Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Edgar Wright's long-awaited adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" graphic novel series is finally here. Being a big fan of the graphic novels and hearing Wright's name attached to the film gave me some very high hopes for this project, and, like usual, he doesn't disappoint. He somehow manages to take the insanity of the series and cram it into a 112-minute film while preserving its essence and important sections, which is pretty impressive seeing as how it's a six-volume series.
The story begins as we find out Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), who is in his early 20s, is dating a high-schooler, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Scott breaks the news during rehearsal with his band, Sex Bob-omb, which his friends, Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Kim Pine (Alison Pill), are also a part of. Later that night, Scott has a dream of a pink-haired girl who roller skates right by him. He finally sees her in real life while hanging out at the library with Knives.
Scott sees her again at a party and finds out that her name is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He tries to talk with her, but let's just say it doesn't go according to plan. After discovering that she is a delivery girl for Amazon, Scott hatches a plan to lure her to his apartment (an apartment he shares with Wallace Welles (Kieran Culkin), his gay roommate and advice-giver) by ordering something so that she will deliver it.
His clever little scheme works, leading to her attending a Sex Bob-omb concert. Surprisingly, Scott is attacked during the concert by a young man named Mathew Patel (Satya Bhabha), who tells Scott that he is the first of Ramona's seven evil exes and that they must fight. After a bizarre battle in which Scott defeats him, Ramona explains to him that he must fight all of her evil exes in order to date her. Being as in love with her as he is, he accepts the challenge, and now, aside from trying to juggle two girlfriends, he must be on guard because he never knows when one of Ramona's evil exes will strike.
For those of you not familiar with director/writer Edgar Wright, his previous works include the hilarious films "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," which should give you some idea of the humor he deals in. With "Scott Pilgrim," he's done a great job of bringing the graphic novels, and all it's peculiar eccentricities, to life.
The novels include multiple fight scenes of bizarre proportions, all of which seemed hard to take seriously even when they were on the page, but then again, we're not being asked to take these seriously at all. The fights in the novels are silly and entertaining, and it's the same in the film. They involve all kinds of strange fight techniques: flying through the air, musical battles (including one that seems to have come right out of Bollywood), and even vegan powers.
Pretty much all of the battles have the consistency of battles you would find in a video game, and that is indeed a running motif throughout the novels and film, even though only one of Scott's gang, Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), seems to have a thing for video games. These are the kinds of battles where the sound effects are turned up to an absurd level, the kind where we see the points scored, the sounds of each impact and the words that they sound like (think of the original "Batman" TV show where words like "Biff!" would fly on the screen every time he punched someone, only here, it's less in your face).
The performers are all-around well-fitted to their roles, and most even have a striking resemblance to their character. I was most surprised by Michael Cera, who usually plays the same role in every single movie he is in (awkward teen in hoodie with guitar). Here, the usual criteria for his characters come in handy as they fit Scott pretty well (though Scott actually plays bass). The character in the novel always seemed very awkward and eccentric, not soft-spoken like Cera usually is, but again, I was quite surprised as I had dreaded that he might end up ruining the movie all by himself.
The film follows the novels pretty well, copying most of the battles directly from the book. Of course there wasn't time to put in every little event, but it's to be expected when trying to bring the film in at a decent runtime. The biggest changes that I was able to notice all came in the last act, but that was because the final volume hadn't even been released when the screenplay was written or even when filming was wrapped.
Even though this was so, most of the ending remained true to the book, which is because Bryan Lee O'Malley was a consultant on the film. Most of the parts that were changed were due to omissions and small changes in details while still keeping the same ultimate conclusion intact. It was interesting to see little bits of the final novel sprinkled into the final section. The final scene in particular, pulled directly from the book, is a perfect conclusion to the story.
If you're a fan of the graphic novels, or have never even heard of them before, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is a great film filled with humor, romance, action, drama, and music. Edgar Wright and his crew had a daunting task in adapting this great material, but they were able to mix it together just right for the big screen, and have ultimately made one of the best films of the year. 3.5/4 stars.
WOW! I now know you are just a paid plant from the studios.
