It's a bizarre time to be alive when it comes to cinema! There was a time when the very idea of making a movie based on a comic book was considered risky. Even when the occasional film became successful no real "Trend" toward comic flicks truly happened and many a graphic project for film fell flatter than flapjacks under steamrollers! The past ten years or so, however, have been as different on this subject as World War I is from a PIE FIGHT! Risks were taken on big Comic Book properties to the point that they made incredible amounts of money and earned Oscar nominations. Then smaller heroes hit the screen, then alternative comics, then much smaller almost-icons from the gridded page. Now, in 2010, we have Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, based on a Canadian Black and White graphic series about a sarcastic musician, the women who love him and the spurned exes of his current Belle gunning for him.
If you've heard of "Scott Pilgrim" at all, it's probably because of this movie... if not... it's probably because the movie didn't do so incredibly well. Then again, if you're a big fan of alternative comics, you're probably shaking your head at the screen, making a sour face and demanding "WHO IS THIS GUY???"
Successful or not, it's notable that this Oni Press comic by Bryan Lee O'Malley wasn't made and released by an upstart alternative movie company better known for releasing things straight to video... it was released by Universal Pictures and Relativity Media! Nor was it given to some faux-visionary just starting out. The film was directed by Edgar Wright who cowrote the adaptation with Michael Bacall). Yeah, man the director of Shaun of the Dead, Spaced and Hot Fuzz teamed up with the guy from Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds!
Well... Kick-Ass to the right crowd, that is. The truth is, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is very cool and lots of fun from its surreal dreamscapes to its video-game inspiration to its comic stylings to its... well... to a degree you've just got to see the damned thing.
See, Scott Pilgrim (played by the incredibly mild-mannered Michael Cera) is the bass player in a small Canadian band called "Sex Bob-omb", which is rounded out by (the OTHER) Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) on guitar and his close friend (and former girlfriend) Kim Pine (Alison Pill) on drums. It's the three of them against the world... well, them and their biggest fan "Young" Neil Nordegraf (Johnny Simmons) against the world, right? That is until Scott decides to start dating a NEW girl (new enough to still be in high school) named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), much to the mockery and chagrin of Scott's friends and bandmates. That's not to mention the mockery and chagrin of Scott's roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and Scott's sarcastic older sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick)!
That is until Scott has yet ANOTHER change of heart and begins to persue the beautiful American import named Ramona Victoria Flowers (played by the beautiful american actress named Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Soon Knives, Stacey, Wallace and even Sex Bob-omb are as back-burner to Scotty as the Thanksgiving Cheese Gravy... Yes, folks, all these characters and all these plot points all before we get to the actual plot of this flick... that being that as soon as Scott wins over the sexy Ramona he has to do battle with and defeat all seven of Ramona's evil Exes, each of whom have bizarre super powers.
So let's get to it, then, Ay?
If that's not enough, Scott is also visited by yet another of HIS Exes who has gone on to become a much more successful musician than Scott could ever be. For some reason this Envy Adams (Brie Larson) who just happens to be in Ontario on her world tour just in time to coincide with the challenge of the Evil Exes! Quel Chance! Somehow, in spite of her successes, wealth, fame and equal evil she also still has a bit of a "thing" for Scott.
Yeah, what are the odds? And what are the odds that he'll be successful against all seven of these bad guys while Knives is still mad at him, his band thinks he's a selfish dick and Ramona is actually much cooler than he is?
Well, I guess that's the core of the film... and the idea that such an ambitious film would have a sad ending is not bloody likely. This, of course, makes the film somewhat predictable. However, Wright keeps things going with the remarkably surreal proceedings and flashy fight sequences, not to mention the odd, whacked out fantasy and sci-fi rules this film (and its source material) sets up. The entire film feels much like a Video Game (intentionally) from the scores that pop up at the top of the screen to the instant replays to the coin rewards for each victory to... well, let's just say if you've played a video game you know how far from real life they are (including the very realistic games).
Much of the strangeness of this film can be explained away as intentional and, to be both fair and honest, a whole lot of fun. In fact, a great deal of the whole Edgar Wright playfulness shines bright and true here with everything but good old Sci-Fi Pegg showing up on screen. By that logic it's almost impossible to nitpick Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, as every step of the way what we see on screen is intentional. However, take away the surreality that remains the name of the game and you've got a great number of question marks.
The biggest issue here is that Wright never truly gives any reason why a milquetoast bumbler with a big, round head like Scott Pilgrim could possibly have so many lovely ladies in love with him in spite of his self-centered, yet self-effacing ways. Cera feels as if he's been cast because he's the flavor of the month, not so much because he fits the part (aside from being a white kid in his early 20s). More often than not, Scott gains our sympathy, but this feels a lot less because of the character himself (or the actor who plays him) than the simple against-all-odds trope that this plot is built upon. He can't possibly win, so when he does we're glad to see it happen... but when we really think about it there's not a whole lot about this title character that truly inspires us to rally behind him, except for the company he keeps.
Still, the company he does keep is pretty cool, even if often the villains come off as a bit cooler. On both sides of the moon, the actors are quite good, the dialogue is rich and sizzles with the pop culture class of Edgar Wright and the actors are all around quite good. All together this makes Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World worth somewhere in the Battle of the Bands of Three and One Half Stars out of Five! Yeah, Scott Pilgrim rocks on the whole and has a fantastical premise that works toward a cool finish. As cool as the sum of its parts are, I find that the one thing I keep getting excited about (beyond how remarkably HOT Mary Elizabeth is) happens to be that kick-ass red Rickenbacker Bass he plays in the movie (and holds in the poster)! Of course that thing costs about three thousand bucks, man!!! How the hell he managed to get that thing is as much of a mystery as how the hell he managed to get Ramona... both really ARE that pretty. So until you hear Ramona Sing and decide to stop reading reviews and just BINGE on the solo songs from the frontman of the Pixies (yeah, it's obscure, but look it up, the whole thing makes sense, I promise) I'll see you four-string slappers in the NEXT REEL!
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