Okay. So I know this movie’s been out for an eternity (it’s already on dvd pretty much everywhere else in the world but good ol’ South Africa) and I have no idea what exactly inspired Nu Metro to bring it to local screens, but I’m going to go ahead and say ‘Thank You’ to them anyway. They need a new logo (and their website is finally starting to look like it was designed in the late 2000s) but if they continue to bring us the movies that other companies (you know who) don’t, then I can abide by their spot in the market.
[As an aside, isn’t it sort of indicative of how annoyingly design and brand conscious I am that I prefer Ster Kinekor just because of their website and logo? I’m sure someone somewhere else can tell me how I’m going wrong here, but a sexy website does so much to appeal to my lazy brown eyes. Whatever. Review time!]
I first became aware of Scott Pilgrim about, I dunno, two years ago, when my friend (and fully practicing comic nerd/Sherpa) Greg tried to encourage me to pick up the comic series. It came out as six neat digest volumes and looked all kinds of cute and cuddly. I’d heard of it before, but it had sort of passed me by the way that so many indie titles do when you’re flipping through a catalogue that’s mostly packed to the rafters with superhero merchandising (that’s erroneous, but it’s a big motherfucking catalogue, so there). Greg’s pitch was simple (and most likely pulled from actual press copy): “In order to date the girl of his dreams – literally of his dreams – Scott Pilgrim must first defeat her seven evil exes in combat.”
It is, I’m sure you can admit, both beautifully simple and extremely intriguing all at once, right? As far as premises go, it sounds more than a little unconventional, blurring those lines around the edges of reality that we all like shaken to sitcom dream sequence murky every now and then. I decided to try out the first volume and loved it. Everything about Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s writing and artwork is perfect. He executes each beat, line and panel with solid storytelling and sharp, dry wit. It was a blast to read.
The movie adaptation, following the same premise, is one of those rare moments in Hollywood when the producers or studio heads didn’t seem to step in and shrug ‘magnanimously’ at the finished product because they didn’t get it. It’s also one of those times when a comic book adaptation is handed to someone who knows when to slavishly recreate and when to blaze his own trail (or so I’ve been informed; I’ve only read volume 1, after all). Edgar Wright, director of other movies you love like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, manages to do something unique and amazing with Scott Pilgrim, while still preserving some of the key aesthetic elements of the original comic.
In other words, kids, the movie looks awesome.
During the opening sequence, a practice session for Scott’s band (the awesomely named “Sex Bob-omb”), we’re treated to a jagged flow of cartoonish sound effects coming from the instruments and a sort of warping of the typical movie reality. I thought this was going to be one of the few times that we see this trick used in the movie, but Wright decides, and (puns aside) rightfully so, to stick with it for the whole thing. Never once does he stop to let you consider that what you’re seeing is anything other than the way this world, Scott Pilgrim’s comic book-y cartoonish world, works. There’s a lot of this kind of dreamy stuff filtering into the ‘real world’ in the movie, and it makes each steady escalation of style and form more palatable. The battles get more epic as they get more ridiculous, but it’s all acceptable because the movie never hides what it is. He’s not making another Michael Cera indie-tinged teen comedy that occasionally watches like something you last played at the Magic Company arcades when you were 12 (or, if you’re me, when you were 22). He’s made a complete movie that is a comic book and a video game and still just a really good movie.
But enough about the visuals, what about the rest of the movie?
The plot’s solid. Obviously it has to rush through a lot of stuff, because it’s adapting 6 volumes of comics plotting and character development into under 2 hours. There are 7 evil exes for Scott to meet, challenge and defeat in anime-style combat. That doesn’t exactly leave a lot of room to explain the motivations of each and every single supporting character. Most of them are pretty clearly defined by the one-line write-ups they get when you first meet them, provided in little black captions on the screen, just like they are in the comics. The only major weak point in the movie becomes Ramona Flowers, the girl Scott is desperate to be with, because their relationship seems sort of magically fast-tracked into seriousness (remember, this is supposed to be the kind of girl you’d wanna literally fight for) and it doesn’t even ever really feel like they’re dating in any real way. It’s because of this that Ramona comes across as a sort of brooding version of Nathan Rabin’s “Manic Pixie Dream Girl“, but you’ve just gotta remind yourself that, in the world of Scott Pilgrim, you’re already suspending so much of your disbelief that you may as well just go ahead and accept the fact that they’re dating. Once you do that, you can just go along for the ride.
And what a ride it is.
The One-Liner: Just as the title of this post implies, Scott Pilgrim vs The World blew my freakin’ mind right from beginning to end.
The Best: The visual style of the movie: Edgar Wright finally finds an effective way to bring a comic book to life without resorting to unnecessary bullet time effects (I’m looking at you, Zack Snyder) or compromising the style of the source material.
The Worst: Scott and Ramona are supposed to be dating, but they don’t seem like they are.
Rating: Full Bone!