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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Achieves an Epic Win

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: 5 out of 5 Stars
Kim Pine: Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.
From the fiery depths of geekdom, director Edgar Wright has emerged with a film that dares defy the conventions of both romantic comedies and action films. His adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim series is a wonderful blend of comedy, action, romance, music, and great visual storytelling. This is a film that brings together a hip young cast, plentiful video game references, innovative action sequences, and a strong alternative/indie rock soundtrack, and manages to make it a blast of entertainment for anyone ready to experience a kinetic jolt of fun.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World stars Michael Cera as our 22-year-old, jobless, slacker hero, Scott Pilgrim. Scott may be flawed in more ways than one, but he is also the bassist in a band, Sex Bob-Omb, and a bit of a lady-killer. As the film introduces us to Scott, he has just started dating a high school girl, Knives Chau, played adorably by Ellen Wong. Scott’s former flames also include Kim, played to her sarcastic best by Allison Pill, who is now the drummer in his band, and Envy Adams, played by Brie Larson, who dumped Scott a year ago, and is now the lead singer of seemingly the biggest (or hippest) rock band in the world.


While Knives is absolutely smitten with not only Scott, but her new-found joy that is indie rock, Scott has other things on his mind, literally. A mysterious girl roller skates through one of his dreams, only leading to Scott’s encounter with her in real life. The girl is Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Scott is instantly infatuated with her. While Ramona seems to be somewhat distant and aloof, she too shares feelings for Scott and the two begin a courtship together. However, problems increase for the couple tenfold, when Scott learns that in order to continue dating Ramona, he must first defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Now Scott is faced with an assortment of villains, along with dealing with the very nature of his multiple relationships. Game on.

Scott Pilgrim:  We are Sex Bob-Omb, and we're here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff!
Based on the Scott Pilgrim comic book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Wright has managed to perfectly capture the tone and spirit of the six volume set, while creating a slightly modified story structure to fit the lengths of a theatrical feature. It is truly a joy to see a creative director continue to experiment with his visual sensibilities, as once again, Wright manages to bring front and center his fast action editing style and seamlessly work it into the realms of a comic book world. While Shaun of the Dead toyed with mixing the mundane with smash cut editing similar to Sam Raimi’s work in the Evil Dead films, and Hot Fuzz was designed to embody a world similar to the films of Michael Bay and Tony Scott, with ‘Scott Pilgrim’, Wright manages to display all the elements of a comic book, which includes handling the framing of shots like comic panels and spelling out moments of onomatopoeia on screen. Credit also goes to the production and art design of this film, as so much is layered into nearly every frame, making for great reasons to rewatch this film. The visual style is a huge highlight for this film.


Certainly helping this film is its casting. Starting with Cera, who some were skeptical of, I can probably say that this may be his best performance yet, perfectly capturing the character of Scott Pilgrim who has to be kinda cool, a good fighter, make some bad choices, yet still remain likable. Winstead, as Ramona, is also good, working well to counter Scott’s usual charm. There is a standout supporting cast here as well, which includes: Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Scott’s gay roommate, who manages to get many of the best lines in the movie; Mark Webber as Stephen Stills, the talent in Scott’s band; Anna Kendrick as Scott’s gossipy sister; and Aubrey Plaza as Julie Powers, the bitchy, on and off girlfriend of Stephen’s. Then you have the evil exes, which includes: Jason Scwhartzman, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Mae Whitman. All of these characters are played comedically over-the-top, and the film is all the better for it.
Todd Ingram: We have unfinished business, I and he.
Scott Pilgrim: He and me.
Todd Ingram: Don't you talk to me about grammar!
Speaking of the film’s comedy, the whole thing delivers. Staying true to both the style of the comic and Edgar Wright’s own comedic sensibilities, the film is frequently funny due to its dialogue, one-liners, visual gags, call-backs, references, and dash of satirical humor directed towards hipsters. At its core, the heart of this story may be concerned with the romance between Scott and Ramona, but the hysterics involved all certainly make this film all the more enjoyable.



Of course, one of the other biggest elements of this film is its action. As the comics are heavily influenced by video games, the way this film incorporates that style is pretty amazing. Scott is essentially playing through different levels of a video game once he becomes involved in the very stylized worlds of the different evil exes, he faces henchmen, who turn into coins as they are defeated, levels up as he progresses, and scores points and extra lives as he progresses; all while accompanied by the sound effects of different games. Whether or not the viewer will understand the references being made, one can’t help but be impressed by the action choreography present in this film. Even in a film like this, which creates a fast paced and hyper stylized world, the work that both Wright and his cinematographer Bill Pope have done to capture action scenes that are visually spectacular and easy to follow is a great sight to behold.
Wallace Wells: So what do you think, Jimmy? Do they rock or suck?
Jimmy: They... they haven't started playing yet.
Wallace Wells: That was a test, Jimmy, and you passed.
A final shout out to the music as well, again capturing the spirit of the book. Artists including Beck, Broken Social Scene, and Metric fit right into the indie rock world that this film presents. A big part of this film revolves around the bands that are rocking out and facing off against each other in the film, and I can certainly appreciate a quality soundtrack that emphasizes this factor.


I’m sorry if I can’t quite hide my fanboy praise, but everything leading up to seeing this film has impressed me. I love the comic books; I am a huge fan of Edgar Wright’s work, as well as much of the other talent involved with this film. It also certainly helps that I am an avid video game player with a fondness for alternative/indie rock, and in my 20s. Upon seeing the film, I can honestly say that everything came together just right for me. The execution was fantastic, both in terms of adapting the material and showing me another innovative approach to filmmaking. I was fully entertained by this movie; it’s a blast to watch and I can’t wait to watch it again.
Wallace Wells: If you want something bad, you’ve got to fight for it. Step up your game Scott, break out the “L” word.
Scott Pilgrim: Lesbian?
Wallace Wells: The other “L” word.
Scott Pilgrim:…Lesbians?

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