- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen Zack Snyder announced that he would be adapting Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” for the big screen, many people didn’t think it was possible, claiming that the source material was unfilmable. The same could probably be said of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” books, a six-volume comic series loaded with quirky characters, geek-friendly pop culture references, and the kind of ADD-style pacing that only a kid who eats Ritalin mixed with his sugar-coated breakfast cereal could follow.
Filming one volume would be hard enough, let alone adapting all six into a single movie, but that’s exactly what Edgar Wright has done with “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” an ambitious, wildly original action-comedy that could prove to be a game-changer for the comic book genre in the same way that James Cameron’s “Avatar” was for 3-D. It’s also a surprisingly faithful adaptation that will not only please fans of the book, but will likely earn O’Malley a new legion of Pilgrimites.
Michael Cera stars as the title character, a 22-year-old slacker who’s still recovering from an emotional break-up with his last girlfriend (Brie Larson) over a year ago. Nowadays, he splits his time between hanging out with his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin), playing bass in the band Sex Bob-omb alongside friends Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Kim Pine (Alison Pill), and enjoying the simplicity of dating his new 17-year-old girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). In fact, Scott Pilgrim’s precious little life is relatively low-key until he meets the literal girl of his dreams, fuchsia-haired delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and things suddenly get very complicated. That’s because Ramona has some emotional baggage of her own, and if Scott hopes to continue dating her, he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes (including Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh and Mae Whitman) or die trying.
Much like Wright’s TV series, “Spaced,” the world of “Scott Pilgrim” falls somewhere between reality and fantasy – where strange and unusual events occur without explanation or astonishment from any of the characters. This is a necessary loophole in the story, as Scott’s journey is essentially a literal translation of the age-old maxim, “love is a battlefield.” (Okay, so it’s really only a Pat Benatar song, but that doesn’t make it any less true.) As such, fights are staged like video games, with each evil ex serving as the final boss at the end of the level, and bursting into a shower of coins when defeated. Wright also employs a heavy use of 8-bit sound effects, onscreen graphics, and pixilated special effects, while real-world sounds are animated in comic book-style lettering. The visuals in this movie are off the charts, but there's more to it than just that.
The writing is just as sharp and witty as O’Malley’s comics, and it’s to the credit of Wright and co-writer Michael Bacall that they were able to cram all six volumes into one movie. There’s still quite a bit missing, but it’s nothing too major that fans will cry foul over its absence. Wright makes the most of his tight script by keeping it moving along at the same breakneck pace with a combination of fast edits, split screens, and just about any other trick he can conjure. The ensemble cast is also great, and though nearly every actor owns their role (the evil exes do a particularly good job with such limited screen time), there are a few standouts in Kieran Culkin and bubbly newcomer Ellen Wong.
If there’s one downfall to the film, it’s that the very things that make the movie so entertaining to someone from my generation, might be the reason older audiences can’t stand it. But that’s really just a matter of taste, and shouldn’t work against what Edgar Wright has created. After all, if you’re a fan of the source material – or just really like video games, comic books, music, or anything else that falls under the pop culture umbrella – then there’s a good chance that you’ll love “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” as much as me. It’s not just a love letter to the books, but to Digital Age geeks everywhere.
Level Up! Collector's Edition Review:
As if making one of the best films of the year wasn’t enough, Universal has also produced one of the best Blu-rays with the two-disc release of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” which is jam-packed with over five hours of bonus material. Better yet, that doesn’t even include the option to view the film with a picture-in-picture storyboard track, a pop-up trivia track, or one of four (!) audio commentary tracks. And though the first commentary with director/co-writer Edgar Wright, co-writer Michael Bacall, and author Bryan Lee O’Malley is undeniably the best of the bunch, the other three – with Wright and director of photography Bill Pope; actors Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Ellen Wong and Brandon Routh; and actors Kiernan Culkin, Mark Webber, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza – are worth checking out at some point.
The rest of the disc is overflowing with extras, including a 49-minute making-of featurette, a lengthy collection of pre-production footage like animatics, costume tests, audition tapes and rehearsals, and all of Wright’s weekly blogs from the official site. There are also dedicated featurettes on the film’s music, visual effects and sound, nearly an hour of deleted scenes, alternate takes, and other bits and pieces (like the alternate ending where Scott ends up with Knives instead of Ramona), as well as a blooper reel, music videos, the Adult Swim animated prequel, and much more. There’s so much here that you’ll easily spend an entire day going through it all. I know I did.