It's always a hard job adapting a comic book to a film, especially when said comic has it's own visual flair and a way of doing things that just doesn't translate to the screen as well as you'd think. Last year Zack Snyder brought us Watchmen, albeit a much different comic, trying to adapt one of the medium's most celebrated volumes to the screen with very tepid results. Sometimes directors and studios miss the point, sometimes the work is either too colossal to fit into a film or really doesn't lend itself to the format. Scott Pilgrim is one of those comics that you would think upon reading would never work in a live-action format. That fact was not lost on Edgar Wright, who rose up to the task of directing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Instead of straining against his genius comic source, he dives into it, with phenomenal results.
The brilliance of the film is in that it literally is a living, breathing version of Bryan Lee O'Malley's epic anime/punk/video game inspired opus. When Scott destroys an enemy he visibly gains experience points, rising out of the disintegrating body. Emotional battles become full scale showdowns with past baggage. Wright pulls out every stop to bring us images that stimulate our senses and advance the plot without giving us a break to think how silly it might all look with a less competent director. Wright is also very crafty in condensing down six volumes (containing about 200 pages each) to a two hour film and barely losing any of the core material. Yes, I missed several subplots and I was surprised to find dialog coming from different mouths, but I'd take that over a bloated film that didn't know when to stop.
For those not in the know, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World tells of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, in the first role I have fully enjoyed him in) who meets the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The problem with Ramona is that her exes have formed a league to torment Ramona and destroy any would be boyfriends. Scott must defeat them one by one with the help of his sarcastic gay roomate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin, stealing the damn show) and his band, Sex Bob-omb.
The cast in this film is perfect. Not one actor feels out of place and they all click with each other. Cera, Winstead, Culkin, Ellen Wong, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman and especially Jason Schwartzman all deserve major kudos for their excellent work here and being so damn game. I only feel like Shota and Keita Saito are left out as most of their story from the comic is left out, which is the only minor problem I had with the film. Kudos also to Beck and Broken Social Scene for bringing the bands' music to life and rocking the shit out of it.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a unique film and the most successful direct comic book to film adaptation to date. It's a film that deserves to be seen and marveled at. Few films these days give us protagonists we can relate to on such an epic quest. I would say not since the Star Wars trilogy have I been this involved with the hero's journey. Sadly, it's already looking like Scott Pilgrim is having a hard time reaching those outside it's target audience. It's nothing new to us geeks and we wouldn't have it any other way.
A fun, highly orignal and stylised flick with a lot of laughs and some great characters. I would have liked to have known a bit more about Ramona Flowers to care more, but I guess part of her charcter was supposed to be withdrawn and mysterious. Also some of the fight scenes were a bit too much on the silly side but most of the time it was a winner and a great time at the movies. 8/10
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
What are the ingredients of a good movie? The entertainment, acting, or direction; these are three of the many possibilities of why people go to the movies. Overall, they just want the experience that coincides with what they want from that movie. They want the comedy, the romance, or the frenetic action that certain directors can easily wet their appetite. However, for director Edgar Wright and his newest film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The world, he feels that taking a bit from each of those films would create his own concoction of what to bring to the film medium. The result is a movie filled with energy, laughs, and even underlying themes that people can definitely resonate to, even though the way itís presented can seem a bit overwhelming.
A movie like Scott Pilgrim can feel overstated, and thatís clearly understandable. When it was in the theaters, it didnít do that well, mostly with either an immense dislike with Michael Cera, or just that the tone of the movie is just not for them. At those claims, I canít argue about the first one. Iím still a fan of Mr. Cera, and this movie still reinforced it, but I can see how people are tired with his shtick and wonít risk throwing money with him as the leading man. However, I canít help but throw my defense on the second argument. While the trailers, as well as television spots, put a reliance on the visuals and action, there is so much than that. The movie, adapted from the comic/magna series created by Bryan Lee OíMailey, has themes that I think many people can resonate with, and if you arenít up with going head-on into those themes the action, music, and comedy are more than reliable to fall back on.
One of the themes is dealing with heartbreak and moving on with your life. There may have been one instance in peoplesí lives where that certain someone broke up with you and completely changed the way you look at life. You donít know what to do, and even are unable to break forth into what can be looked as a positive future. You may even ending up hurting the people around you. This is the overlying conflict that the titular character Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera, faces in the movie. Heís a 22 year old slacker, depends on his friend Wallace Wells for a place to live, and is in a band called Sex Bo-omb. He is perfectly comfortable with the life he is currently in, which is dating a high school senior called Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). However, thereís that feeling that Scott isnít happy, and is merely using the relationship to not face the complete loneliness that is in him. This is where the character of Ramona Flowers enters; Scottís potential love interest, who has similar baggage in terms of Scottís problems.
