Love, Hate, and Everything In-Between

I watched Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World today, and it made me retroactively disappointed in Captain America.  I’m not calling Cap a bad film, but the action adventure elements, satirical and bizarre as they may be in Pilgrim, are sublime.  In fact, there’s really nothing quite comparable to it in the recent string of superflicks.  It helps that Pilgrim is such an over-the-top film in so many respects while somehow being a story about young adults experiencing the trials and tribulations of growing up.  And it’s obvious that, given the choice, mainstream audiences will reject an experimental masterpiece like Pilgrim.  I wont’ say it’s because the audience is afraid of stuff like Pilgrim.  But there are a healthy dose of folks who simply won’t comprehend the strange mix of geek culture, fantasy action, and subtle character arcs that make up Pilgrim while I think it’s safe to say that we can all get behind a guy punching Nazis.

It’s not a question of quality.  It’s not a question of being “too smart” for the audience.  I’ve always believed that quality should be measured by execution and intent.  Cap is certainly a safer film than Pilgrim but that’s only because it doesn’t need to take many risks.  And taking too many risks might even miss the point of a Cap movie.  And sometimes, too often, “playing it safe” is assumed to be a bad thing.  But not all risks are worth taking, and Cap, while not a surprising film, is fun and boisterous.  My own complaints about the toothless nature of its bad guys aside, it’s a well-made, well-executed film.

I just wish it had a moment as cool as when Scott Pilgrim jumps through fireballs.

All of this is ultimately a false comparison though.  And too often we end up pitting our own opinions against themselves like some strange cage match.  We have to correlate and rank and otherwise diminish A in service of B.  I’m not just talking about between ourselves either.  I’m talking about our own minds.

Do I like Pilgrim more than Cap?  Oh, yes.  Do I like it a hell of a lot more?  Definitely.  But there’s no rule that says I have to compare the two.  Or just because one is a clear winner in my own Desert Island Castaway list that the other must be deemed a loser.  This is why I’ve gone out of my way to avoid comparing Cap and Green Lantern because, aside from being superhero filcks, their sensibilities and universes are just not comparable.  Or rather, it’s absurd to have to pit them against each other just because they’re superhero films.  The superhero genre is diverse.  You don’t see many people comparing The Punisher to Fantastic Four, which would be absolutely pointless.  So why do we have feel the need to do that to Green Lantern and Cap?  Or, in my particular case, Cap against Pilgrim?

Nothing exists in a vacuum.  If the only superhero fantasy I ever saw was Iron Man 2, then maybe I’d be more forgiving for its faults.  And if I couldn’t find a thousand sci fi films better than Tron Legacy then I’d probably not criticize it with as much vitriol as I tend to do.  Although probably not in Legacy’s case because it’s a really bad film in every way except production design and acting.  (Whoops.  Sorry about that, gang.  Forgive the Legacy digression.  Still kind of peeved about the film with a nerd rage I have yet to overcome.)

In the end, the only person making me rank and collate my loves and hates is me.  And while it might be handy to know what DVD’s, books, and games I’d take with me into my bomb shelter when the dinobots begin their rampage, it’s not something I have to be chained to.  Because I’d like to believe, in a perfect world, that Scott Pilgrim, Captain America, and, yes, even Tron Legacy can be appreciated by their fans without having to justify that affection.

But I’m probably wrong.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Posted August 2, 2011 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    I could understand teen movie, slacker movie, superhero movie, romance movie, but game parody movie on top of everything else just was one element too far for me. Not that there aren’t brilliant scenes. The Vegean Police – brilliant.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted August 2, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      It’s interesting that you refer to Pilgrim as a parody of video games. It isn’t. Though our culture seems to not understand that humor does not always equal parody or satire. And that absurdism isn’t automatically brain dead fluff.

      Pilgrim is the film equivalent of a musical homage to video game culture. Instead of characters breaking out into songs and dance, they break out into video game battles and use video game logic. And just like in a good musical, the video game aspects of the reality are employed in service of character and plot. Not that a lot of people seem to understand this, but the premise is self-evident.

      I consider Pilgrim to be a perfect movie, beautifully directed, written, and acted. There is not one thing in it I can find fault in. I love every line, every moment, every single thing about it. And I believe it was simply too far ahead of its time to be appreciated.

      Cap isn’t. But then again, Cap isn’t trying to be. It’s an old-fashioned superhero homage, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Pilgrim and Cap are just in too very different worlds, and it’s unfair to compare either, which in the end is my point.

  2. Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    If you keep writing stuff like this and I’ll have to read your books.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted August 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      Good to hear.

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