Get the hot girl. Defeat her evil exes. Hit love where it hurts.
I'm in lesbians with this film!
Movie: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by Edgar Wright
Release date 2010
Genre Comic book adaptation/action/adventure/comedy/coming-of-age/video game-ysh film
Country USA/United Kingdom/Canada
Time for one of my favorite recent films I've seen to this day!
It's Universal Pictures' live action movie adaptation of the cult independent manga-inspired Canadian comic book Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley, originally published by Oni Press.
Following his work on two of the "Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy" with his zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead and the buddy cop tribute Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright made a fake trailer for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse called Don't. And after that he finally started production on his next film.
Which would be 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World!
The plot basically follows that of the original comic book to the note, despite both behind produced alongside at the same time for the most part.
The story follows our titular protagonist Scott Pilgrim, a slacker and part-time musician who lives in Toronto. Scott is 22 years old and plays the bass in this cool local band named Sex Bob-Omb (spot the Super Mario Bros. reference!).
Scott lives with this cool gay roommate dude Wallace Wells. His other best friends are Stephen Stills, who plays the guitar in his group, and Kim Pine, on drums. At the beginning of the story Scott starts dating a young 17 years old high-schooler, Knives Chau.
One day Scott falls in love with the girl of his dreams, literally. It's this mysterious girl on rollerblades he keeps dreaming about (who actually is simply "passing through" his dreams). He finds her again at a party. Her name is Ramona Flowers, she's an American "ninja girl" who just arrived from New York after a messy breakup with a guy named Gideon. She is working now as a delivery girl for Amazon.ca.
Scott starts dating her while still with Knives. They go play at a battle of the bands when they're suddenly attacked by one of "Rammy's" ex-boyfriends, Matthew Patel! Scott defeats him into a pile of video game coins, No More Heroes-style. Scott soon discovers he has to accept Ramona's past history... by defeating each of her previous 7 Evil Exes one by one!!
From this point onwards Scott Pilgrim turn into this meta-story, full of pop culture references and meta-allusions to video games AND story structure. Taking a lot of cues from games, Scott must face each of those Exes in boss battles. It's really a story about having to move on and accepting the changes in your life.
Scott finally breaks up with Knives properly, who immediately blames Ramona - she will take her revenge later! Scott starts facing her different exes starting with this Hollywood actor and skateboarder Lucas Lee, winning the fight by tricking him into a dangerous stunt. After that he faces a vegan Todd Ingram who's himself dating Scott's own ex-girlfriend Envy Adams, a girl Ramona had some experiences with Roxanne "Roxy" Richter, the 5th and 6th Evil Exes who are twins they face in the next battle of the bands. Scott even earns a 1-up power-up from them!
Scott starts getting upset with Ramona's own dating history and they break up shortly after. Ramona disappears with her 7th Evil Ex, Gideon Graves who happens to be the last that went through al these Exes. Sex Bob-Omb takes Gideon's offer for a record deal and Scott ends up leaving the band. He goes to visit the band playing for Gideon and challenges Gideon to win Ramona back! He fights for the "Power of Love" (and gets a sword!). Knives fights Ramona. Gideon kills Scott! Scott gets to use his 1-up life and finally discovers the "Power of Self-Respect". Scott learns to respect others and apologizes to both Ramona and Knives.
On the page, it's a story that has been told a thousand of times. A tale about moving on with your life and accepting your past behind to move forward. But it's told in such a fun, zany and original way, made even more relatable for a generation that grew up on video games.
Edgar Wright wanted to make a movie out of the comic right after he read the first volume back when it was first released in 2004. And filming starts as soon as March 2009.
Tue original creator Bryan Lee O'Malley wasn't originally sure about a film adaptation of his work, but they were able to convince him and were able to move forward with the production. Which ended up surpassing anything that has ever come out of these types of adaptations. In most part thanks to Edgar Wright's involvement with the film, it didn't turn into another generic action comedy. Edgar Wright had just finished working on Shaun of the Dead. He wanted to keep O'Malley very involved with the process of the film right from the start.
