August 14, 2010 by Paul Curtin
While Scott Pilgrim vs. the World might not be the best film based on a comic book or graphic novel, it’s damn close, and it brings new life to the genre of films targeted towards the video game generation. After directing Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright has awarded us with another cult classic, but this time he introduces a new and proper way of seamlessly integrating artistic styles from the original Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series onto the big screen in a way that is neither cheesy nor out-of-place and is sure to be imitated by many movies in the future.
Not being a big comic book reader myself, I had never heard of Scott Pilgrim until news of the film’s production started hitting the net. For others who might not be familiar with the Scott Pilgrim series: Edgar Wright’s film is based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series and is shot very similarly to how O’Malley drew the original series.
The film tells the tale of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), an unemployed hipster and bass player in a local Toronto band called “Sex Bob-Omb”, who falls in love with Ramona Flowers, literally the girl of his dreams and new girl in town… with tons of baggage, of course. But before turning into another sappy love story, the film takes a quick turn towards the action genre once one of Ramona’s evil exes reveals himself as said baggage and challenges Scott to a fight for her love.
The stunning visuals are by far the best part of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and are what make the film not another romantic comedy. Even the slower scenes use CGI pop-ups to illustrate reactions from characters and sounds made by objects, which all keep the film feeling like a true comic book / video game adaptation, in a way that no other movie has ever been able to successfully accomplish.
Although the entire movie is filled with comic book-inspired visuals, the battles between Scott and the evil exes are where they really shine, with each evil ex having his own form of super-powers, which forces Scott to come up with new and creative ways to defeat them. With the film never taking itself too seriously, the action sequences are still totally awesome and packed with real fighting that will keep will viewers on the edge of their seats — similar to Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and how the terribly executed Dragonball: Evolution film should have been directed. (Take note, James Wong.)
With the story’s protagonist being a ladies’ man who kicks the asses of seven evil exes, Michael Cera might not seem like the best choice for the leading role of Scott Pilgrim. But with the film never explaining how a guy like Scott gets so many girls and is able to instantly transform into a world class fighter, Cera is able to nail the role by being typical Cera. In addition to Cera’s usual quick-witted humor, the film’s supporting cast are equally as funny and each character is able to stand out, despite being given limited screen time.
But Edgar Wright’s film is not without its flaws. The film feels somewhat rushed during its second half, which is understandable with the original graphic novel featuring six volumes that have been trimmed down to under two hours for the film; however, it would have been much more enjoyable if Wright had stretched it out a little longer to help develop some of the characters more and not rush battles between the exes one after another. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as Ramona Flowers, yet her character never gets enough time to develop as anything more than an attractive punk rocker chick with little to say, which will leave many rooting for Scott’s other love interest in the film, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a 17 year-old Japanese school girl who simultaneously fights for Scott’s love.
Although Scott Pilgrim isn’t the “epic of epicness” and perfect film I had hoped it to be after months of following the film, there are many fight scenes that do indeed feel epic. I’m sure some fans of the original graphic novel would disagree, but most people can agree that this is the role Cera was born to play. From the over-the-top visual styles and fight scenes to the hipster video game generation humor, Edgar Wright has created a new style of making comic book films that feels spot-on and will be used as inspiration for many future movies. With Christopher Nolan’s Inception still being the real masterpiece of 2010 and Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass also being slightly better, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World takes a close 3rd place in the battle for movie of the year, but in the process it wins over the hearts of the geeky video game nerds in us all.