This coupling comes fast and furious, especially with the meta-physical ways that the movie brings these two characters together, which is the way that Bryan Lee Oí Maileyís work is usually based off. However, the price of these characters coming together is the fact that Ramonaís baggage comes in the form of her seven evil ex-boyfriends, who Scott must defeat in order to truly be with Ramona. While these seven evil ex-boyfriends perfectly embody a video game boss that heroes must overcome to get the princess in the visuals that director Edgar Wright displays, they are simply the baggage that every man and woman has when they are going into a relationship. Wright just goes for the literal ideas that Oí Mailey presents in his novels. However, while the themes of romance are literal on the film medium, Wright definitely embraces the comic book/video game fighting that explodes between Scott Pilgrim and each individual ex, invigorating the movie for the movie viewer that craves exciting action.
And what exciting action is delivered! In most action movies recently, itís all about the quick cuts and excessive shaking camera movements that compliments as what an action movie can be portrayed. For Scott Pilgrim, the action is staged perfectly, showing exactly what is being fought and not relying on moving the lens around in order to blind out the actual hits. The best part of this Scott Pilgrim is how mostly every fight is different, especially a scene where Scottís band is involve. Oh, and lest I forget about the music that accompanies the film! The soundtrack, mostly produced by Beck and Nigel Godrich, it has that garage band feel that you would hear from a typical bar show, but itís catchy and definitely elevates the action, as well as toning it down for the personal scenes of character development.
Now, for a film that juggles all these types of films into one movie, Edgar Wright has a collection of lively and charismatic actors that help bring the comic book characters to life, as well as providing enjoyable characters for the average movie goer. For Michael Cera, he embodies Scott Pilgrim. While the comic book character does have that occasional crazy outburst, Cera downplays them in order to not make the character truly irritating for the audience. Also, while most of his past characters have had that down beaten loser personality, this character is much more confident, as well as assertive and confrontational as the movie progresses, reinforcing the eventual arc that this character is going to achieve. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also great as the mysterious, yet beautiful Ramona Flowers that becomes Scottís girl of his dreamsÖ.literally. She brings an aura and dryness that makes the character interesting; especially to the goofiness that is Ceraís Scott Pilgrim.
The rest of the cast are also solid. Ellen Wong is full of energy and bubbly as Knives Chau, the high school student that Scott begins dating. Mark Webber, Allison Pill, and Johnny Simmons are great as the band members in Scottís band Sex Bob-omb. Kierkan Culkin almost steals the show as Scottís roommate Wallace Wells. As for the exes that begin tormenting Scottís life, all the actors are simply excellent, portraying their comic characters perfectly, or even putting their own hilarious spin on them.
However, the real star of this film is Edgar Wright, who simply has a tremendous eye towards how he wanted to adapt the comic book material, as well as put everything that came to be an excellent film. When it isnít staging exciting action pieces, itís having impeccable editors who make every scene flow seamlessly, as well as an enjoyable soundtrack. Then, as the final grace, itís throwing those subtle, sometimes not subtle video game references that would get certain movie goers excited as well.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is simply great movie making, as well as a wonderful movie experience. Itís the equivalent of listening through an album for the first time. You sort of have some kind of enjoyment from it, but arenít sure if you really want to check it out. However, after a real listen, you find a truly great music experience that will be on your iPod playlists for weeks. For me, that cd is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
This is a fantastic movie. I'm more of a mainstream DC/Marvel person, so I never heard of Scott Pilgrim until the movie release. I have since read the first TPB and just started the second one.
It is disappointing that this bombed at the box office. IMO this was one of the best films of 2010. The actors were cast perfectly. Nice for Brandon Routh to appear in a film that wasn't straight to DVD lol. I can't think of anything I didn't like about the movie, either. Parts are over the top here and there, but it's a comic book movie. Duh.
"Wallace Wells" was the best part for me. Kulkin stole every scene he was in. Loved Routh's scene as the best of the exes.
A great movie to have in the collection.
It is full of action and laughter i enjoyed it from start to finish.
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