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Film Review No.10: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World


Hope Edgar Wright doesn't mind me "borrowing" this...

First of all, if you did not make the trip to the cinema to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World then shame on you. If you didn’t buy the film upon it’s dvd and Blu Ray release then double shame on you. You want creative, fun and unique cinematic experiences then you have to go see them. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is just that and nowhere near enough people went to see it. But just enough went to make sure this is cemented now in cinematic history as a genuine cult classic and maybe a possible strong influence on future film makers. Click the link to find out why…

Scott Pilgrim is the first US made film by current favourite British export Edgar Wright. Based on the comics created by Brian Lee O’Malley of various similar names which have become cult classics in their own rights this was always going to be quite the challenge for Mr Wright. He’s worked almost entirely in comedy over his career so that was never a worry, it is the various other elements of this densely packed production that make it such a challenge. The story of Scott Pilgrim is as follows… Scott (Micheal Cera) is a young 22 year old guy in Toronto currently dating a 17 year old high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He is a day dreamer and a slacker who’s literally got a girl of his dreams in his dreams. That girl is Ramona Flowers (Mary-Elizabeth Winstead). When Scott sees here in the real world he set’s his goal to capture her heart into effect. Unfortunately Ramona Flowers comes with some pretty unique baggage, seven evil exes. In order for Scott to realise his dream of being with Ramona he must (after breaking up with fake highschool girlfriend) defeat all seven of these exes in Mortal Kombat… Combat sorry. The challenge Wright faced is in the fights, the music and the sheer visual bubblegum that is the world of Scott Pilgrim.

Very much influenced by the imagery of videogames and anime Scott Pilgrim’s world is one of impromptu fights, rocking concerts and those flashy sliding light effects that happen behind someone’s head whenever they are moving real fast. This sort of imagery is created in this film by some intense visual trickery, green screen, CGI effects, clever use of anamorphic lenses to create horizontal lens flairs and various other wizardry are employed to give the film a visual signature quite unlike anything else released in the past barring maybe the Wachowski’s Speed Racer. It’s not all brightly coloured effects though. When the film needs to concentrate on it’s smart, snappy comedy dialogue it slips right back into a comfortable naturalistic toned real world setting, but even that isn’t free from being punctuated by floating words signifying sound effects or various other little comic book effects.

So the film looks good, possibly cinematographer Bill Pope’s most varied piece of work to date,so, how does it sound? Incredible to be quite honest. I am baffled how Scott Pilgrim failed to receive an Oscar nomination for it’s music and sound editing. The songs, largely composed by Beck and Broken Social Scene, are catchy and manage to convey the core of the characters they are made for and give Sex Bob-Omb the sound they need to be convincing as a small starting out band operating on the very fringes of the music industry. Sex Bob-Omb is the band Scott plays bass for along with Stephen Stills (the talent Mark Webber) on vocals and lead guitar and with Kim Pine (Alison Pill) on drums. Kim is also one of Scott’s seemingly endless line of exes. Honestly, there seems to barely be a girl in this world that hasn’t dated Scott, although that’s more evident in the comics than in the film. either way, by the time you’ve heard Sex Bob-Omb play their first song over the films amazing opening credits you’ll be a fan wishing they’d release a full album… and t-shirts for the cool people to wear. As it is we’ll have to make do with the excellent soundtrack. If there’s one musical failing it was the fact that Clash At Demonhead (a band featuring another of Scott’s exes and one of Ramona’s) do not get their own song, instead having a Brie Larson sing version of the Metric song Black Sheep.

The writing in Scott Pilgrim never fails to be fast moving, witty.. or purposely un-witty and most importantly funny. I’ve seen the film around 10 times now (at least) and I’m still not done laughing. Especially at everything Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) or Young Neil (Johnny Simmons) say or do. Once you’ve watched the film once on the second viewing see how many times you can spot Young Neil in the background just randomly hanging out and I think you’ll get my obsession with him. The speed of the dialogue is helped along by Edgar Wright’s trademark fast cutting style which has evolved since Spaced into possibly the most merciless style of editing since the ITV clean version of RoboCop. The film in some ways more of a stylistic advancement on the visual style of Spaced than Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz were.