The film had one long development. It lasted all the while Bryan Lee O'Malley kept working on the other volumes of the book, and some lines from the film would even wound up in later Scott Pilgrim volumes. At the time the movie was still in production there was no material out from the 6th and final Scott Pilgrim volume, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. Bryan Lee O'Malley tried keeping them on the story and they used most of his notes to keep relatively the same story. Although originally the ending of the film was set to be a complete different direction with Scott originally ending with Knives, but after the last book was released showing Scott ending with Ramona and some issues test audiences had with the original movie ending, they quickly filmed a new conclusion to better match the books.
The Scott Pilgrim comic was such a fun "Canadian manga", keeping the story set in the memorable city of Toronto was kept for the film, and it gives both versions of the story so much personality. Edgar Wright wanted to play off the similar imagery.
Where the film really gets to shine is in the video game-inspired aesthetic, playing with a ton of onomatopoeias and SFX added on screen for maximum effect. Right from the great animated title sequence to the end!
Casting is also something Edgar Wright always put a lot of attention in, even for small tiny parts he always want the best people he can find to play those. And Bryan Lee O'Malley approved every single casting decisions. The film relies on a lot of up and coming actors, and he had very little studio interference on that front since he secured Michael Cera right from the start, a very bankable name coming off $100 million-plus successes. Wright wanted someone that wouldn't exactly feel like the perfect protagonist of an action-oriented story, someone that could be kind of an ass as well. Edgar Wright also wanted the always lovely and talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead to portray Ramona. The rest of the cast is rounded by several young promising actors you've probably seen in all kinds of films and television such as Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, the great charismatic Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Brie Larson, the hilarious Aubrey Plaza who we don't get to see much sadly, Mae Whitman, as well as Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins Jr. in funny uncredited cameos as the Vegan Policemen (which I honestly hoped would be played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost instead..) and even Bryan Lee O'Malley himself!
The film moves fast. Right from the start Scott is put in a fight against one of the Evil Exes and then has to battle foes left and right. Right from the pixelated Universal logo to the chip-tune music we know what we're in for.
It's a film that simply embrace video game and comic book culture. If you don't get why foes explode into coins you will also probably miss the ton of references breathing through the film from Pac-Man to Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, etc. It's a film designed for a very specific generation, it was never meant for the mass audience.
It's fun. Different. On the surface the battles against the 7 Evil Exes are entertaining enough. It's flashy. Fantastically choreography.
The film plays off Michael Cera's usually typecast roles as this sort of underachiever, here he's allowed to have some fun, kicking and punching. The film has a great pacing. We get through a ton of locations. Poking fun at gaming culture and tropes and itself. You can say our current pop culture kind of shaped the film.
Ramona can seem a bit distant and Scott also acts kind of douchey, but that's the point. It's a film about getting to maturity, finding one's identity. Our hero begins as a drifter with no real direction in his life, who just sort of happens to be dating Knives. Everything was so simple, he's the older one in the relationship, she doesn't see him for how stupid or emotionally immature he really is. Even if Scott's a nice guy, he's kind of an idiot as well. He then starts fighting for what is really important for him, figuring out he's not exactly the center of the universe. Discovering what he wants out of life. Ramona's the same, she kind of allowed herself to be haunted by these exes, cheating on them. She also goes through a character journey herself. You can say perhaps Scott's making a mistake with Ramona, but at least he's allowed to make this mistake, that's how life goes. You could argue Scott's maybe better off with Knives at the end, but he's just starting to figure things out. (I'm glad they didn't keep the original movie ending for this alone.)
The film is based on very good material. With a perfect flawless casting, I can't imagine it any better. And it's perfectly well edited. At its heart it's a very simple martial arts movie, very effective and straight to the point in a Jackie Chan-kind of way. Edgar Wright is easily one of the greatest most talented directors from this new generation.
Scott faces what it means to actually work for a relationship... by having to face Ramona's past in video game battles! Scott also has some unresolved issues of his own to the point of also producing a couple of "Evil Exes" of his own, including Knives who basically becomes an antagonist for Ramona over the course of the story.
