Despite what you might want to think, there are only so many plot structures out there. Romances usually have two people struggle until they finally end up together. Action movies have a lot of explosions and fighting until the good guy wins. Even the plots that rely on twists have to rely on a structure. Now, I will grant you that there are some that defy their structures, to varying amounts of success. However, it’s sometimes fun to watch a movie that has a familiar structure while you try and figure out how it will end to keep the continuity of the genre. This week’s two movies rely on the plot structure more commonly found in video games than in reality.
Kill Bill 1 & 2
Length: 247 minutes / 4.12 hours (111 minutes & 136 minutes)
The Kill Bill (2003/4) movies rely heavily on an eastern influence. It becomes undeniable that the katanas, anime, ninjas, and martial arts come from a world very different from the one that most Americans can connect with. And yet, the Japanese influence on gaming has given us many pop culture references that are still known to this day. Case in point, when The Bride (Uma Thurman) receives her iconic sword at the beginning of Volume 1, I could just hear in the back of my head, “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this!” And yet, the structure of the films fits so well to the plots of most video games. Most games will have a boss character, who controls many minions in an increasing level of difficulty. Occasionally, you’d have to face off against one of the mini-bosses, who usually had some sort of connection to the final boss. Upon defeating the final boss, the protagonist has reached their goal, attaining whatever it was that they set out to do or get in the first place.
In Kill Bill, our “Player 1” is known as “The Bride.” She was once a part of an assassination squad led by Bill (David Carradine). Bill is our final boss. When the assassins betrayed The Bride, she set out to take revenge on each of them. Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) are the first to be defeated, the latter of which made The Bride hack her way through an army of ninjas before finally allowing her to face off against the boss. Next up is Bill’s brother, Budd (Michael Madsen), followed by Bill’s new lover, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). Each subsequent boss battle brings The Bride closer to Bill’s inner circle. Finally, she arrives at the final boss and uses her secret technique to finish him off. The saga ends with The Bride driving away with her prize.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Length: 112 minutes / 1.87 hours
There is absolutely no doubt that this film takes its cues from classic video games. All the tropes are there. Combo attacks, coin rewards, extra lives, bonus levels. Even the announcer shouting “K.O!” A guy like myself, who grew up on console video games, really enjoyed the little bits of style that were influenced by familiar games like Street Fighter, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. However, where this movie differs from film adaptations of these video games (like Street Fighter (1994) or Super Mario Bros. (1993)) is that it embraced its roots. I do realize that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) was not a video game, but that’s where I think it pulled most of its charm. Instead of trying to be serious, it let loose and had a little fun.
The weird thing about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is that it is unconventional while at the same time holding to many familiar video game conventions. If relationships were video games, this movie would be the magnum opus. The film starts with Scott (Michael Cera) dating a 17-year old. That is until he goes to a party and meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He immediately falls for Ramona, but soon learns that in order to keep her, he must defeat her seven evil exes. Each successive fight becomes more challenging until suddenly, Ramona decides to go back to her most recent ex: the final boss, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Does Scott have what it takes to get Ramona back? Will she want to come back? This is where convention is thrown out the window: if you defeat the final boss, you aren’t guaranteed to rescue the princess.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 final boss fights