There’s much talk surrounding this film about its mass of videogame references. Some say this could have been part of what put some people off seeing it first time around. Well that’s OK cos the film isn’t really for them anyway. It’s for people raised of gaming and cartoons. The references do come thick and fast though and you have to be a real geek to get them all. They range from the obvious use of Legend OF Zelda sound effects to the more obscure use of Ryu’s fierce parry counter from Street Fighter 3 being featured in Scott’s first fight. Amongst the other small sight gags there are enemies turning into coins when defeated, Scott wearing a Rock Band Bassist t-shirt, bands being named after various games (one band not mentioned is Scott and Kim’s early collaboration Sonic & Knuckles) and a pretty awesome digitised sword used by G-Man Graves (Jason Schwartzman) at the film’s climax. On a side note it is well worth trying out the tie in videogame on XBLA and PSN, it’s an awesome little homage to River City Ransom.

What is the deal with that light switch? Seriously.

Performance wise everyone plays their characters to perfection. While they may not be the same way myself or other Pilgrim fans may have imagined them to be when reading the books they do all feel different enough from each other to become characters you will love from the moment they start talking. Wallace Wells is a particular treat. Kieran Culkin pretty much steals every scene he’s in be it via his ability to hit Micheal Cera on the head with a set of keys from across the room or how he manages to turn a straight guy gay in the space of one song, he is a memorable character from start to finish. Other nods should go to Brandon Routh who is the third evil ex Todd Ingram, vegan bassist for superstar band The Clash At Demonhead. He is pure hilarity for his entire time on screen. If there’s a fault with the characters it’s that you never get much time with each of the evil exes. They probably all get around 2-5 minutes of screentime each but boy do they make the most of it. The Katayanagi Twins (Keita and Shota Saito) get the shortest amount of screentime and are the only twins to have a vastly different battle from their comic counterparts. This isn’t and issue though as in the comic they unleash a series of robots on Scott that he battles over the course of the whole issue which wouldn’t have fit in the film. To add to that if they had just fought Scott in a battle of fisticuffs it would have been the third hand to hand fight in the space of 20 minutes. Instead we get a true battle of the bands as Sex Bob-Omb go head to head on stage at the same time with the twins in a battle that involves the Yu-Gi-Oh style summoning of giant digital monsters with which to do battle. Quite a spectacular moment to be fair.

Theres a lot of story to have condensed into this film. The 6 issues of the comic are densely packed as they are so translating them directly to film would not have worked. Not without a much larger budget and an approximately 4 hour runtime. Instead we get a condensed version which leaves out various side elements of the story. Even then, at times it can feel a little rushed, especially the speed at which Scott and Ramona get together. Because of the few scenes they have to work with before the first few fights you’re kind of expected to just accept that they’re a couple now. It’s not unbelievable, just a bit faster than you’d expect this sort of story element to move forward at. The first act is very similar to the source material though and it never goes into areas that wouldn’t have fit the style of the comics at any point.

Leave the screen on this pic for more thn 2 minutes and you've given the Katayangai Twins more screen time than they got in the film.

Overall this is a great piece of entertainment. A film that’s easily watchable multiple times not just because of how visually dense each frame is (look out for the light reflections in the window when Scott and Ramona are on the bus) but because it’s one of those films that can be watched over and over without getting old. I’d put in in the same place I’d put films like Ghostbusters, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Pirates Of The Caribbean as a fun film for all moods. It’ll raise your spirits and keep you plenty entertained for it’s near 2 hour runtime. I highly recommend you see it and when you’re done read the comics, and then watch the film again, with commentaries… Also, get the blu ray.

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About lvl54spacemonkey

Just a dude who likes movies and games and has delusions of working in one of those industries. Write screenplays and work on short films in my spare time. Most of which never get finished. View all posts by lvl54spacemonkey

One response to “Film Review No.10: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

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