Graphic novels in the west are generally overlooked when it comes to movies. Normal books have been being adapted since films burst into theatres around the world, but when it comes to Graphic novels nearly all films based on them have been superhero related, with most of them just taking bits and pieces from various story arcs. The only exception to that rule has been the works of Alan Moore. Well, that was until now. With opinions varying wildly, it's time for me to take my own look at..
Scott Pilgrim vs The world
Scott Pilgrim vs The World is based on the comic series by Canadian author Bryan Lee O'Malley. The film adaptation is directed by Edgar Wright, and stars Michael Cera as the titular character, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers and Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. When the film opens, we see that Scott Pilgrim is a twenty-two year old slacker whose only real 'job' is playing bass in his band Sex Bob-omb. He is dating seventeen year old Knives Chau, who goes to a Catholic school and has a deep affection for Scott. One day, Scott sees Ramona Flowers who he instantly develops an obsession over, and goes out of his way to meet her and date her. Eventually Scott and Ramona become a couple, but Scott finds out dating her isn't as easy as first thought. Ramona's Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends are bent on destroying Scott, out of spite for the way she treated them.
Now, the Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends are certainly a key part to the film and why it works, but they're not really what Scott Pilgrim is about. It's not a silly action/comedy with some romance thrown in; Scott Pilgrim is a film with genuine heart. Rather then putting focus on Scott taking out the Seven Evil Ex's, it chooses instead to put it's focus on the relationships between the characters. It's a very human film, with real people rather than caricatures. While there is certainly some spectacular fight choreography and special effects work, that really doesn't detract from the film or what it's about.
Scott Pilgrim is a really about growing up and maturing into a new person. Scott isn't a great person when the film opens. He's certainly likeable, but he acts immature, simply because he doesn't know any better. He treats his girlfriend Knives with little respect, but he stills find her endearing. His lack of respect for her simply stems from his immaturity in relationships. When Ramona comes into his life, it's his cue to finally come out of his shell and grow up to impress her. The Seven Evil Ex's aren't simply an excuse for some action scenes, but they work as a metaphor for Scott overcoming his childish, slacker ways and fighting for Ramona.
The performances really bolster the characters and their depth, too. They work in tandem with the sharp writing to flesh out every single character, even those who are in the film for under ten minutes. I know a lot of people dislike Michael Cera as an actor, but in Scott Pilgrim he is genuinely fantastic. His stilted awkwardness is present, but it's used sparingly and is actually pretty endearing. There is also far more confidence in his performance than in earlier films like Superbad and Juno.
The chemistry between Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is very real and apparent. Even more astonishing is that as characters, they are far different. Ramona is a confident woman who wishes to leave behind her past and start anew on Toronto, while Scott is someone who doesn't really have a deep, dark past and has no inclination to go anywhere outside of the town he was born and raised. Despite the contrast as characters, Cera and Winstead are incredibly believable as a couple. The believability is what makes Ramona a far more engaging and likeable character. She is someone who is running away from her past (the Seven Evil Ex's) to start a new life and in essence, change as a person.
The only flaw I can think of between the two is that the relationship seems to start far too quickly and seems overly impulsive. On the other hand, Ramona is presented as an impulsive character, and this nature is what helps break Scott from his dull, lingering life. Both characters compliment each other, and with the great acting the relationship is thoroughly believable and takes center stage. This relationship between the pair is what helps the audience connect with the diverse themes Scott Pilgrim presents.
The performances and writing combine to make the relationship between Scott and Ramona both sweet, delicate and believable.
The trailers seem to have pushed forward the action elements of Scott Pilgrim more than the romance and character heavy themes. It's a shame, as I feel the characters and themes of Scott Pilgrim are what make it great, rather than the action sequences.
That's certainly not to say they're bad, however. In fact, they're fantastic. Edgar Wright turns the action scenes into something resembling a comic book, with bubbles like 'WHACK!' and 'SLAM!' appearing when punches and kicks connect. These blend seamlessly, thanks to some great editing work and cinematography which keeps the action focused, while still being fast-paced and inventive. The originality is certainly what makes these scenes stand out above other action films. I don't wish to spoil any of them, but I will say they're highly inventive and most importantly, a lot of fun. The strong choreography and use of comic book tropes makes even the simplest of fist fights into something spectacular to watch.
The comic book tropes aren't the only pop culture references snuck into Scott Pilgrim. Most are subtle, with certain pieces of the music being lifted from classic video games and re-scored and certain imagery being taken from manga and other comic books, with description boxes being littered around characters and places to fill us in with amusing information. The use of comic book imagery doesn't just stop at fight scenes and information snippets; the entire film is based around the idea. When music is played, 'noise lines' appear around the band playing it and characters thoughts are occasionally visible floating around their head. The idea of Scott Pilgrim as being set in a 'comic book world' is what helps give a greater sense of suspension of disbelief. The film is ludicrously over the top with how it presents certain things and in any other film they would make no sense. In the world of Scott Pilgrim however, everything works and makes a bizarre kind of sense, as the film has it's own rules in how it operates.
The comic-book style makes Scott Pilgrim look wonderful and unique in it's presentation.
It's a shame a lot of people seem to have horribly negative attitudes towards Scott Pilgrim. The general movie-going public have bundled it into a niche market, a film for those savvy enough to get it's many references. Meanwhile, those who will get them seem to have dismissed it as 'yet more hipster crap'. I love so called 'hipster' movies, but Scott Pilgrim isn't a 'hipster' flick. It's a great spectacle full of knowing winks to those who love geek culture, sure, but at it's heart it's a deeply affecting romantic film with a lot to say about moving on with life.
Scott Pilgrim is my film of the year thus far.. This is saying a lot, considering I also saw Kick-Ass this year, a film that I thought would be firmly rooted in my 'Top 5' for a long, long time. It would seem Scott Pilgrim has come in and Kung-Fu kicked Hit Girl in the face and taken her place. This is a movie that needs to be seen on the big-screen, for sheer spectacle value. It's an emotional, lovingly crafted piece of cinema; the kind that only comes around once in a very special while.