Film Review: Scott Pilgrim VS. The World

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a film adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s fine “Scott Pilgrim” series.  It stars Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, along with a large cast of excellent actors from comic heroes Chris Evans and Brandon Routh to newcomers or little-known actors like Ellen Wong and Mae Whitman.  It is directed by Edgar Wright, of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame.  And it is among the best movies to come out this year.

A mash-up of romantic comedy and action film, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World lacks the ramshackle, loosely plotted charms of O’Malley’s comics, but it makes up for it with a killer pace and some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen in a movie.  More so than something like Avatar, Scott Pilgrim seems to herald a brighter future for CGI-driven action.  Like Avatar, the action of the film, quite possibly the reality of the film, leans heavily on computer animation.  Unlike Avatar, Wright & Co. didn’t master the effects and then give up – they went on to craft a world, one filled with fascinating characters and touching moments in between bizarre, musical-style sequences of playful violence. In Avatar, you admired the effects and tried to forgive the shoddy plotting and lazy characterization.  In Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, you accept the effects and live in the movie.

Wright and his casting team made some brilliant choices, and then made some more, and then kept on making them: even the bit parts of the film, characters like Jill, Envy, Comeau, etc… are impeccably cast, maintaing not only the look of the comics, but the sensibility of the story.  Aubrey Plaza, Alison Pill, and Kieron Culkin stand out as, respectively, Julie Powers, Kim Pine, and Wallace Wells, and steal almost every scene they’re in, but there’s not a single bad casting decision in the movie.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is not a movie everyone will like, but it’s a movie everyone should see.  Like it’s closest relative, Kung-Fu Hustle, it combines shockingly deft comedy with some of the best action you will ever see, but while Kung-Fu Hustle is an obvious touchstone (as is Wright’s hyper-referential/excellent sitcom Spaced), Scott Pilgrim is a truly unique film.

Unlike many films and shows that toss out pop culture references left and right (say, Epic Movie or Family Guy), Scott Pilgrim is, well, good.  The references, far from random, serve to bring us deeper and deeper into Scott’s brain and tell us why he’s doing what he’s doing, an audio-visual shorthand that clues us into Scott’s head.

It isn’t flawless, not even close.  The last minute of the film feels tacked on, like studio testing suggested that what they were building to was too frightening and mature an ending to consider.  The film could have used an extra 10-20 minutes, to space the fights a little better and give Scott and Ramona’s burgeoning relationship a chance to breathe.  Or just to flesh out Ramona a little more, an important character given somewhat short shrift by the film.

But it’s not often that a film suffers from too much ambition these days, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World certainly has that.  Bursting with ideas and with a sense of style all its own, you won’t see anything like it for a long, long time.  See it in theaters.  Even if you don’t love it, and there’s every chance you won’t, you’ll be glad that you did.  It’s funny.  It’s exciting.  It’s smart.  And it has a shocking amount of heart for an CGI-heavy action film that involves demon hipster chicks and people exploding into handfuls of coins.

The Unread Canon #11: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

It is my very learned opinion that Bryan Lee O’Malley made an excellent choice in the structure of his first two “Scott Pilgrim” books.  In the first book, we didn’t have much ground to stand on in regards to the character-based drama/comedy, and so those bits fall at least a little bit flat.  In return, however, O’Malley gave us one of the coolest comic book fight scenes I’ve ever seen.  In Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, however, the fight is almost an afterthought to the growing supporting cast, but because of what he started building in Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, the focus on Scott’s weird friends and weirder world just flat-out works.

Continue reading

The Unread Canon #8: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

Continue reading

Trailer News: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Go, my friends.  Go and be merry.

The film looks like it’ll be a helluva lot of fun, combining the first few Scott Pilgrim books together into what the poster describes as ‘an epic of epic epicness’.  Directed by Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and starring Michael Cera (Arrested Development), we can only hope that it lives up to the hype.

And if you’ve never read the comic series, well… get to it!  The first volume is a little slow, but it’s worth it.