The comic book series was not really about video games but about gamers. About that generation. And the film feels just as authentic. This was clearly a passion project for Edgar Wright, from people that grew up on games. Not just a film ripping off video game tropes or borrowing elements from it like those cheap video games-inspired horror films or bland video game movie adaptations. It doesn't wink or despise games, games are now just part of pop culture.
Not a single frame goes to waste. It's a world inspired by manga and the likes, using speedlines and onomatopeias all over the picture.
The film really grows on you and benefits from several viewings to better appreciate all the work put into it.
Compared to the comic book series, the timeline feels a bit compressed which is a given when you try to put 1000+ pages of material into almost 2 hours of film. The book covered a full year-worth of adventures and the movie is told over only a few hectic weeks. We basically get all 6 volumes in a single film! The only downside is that the translation from book to film means we don't get to know the supporting cast as much given the limited screentime, we're not given enough time with them and I would have loved to see more of them! Only really Scott and Ramona are allowed to be fun, approachable, goofy and badass all at same time.
Michael Cera is usually given awkward indie-types of protagonists and here he can finally have fun with someone with more attitude.
It's stylish. Fun. With a great visual style inspired by comic books and video games. Edgar Wright always fills the frames with a lot of visual cues and jokes.
Finally the film has some amazing music! Scott Pilgrim was a very musical series right from the start, in fact Bryan Lee O'Malley got the inspiration to create the series after a song from the band Plumtree "Scott Pulgrim", which has this same positive attitude and energy. Like all of Edgar Wright's films, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has a great soundtrack composed by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, also featuring Beck, Metric, Broken Social Scene, Cornelius, Dan the Automator, Kid Koala and David Campbell who all contributed to the film's music. Musician and composer Beck wrote all of Sex Bob-Omb music for the film and they had the actual cast learn to play their respective instruments and sing while Michael Cera already played the bass!
Overall, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a really great film unlike any other out there!
This one comes Highly Recommended, it's a Must Watch for a whole generation that grew up with the exact type of things I review on this blog here! The film never tries explaining its concept and you're just expect to go along with it. Sure, some people won't really get it, but it's a really fun film that takes you into this journey that perfectly brings a comic book to life.
Only Edgar Wright could take on this experiment. He's the type of filmmaker that always put a ton of attention and work into getting his details just right. He gets to do that to a whole new level on Scott Pilgrim. The film is full of energy. It can be kind of exhausting if you're out of the loop. It also has some fantastic fight scenes.
Some critics where pretty harsh on the film, though. Some even said the movie made them feel old... I mean, really? This is a fun infectious manga-inspired action/romantic/comedy played off video games and superhero tropes. Full of life, and very true to the original comic books with animated hearts and whatnot. Despite some mixed critical reception that ranged from great to "I don't get it", the film didn't make much money, although it received a lot of praise from fellow renowned directors like Quentin Tarantino, James Gunn or even Kevin Smith. If anything the film was nominated to several awards and became since then a cult classic thanks to the DVD/Bluray/digital download home releases. The film went through a second life of sorts when it was finally released in Japan, a lot of anime and video game figures gave a lot of praise to the film such as Hironobu Sakaguchi, Goichi Suda, Miki Mizuno, Tomohiko Itō, Rintaro Watanabe and Takao Nakano.
The film would help this cult little indie comic book series finally spawn a video game. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, released for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade around the same time, which received mostly good reviews. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Chengdu, featuring animation by Paul Robertson and original music by Anamanaguchi! There also was an animated short, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation which was produced by Titmouse Inc and aired on Adult Swim, mostly a cut chapter from the film, the opening prologue of the 2nd SP book cut from film. Personally I would have loved an entire animated series!
After several failed projects failed to take off including directing the next Mission Impossible film, Tintin (which he also co-wrote), a remake of the black & white classic monster film Gorgo and ditching Ant-Man which he had been working on since 2006 before another director Adam McKay took over, Edgar Wright would finally go back to finish his third installment of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy with 2013's The World's End, this time a tribute to alien invasion films of the 1950s.
I give it: