Monday, 9 August 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I figured it would be a good choice to do my first proper review in this blog on a film which combines a lot of stuff I like - kickass over-the-top action, dry observational character-based comedy and a sweet and life-like romance.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a quite good movie, despite it being hard trying to juggle so much stuff. But if anyone could handle it it was Edgar Wright. Wright has proven himself to be able to direct with a fast, music video -like style, of pretty normal and mundane things. He is also able to make symphatetic comedy characters that are properly fleshed out.

Scott Pilgrim is based on a comic-book by Bryan Lee O'Malley. It deals with young hearts clashing while the colorful imagery references video games and manga comics. I see that the OTT style of the comic represents on how the characters feel their (love) life is larger than life. It's how it is with under-25 young people. In this universe characters can do basically anything: crash the moon with the earth, turn people into quarters or make sonic blasts with guitars. Usually this sort of magic requires either love or music, the two biggest mysteries and the hardest to properly explain of all the things humans have created.

The titular character is a slacker in his early twenties. He's just met a new girlfriend, the 17-year-old Knives (Ellen Wong). He introduces her to punk music with his band, Sex Bob-Omb. But as their relationship progresses Scott grows anxious as he's dreaming about a mysterious woman on rollerskates, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). When he finally meets her, he decides that she is the woman of his dreams and gives everything to be with her. But besides having to break up with his prior girlfriend, this means he has to battle seven bitter old flames of Ramona.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out Wright is a perfect director for this source material. It's hard trying to come up with a word for his visual style that doesn't refer to comic books. After all, comics can have vastly different visual styles. But the movie Scott Pilgrim uses a lot of styles usually attributed to the comics media, so there's that. Sound effects are displayed by text, split-screens resemble comic panels, the color scheme is bright and colorful etc. It's worth noting that not everything is copied from the comic book's visuals (like in say, Sin City). Rather, Wright creates his own visual that utilizes much but not everything from O'Malley's original black-and-white drawings. It owes also much to various video games (such as Street Fighter, Devil May Cry and Mortal Kombat) and to anime movies. All in all, this style works better for film than the straight copying of the comic book's style and dynamic would. But there are still a couple of cues straight from O'Malley's book that work just as good on the big screen. I loved the awkward meet of Scott's two girlfriends and the gratitious zooming in the film as much as in the comic.

As I've stated, the editing is fast and furious, even more so than in Wright's previous movies. It is fitting that the soundtrack consists of fast and furious punk rock music as well. I really, really love the film's Sex Bob-Omb songs, composed by the alternative-wonderboy Beck. Another great one is the song played by The Clash At Demonhead, the in-movie band of Scott's and Ramona's evil exes. I can't wait to get the soundtrack. Luckily, there are currently places on the internet where one can listen to it for free! And I'm doing just that. This music rocks, and hard!

O'Malley's story's strength is his large cast of characters, all of whch are well-written and believable in that universe and many of them multi-dimensional. The characters have been formed by their histories, which Wright only has time to subtly reference. Sometimes he uses O'Malley's illustrations to do this.
Wright has chosen his supporting cast well, as even with few lines, they bring out the same characters I fell in love with in the comic book. There are a lot of favorites from the wise-and-goofy-at-the-same-time gay roommate Wallace, the angry redheaded Kim or Scott's ditzy little sister. Or, of course any of the evil exes, with which especially part-time superheroes Brandon Routh and Chris Evans seem to have a blast with. Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are both good, but overshadowed by the frankly brilliant supporting cast. However, their relationship works in the film too, and one can reflect one's own heartbreaks and loves on the screen. This is a feat only films that have characters one can truly identify with, can have.

We in Finland are not that familiar with O'Malley's comic book. Most of my co-workers had not heard of it. I myself ordered the three first books from the web to prepare for this movie. The movie seems to work well for people who don't know the story beforehand too. I myself am still glad I read some of the book, as it fleshes out some relationships and drama as I had a better idea of the character's motivations. The film is aimed for an audience from teens to mid-twenties (more if they are really childish). Many people older from that probably won't understand anything from the kinetic style, or have forgotten what it feels like to have heartache at this age. For us that do, and geek out over the stuff this references, this is warmly recommended. It has a quite tight competition from Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables and Eat, Pray, Love, but like Scott himself, his film might prove out to be quite the fighter.


USA, UK, Canada, 2010
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Edgar Wright, Michael Bacall, based on the comic book by Bryan Lee O'Malley

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