Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six book graphic novel has become a motion picture produced by Universal and directed by Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame. Edgar Wright certainly knows how to make a great comedy but was he able to bring Bryan Lee O’Malley’s characters and story to life on the big screen? Read on as give my thoughts on how the new film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stacks up to the graphic novel.
From the beginning of the movie you know that you’re in for a good time. With a cheeky reference to the story taking place in the magical land of Canada followed by some mostly verbatim comic dialogue and a rock’n intro. From that point on the movie more or less continued to exceed my expectations. While Michael Cera is not exactly Scott Pilgrim and I felt he was more convincing in the animated short Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation produced by Jason DeMarco one off the main guys we can thank for a little action block called Toonami and animated by Titmouse Inc. who animate Metalocalypse among other cartoons that rock. The short made me pine all the more for a Scott Pilgrim animated series and if you have not seen it then mosey on down to Adult Swim’s website and feast your eyes and ears on the enjoyable short. Cera’s performance in the movie isn’t quite what I wanted for Scott but he did a commendable job none the less. I enjoy Cera’s awkward acting in other films and did so in this film but its not the most faithful depiction of our hero.
Other characters that were not quite up to snuff with the comic would include Kim Pine who unfortunately got a lot less importance in the movie than the comic but she was entertaining none the less. Likewise Envy Adams had a much smaller part in the film than the comic as a whole. A case of similar but different would be found in Gideon Graves who is considerably crueler in the comic. He did have a bit of a only nice on the outside persona though and that worked well for the pace of the movie. Lastly if there was a prize for most shafted major players it would go to the Katayanagi twins who did not even get a speaking line from what I could tell having seen the movie twice already. None of their fights with Scott were present but that was to be expected given the film was in the works before their story was told. The battle they did get was one of the most visually spectacular ones in the film so at least they got that out of it but I do wish they had at least been able to talk a bit. In the comic they are able to get into Scott’s head and make him doubt his relationships but I suppose there simply wasn’t time for that and maybe the cliff notes did not include any of that to pull from.
They changed up several fights with good reason but often did an excellent job of taking visuals straight from the comic panels. This was a comic book movie than knew what it was, embraced it but did not let that embrace ruin any given moment the way some overly campy comic movies have done in the past. The video game elements are woven in beautifully. Sound effects are heard all over along with some familiar music here and there and the movie opens with a nifty 8-bit rendition of the Universal theme. Complete with a 90s video game graphic style Universal logo. They also make great use of text on the screen including those ever-entertaining black boxes of character and item related information often taken directly from the comic and they even have some comic style cartoon panels and doodles that pop-up from time to time. All mixing together nicely to create a very complete feeling package. They used their budget extremely well. The visual effects always added to the enjoyment of the scene rather than detracted from it.
I thought I’d touch on the music because it played a larger role than most people may have expected it to. The tracks were appropriately indie rock inspired and the sound track fit the story like a tight but comfortable glove. Nigel Godrich and various bands did an excellent job bringing the indie rock of Scott Pilgrim’s world to life. I was rather surprised to hear recording artist Beck wrote the songs for Scott’s band Sex Bob-Omb. Though I think I prefer Mark Webber’s vocals as Steven Stills better than Beck’s for those songs. I forgot how well indie rock suits fight sequences but the producers of this movie didn’t. Good on them.
The pace of the movie was great. The transitions kind of get abrupt here and there but you get used to that pretty quick as it becomes a bit of a running gag. They gave adequate screen time to at least most of the evil ex’s and while many events were entirely skipped I did not personally feel like they needed to be there or would have made the movie better. As I already said, the Katayanagi twins got the shaft compared to the other ex’s and more of them might have been good but if they tried to juggle too much the movie would have suffered for it. The story really does not suit a multi-part film series nor should it have been stretched longer than it was. They did more or less gloss over a lot of Scott’s development as he deals with various situations but there was a more than adequate amount of growth within the film despite that.
The majority of the casting was brilliant. Stand outs to me being Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram and Kieran Culkin as that scene stealer Wallace Wells. How appropriate to have Superman as Todd. Routh’s time as the character was brief but I loved every minute of it. Where as Culkin absolutely stole the show as Wallace just as the character was written.
It should be noted the ending is handled quite a bit differently than the comic and I do not want to spoil the comic so I have been purposefully leaving out details but I can honestly say I liked the movies ending a bit better than the comic’s. Though I would say I felt the comic’s ending was good but kind of did not stack up well against the rest of the story as a whole while the movie’s ending was appropriately climactic compared to the rest making the build-up flow nicely up to the final show down with Gideon Graves. They also do a great job of bringing back an earlier moment of the film in the final battle.
With all of that said I will simply state Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a very faithful adaptation of the graphic novel that did an excellent job retelling the story with a few changes here or there to speed things up and even make certain parts a bit more entertaining. It is a tremendously fun ride from start to finish even with the slow start that the first book had before the story took its 180 from a somewhat standard snarky romantic comedy to an over the top action packed snarky romance comedy. It’s a visual spectacle with great fight choreography that was chock full of video game and comic references and the witty dialogue you’d expect from the Scott Pilgrim series.
The movie had a style all of its’ own and could become a cult classic but at the very least it’s hilarious and action packed and that is all that really matters. Video game based movies could learn a thing or two from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It knew when to be genuine and when to be campy and balanced both nicely. Read the comics and see the movie. They compliment each other perfectly.