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Old 08-12-2010, 10:00 PM
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.
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