'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' (dir: Edgar Wright, 2010), Cert: 12A
From a Zom-Rom-Com to a Police Action-Comedy, British director Edgar Wright is hardly afraid to try new things. Both his previous pictures ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004) and ‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007) have gone down a storm in the United Kingdom and the United States, so it was obvious Hollywood would be approaching him soon. He was offered various projects including the remake of George A. Romero’s ‘The Crazies’ but he turned them down to make the screen adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels entitled ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’. The film blends various genres and breaks the boundaries between film and video games causing a collaborative film-going experience. It’s a gamble for most directors to take on a project of this gravity; so has Wright pulled it off, or is ‘Scott Pilgrim’ too hot to handle?
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a total slacker. He’s “between jobs” and unmotivated; he lives with his gay friend Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), he’s dating a Chinese high-school girl called Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and is the bassist in a failing band called ‘Sex Bob-omb’. However, Scott’s relaxed and awesome life is about to be turned on its head when a mysterious girl from his dreams appears in reality. This mystery girl is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead); she’s drop-dead gorgeous, glides across town on rollerblades and sports neon-coloured hair. Scott is instantly smitten and does all he can to keep Ramona re-appearing in his life. After he gets a date with her, she informs him that if they are going to be an item, Scott must take a dive into her dark past and defeat her seven evil ex-partners. Each ‘ex’ has a unique power or skill that will disadvantage Scott from winning the battles he faces, so Scott must power-up, stay loved up and get ready to face the fights of his life. As the tagline says, ‘Love is a battle, so fight for it’.
As a huge fan of the original novels, I was concerned as any fan would be just how this film would translate to screen. The novels are glazed with pop culture references, video game stylisation and most importantly, they are black and white. Despite lacking page colour, the characters and stories scream with colour and beauty, and I was worried how that would change for the Silver Screen. However, the moment the Universal logo appeared on the screen in retro game style and played the famous theme in 8-Bit sounds like in any original Nintendo game, I relaxed hugely. In fact, no fan of the novels needs to worry because Wright’s screen version of the beloved character is so faithful, it seems impossible that the film is only 112 minutes long. It contains 6 volumes of text and characterisation in that short space of time, but its Wright’s pace and accuracy that makes this possible. Not one moment of the film is stagnant, it’s always moving, always gaining momentum and forcing on to the next scene. But don’t think that means the fights are rushed; they are prolonged and get every moment of screen time they deserve.
Each battle is bigger, better and more spectacular than the last; with dizzying special effects and beautiful arcade sights and sounds absorbing the screen, it’s hard to drag your eyes off the action for a second. For me, the battle between Scott and the Katayanagi twins is the most astonishing. The blurring light show and the whipping and winding dragons that the twins release on Scott and the band made my jaw drop. I felt like a 10 year-old watching ‘Dragonball Z’ for the first time. It’s a Computer-Animated and Manga festival that dances and glides through the cinema.
The video game effects are astonishing; with ‘1 up’s’, ‘hit combos’, ‘K.O’s’, ‘continues’, life bars and coins for each win, this is a breath of fresh air to cinema. Video games nowadays are more cinematic than ever and it’s a wonderful thing for the cinema to become more retro when it comes to its portrayal of video gaming. O’Malley’s novels were paying homage to games such as ‘Super Mario’ and ‘Zelda’, and Wright’s picture has held onto that homage and clutched it for dear life.
|Still from 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' (dir: Edgar Wright, 2010)|
In fact, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ has everything. It’s wonderful to look at, it’s heartfelt and hilarious, and it’s genre-defying and bursting with originality. If you’re a comic book fan, a video game fan or a kung-fu fan, you will have an absolute ball watching this picture. But if you aren’t a fan of these genres, there’s plenty more to enjoy. The awkward yet engaging relationship of Scott and Ramona is a wonderful thing to watch, the lashings of comedy and modern cultural systems are worked deep into the script and picture to bear an almost realistic portrayal of contemporary youth which is engaging and thrilling.
The performances are also great; Cera is fabulous as Scott and he was the perfect choice for the role. Winstead nails Ramona; her actions, mannerisms and characterization truly capture the novel’s dream-girl. Culkin is genius as Wallace and Wong is brilliant as Knives, together they bring the forefront of the comedy and Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman are easily the best of the ‘evil ex’s’. Evans as Lucas Lee is marvelous, Routh’s performance as Todd Ingram is side-splitting and Schwartzman captures all the childish menace of Gideon Graves, the seventh and final ‘evil ex’.
This is definitely up there with the best films of 2010; it’s battling with my current winner, ‘Inception’ for the top spot, but we’ll see how the rest of the year pans out.
All in all, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is a wonderfully unique, bold and brave picture that combines various media formats in order to make a truly original piece of work. It’s a masterpiece and is bound to be a cult classic in years to come.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – A dazzling, mind-blowing cinematic experience that everyone should see. If you loved ‘Kick-Ass’ then this will be golden for you. I’m definitely grabbing a ticket to see this fantastic picture again.
By Chris Haydon