed on the ground, Lucas turns briefly to Ramona and delivers what’s probably my favorite line in the movie. With all the forced politeness of a real-life encounter with an ex, and coupled with the hilarious intensity of Evans’ line reading, he asks “Sup? How’s life? He seems nice.” Without waiting for an answer, he picks up Scott’s body and hurls it into the nearby castle being used as the film’s backdrop.

Scott rises unsteadily and gets walloped again. The next time he gets up, he sees who he thinks is Lucas walking away, and pursues only to find that it’s the actor’s stunt double, dressed & coiffed similarly. He gets knocked down again by the stunt man, who’s soon joined by six other similarly dressed stand-ins. Meanwhile, the real Lee chills on the sidelines.

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Where’s Stephen Tobolowsky when you need him?

Before he can finish the suggested taunt from Wallace (ever the rabble-rouser) about getting Lucas’ “sloppy seconds,” the stunt crew start in on Scott. Our hero gets in an extended fight with them which is, again, surprisingly complex and well-done, considering the silliness of the situation. Cera cuts quite the incongruously heroic profile, perfectly ducking & blocking as he takes on a wave of fighters coming at him from all angles. He even breaks several weaponized skateboards as he puts down attacker after attacker. It’s completely unrealistic, obviously, and even more so than the ground-based segments of the Patel fight, but it fits in perfectly with the heightened reality of ridiculous action movies Wright is trying to emulate.

Pilgrim’s good performance comes to an end when he’s brained from behind by a skateboard, and when he goes down all the stunt men gang up for a good old fashion kicking bonanza. In real life such group-stompings can result in broken bones, internal bleeding and death, but Wright opts for a take more akin to a Warner Brothers cartoon dog-pile: the camera follows Lucas as he walks off for coffee when he sees our hero is down, but when he comes back, Scott is back up and seemingly unscathed, standing over a pile of defeated foes. Well played.

Responding to Scott’s “you’re needed on the set” taunt, Lee has a face-off with his new rival. There’s a purposely melodramatic, overextended moment as they charge each other, first in split-screen and then in super slow-motion. They leap into the air to attack, but of course Scott loses that contest.

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The big kick sends Pilgrim all the way through the fake New York skyline, leading to another funny moment when Lee has to pause his follow-up boasting as he rips through the rest of it in pursuit. They talk briefly, and Lee gets in a sucker-punch after pretending to befriend Scott. His acting is better than ever!

Displaying atypical cunning, Scott is able to goad the cocky Lee into hopping onto his skateboard and doing a thingy grind on the rickety, snow-covered railing along the impossibly long stairs they’re standing by. The ending is edited well, cutting back & forth between Lucas’ speed rapidly reaching absurd levels and Scott’s multiple, sedate “wow”s in reaction. Sure enough, the speed is too much to handle, and Lucas explodes after reaching the bottom. Two down!

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He totally bailed.

More fun is had here, but it’s disappointing from a fight-scene angle, more so than the last one. Scott can’t even lay a finger on Lee, making for an absurd power imbalance when he’s only two bosses in. He even uses a “cheat,” if a clever one, to make the final kill. This is mitigated somewhat by the long-ish fight with the stunt doubles, which itself was both a pleasant surprise and a gag that arose organically from the scenario.

Another mitigation: the scene is very funny, with Chris Evans doing some absolutely hilarious work in a rare-for-him comedy performance. With his rapid-fire & raspy delivery he actually finds a way to breathe some life into the overplayed caricature of the Egomaniac Movie Star. Evans may be another case of an actor with genuine comedic chops who rarely gets to exercise them thanks to his ridiculously good looks– please, don’t everybody pity him at once. (One of his earliest roles was in Not Another Teen Movie, but even if you did think that was funny, he mostly plays the straight man there.)

So while a nice and highly amusing change-up, it’s not particularly impressive aside from Evans’ performance. But fortunately there’s more to come.

Grade: B

Coming Attractions: Her?

It’s as Roxy as the nose on plain’s face.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (fight 1 of 4)

This movie has “vs” in the title so you KNOW it’s classy.

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Like that tear-jerker action movie, Kramer vs Predator

Scott Pilgrim vs The World was practically designed to be a cult film rather than a big hit, but it still didn’t deserve to bomb like it did. There are certainly some strange decisions and missteps, and course a film like this lives or dies on how well its “tone” resonates… and this kind of tone is incredibly hard to get right. But if anyone could do it, it was the mad genius filmmaker Edgar Wright, flexing his impressive cinematic muscles to give audiences a one-of-a-kind experience: a real-life comic book/video game of a movie. Audiences were divided on how much they liked watching a bunch of aimless hipster kids walking around a cartoon-ish world, but everyone can agree there’s nothing quite like this movie’s particular brand of playfulness.

Compounding the hard sell of this unusual approach was the unfortunate timing: Scott Pilgrim vs The World debuted just after the public had turned against its star, Michael Cera, in a big way. Seemingly overnight (it looks like the disastrous Year One was the turning point) America went from loving Cera’s trademark “smart but hapless wimp” routine to absolutely despising it, thus once again proving the wisdom of The Simpsons. (Many haters ding Cera ostensibly for only having one “persona,” but come on, not every actor is in the Daniel Day-Lewis mold. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars also basically did the same thing every movie. How many times did Clark Gable play a nerd?)

Something like this, you either love it or you hate it.

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a KROW”

Anyway, I personally really dig it, and find it gets better with re-watching. It’s also an inevitable subject for the blog, but we’ll be grading with a different sort of scale in mind. The fighting, while often surprisingly complex, is also lighter and of less consequence than the average in-depth movie fight… which is to be expected, since it’s more of a comedy. So we’ll keep in mind not just how well done the combat is but the overall effect of the scene itself. And though each entry will be about a specific Evil Ex, we’ll naturally be skipping the three whose battles involve little to no genuine fighting. Sorry, Todd and the twins.

1) Matthew Patel

The Fighters:

  • Scott Pilgrim, the film’s titular hero, a hapless 20-something slacker/hipster with no job and a wonderfully naive teenage girlfriend. In pointed contrast to his personal aimlessness and generally wussy demeanor, he’s inexplicably amazing at fighting (in the movie it’s not remarked upon, but in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comic book it’s casually mentioned that Scott is “the best fighter in the province”). Played by Michael Cera, who unfortunately is the film’s weak link. Though he tries mightily and even stretches a bit, there is just something off about Cera’s take on Pilgrim, who in the books was more of a manic livewire in addition to being dumb & unambitious– he had a kind of Jack Black-like intensity rather than Cera’s typical low-key, lovable beta male. So perhaps the trouble with the character comes from the awkward dissonance of fitting the square peg into a round hole. And to be fair to Cera, when you get right down to it there’s not much to actually like about Scott Pilgrim for much of the story: he’s an objectively bad person.
  • Matthew Patel, Ramona’s first Evil Ex-Boyfriend; they dated for about a week and a half in seventh grade. A young man of Indian descent with advanced fighting skills, supernatural powers, and an odd fashion sense, Patel is arguably the most overtly cartoonish of all the film’s villains. Played by Satya Bhabha, who does a great job with what could have been a very annoying part in the wrong hands.
Seriously. You try doing this in a movie and not making people walk out.

Seriously. You try doing this in a movie and not making people walk out.

The Setup: Scott Pilgrim is a strikingly unambitious youth in the mystical land of Canada, 23-year-old Scott is now finding his precious little life a lot more interesting as he pursues the mysterious newcomer Ramona Flowers. Through unexplained means, word of his interest in Ramona has spread to the League of Evil Exes, seven of Ramona’s former romantic partners who seek to control her future love life by making any new lover go through them. (It’s a metaphor, see.) Scott would have clued into this earlier but, foolishly, he only skimmed the email warning him of the consequences of his attraction.

For his first quasi-date with Ramona, Scott takes her to a club where he and his friends are competing in a battle of the bands. Scott’s actual girlfriend, Knives Chau, conveniently passes out from pure excitement early into the band’s first number. Also on hand at the event are Scott’s gay roommate Wallace, his little sister (rated T for Teen) Stacy, and Stacy’s date, who is unbeknownst to her being quietly seduced by Wallace. And that date must be really gay, because let’s face it gents: there’s regular gay, and there’s “walk away from Anna Kendrick” gay.

Yeah, I was surprised too.

Yeah, I was surprised too.

Sex Bob-omb (that’s the name of Scott’s band, because of course it is) is doing pretty well, when suddenly they’re interrupted by the crashing arrival of Matthew Patel.

The Fight: Crashing, specifically, through the ceiling, free-falling down and calling out Scott’s name as he does so.

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There’s a great slow-motion sequence of Scott reacting with genuine puzzlement, finally only being spurred into action by Wallace’s gleeful urging to fight. Pilgrim unplugs his guitar, blocks the diving attack, and counters with a sweet punch that sends Patel flying back.

He lands okay, but after some more sardonic assistance from Wallace (“Watch out! It’s that one guy”), Scott counters Matthew’s next charge with a face-kick that shoots him into the air. Scott leaps up high in pursuit and gives a follow-up uppercut and a 64-hit punch combo.

They went ahead and did the counting for me.

They went ahead and did the counting for me.

They both come down and land in that “versus” image from way up top, and here’s where they start jawing. The weirdo introduces himself and explains he’s the first Evil Ex. In a movie full of over-the-top characters, Matthew Patel is particularly over-the-top… and in a very un-ironic and cartoonish way, what with all his jerky head movements, exaggerated body poses, speech contortions and guyliner. So again, all props to Bhabha for pulling off so well. (He’s barely recognizable from his other major claim to fame, his lengthy run in season two of New Girl.)

The two engage in some more down-to-Earth sparring. It’s surprisingly complex and reasonably “realistic” though of course very stylized. Mostly a lot of blocks and near-misses. Both Cera and Bhabha, neither of them experienced martial artists, acquit themselves well. Wright’s camera work, as expecting, is dynamic and exciting, as if he’d been directing fight scenes for years. One nice touch is the use of a special kind of dust applied to the actors’ clothes that shakes off and briefly lingers in the air with every impact– one of the many tricksĀ Hong Kong action stars use to accentuate each blow.

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While most of the crowd is excited, Ramona appears visibly embarrassed at being the cause of this, and there are repeated cutaways to Stacy making expressions of disbelief– essentially as a way to tell the more skeptical audience members Hey, it’s okay, this is silly, you can laugh at it. Which might seem like unnecessary hand-holding, but you’d be surprised how slow some audiences are.

Speaking of puzzlement, Scott is still confused at what’s going on here, and he stops long enough to ask Patel what his deal is, which is when the villain is irked to learn that Scott blew off his explanatory email. Also between rounds of heightened fighting (and as Matthew starts to get in some solid hits), people in the crowd inquire about his outfit and ask if he’s a “pirate,” which is odd because aside from the Jack Sparrow-esque guyliner he doesn’t really look like a pirate. And Ramona is finally goaded into explaining her brief history with Matthew, in a strange half-poem accompanied by illustrations straight out of the comic (or possibly new drawings by O’Malley just for the movie).

When Scott reacts incredulously to Ramona’s mention of Matthew’s “mystical powers,” the evil ex decides that’s his cue to exercise them, floating in the air, conjuring fire in his hands and summoning a pack of “demon hipster chicks.” He does all this while singing and dancing a Bollywood-esque number. It’s… well, for me it was a little much, even for this movie’s wacky concept of reality. I suppose everyone has to draw the line somewhere.

This. This is the place where I draw the line.

This. This is the place where I draw the line.

So that weirdness happens and Patel starts flinging fireballs mid-song, all of which Scott dodges and one of which vaporizes a pair of roadies. Angrily noting that Matthew’s last two lines didn’t even rhyme, Pilgrim grabs a cymbal from Kim Pine’s drum set and hurls it Patel, hitting him hard enough to dispel the demon hipster chicks and leave him spinning vulnerably in the air. Scott takes the opportunity to leap in with a devastating punch that finishes off the evil ex for good, turning him into a handful of coins a la River City Ransom.

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If there’s any real problem (aside from the Bollywood stuff) with this, it’s that it seems to lack a sense of… scale? Weight? Consistency? Other than the fact that it’s the end of a fight, there’s no extra oomph to Scott’s last punch that indicates it should even be a finishing move– Patel didn’t seem tired at all before that, and he endured several blows that seemed just as powerful earlier on and came down smiling. The fight only ends because it seems like it was time to end. Which, come to think of it, might play into the story’s themes: Scott feels like he’s the main character in his own movie, and that everything should eventually go his way just because he’s, well, himself, regardless of whether he’s earned it or not.

In any case, it feels odd to criticize such an achievement as this. The movie actually took plenty of time to get to its first fight– enough time for Wright to lay the groundwork for the movie’s strange, hyper-stylized world. If this had come much earlier it would have been quite jarring even for the more patient fan. And what a payoff it is: finally we’re treated to the sight of real human beings flipping about like characters from a video game or anime but without it seeming painfully fake or dumb. There’s visual onomatopoeia incorporated in a much less intrusive way than in the old 60s Batman cartoon. Explosions and flashes of color change the entire screen filter for brief seconds before switching back (something you appreciate a lot more when looking for just the right screenshot, mind you). There’s a great mixture of the immediate and the spectacular, the thrilling and the ridiculous. Edgar Wright can basically do anything, and here he did something very, very fun.

Grade: B+

Coming Attractions: Our Canadian slacker hero fights an American superhero. Kinda.

"I understood that reference."

“I understood that reference!”