Review – Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. Somehow the movie is better than the book.
There’s a lot of things that could’ve gone wrong with Scott Pilgrim Vs The World; the story losing its flow by being condensed from six books to ninety minutes, video-game references being tossed in to the point it resembled an episode of The Guild, or Michael Cera being unable to break out of his George Michael character from Arrested Development. SPVTW jumps these challenges wonderfully and actually surpasses the original works. All Trust In The Wright.
Director Edgar Wright has done some incredible recreation work from the original series; something that’s been repeated during the press rounds. Creator Bryan Lee O’Malley must’ve had most of the sixth book finished as Edgar and Co. shot their film in 2009 as the shot and designs are near perfect recreations until the final battle. And here’s where Edgar’s talent shines; he expertly cut all the wasted space in the Scott Pilgrim story. In just the Todd Ingram fight (super-vegan ex-boyfriend # 3, played by Superman Brandon Routh), the subplots of The Clash At Demonhead’s drummer, the race through Honest Ed’s, and the back story of Vegan Academy are all gone. Everything you might’ve found tossed into the stories haphazardly (Gideon the cat, the “glow”, the giant cryo-chamber, etc) is gone. It didn’t happen. And you won’t care that it’s not there.
This isn’t just trimming the fat. The revised story is lovingly true to the tale of Pilgrim, but it slightly reshapes the world and the connection into something you actually want to root for. Pilgrim is a hard character to like in the books; he falls into success, shows no care for anyone else, and doesn’t grow at all until the final chapter. Cera’s Pilgrim plays to the likable awkwardness, zest for life and bravery that makes a good hero. And it’s actually a few shades different from his usual mannerisms as well
Faint touches are added to the movie full of love towards the pop-culture it references. The “Great Fairy Fountain” theme from Zelda is sneaked in at one point so appropriately that one would question if it wasn’t in there.
Not since Garden State has a movie soundtrack bonded so well to a story. It’s been three weeks since I saw the early screening and the introduction to Envy and Todd as The Clash at Demonhead plays a retouched version of Metric’s “Black Sheep” is so hauntingly ominous that you get chills down your spine as Ramona and Scott realize what they’re up against.
You know those millions of YouTube videos where kids use pirated copies of After Effects to make it look like they’re teleporting or going Super Saiyan? The visual effects in SPVTW (an abbreviation which sounds like a Russian missile) are so splendid it’s like each of those white kids had been pooled their collective computer powers over the years into this condensed film. A fight scene at the end shows Scott turning waves of enemies into collapsing piles of coins that’s only trumped by a gorgeous 8-bit sword pulled out by Gideon. Every visual effects team is going to be following this movie for the next ten years, despite the fact that any imitation will instantly be seen as such. I haven’t seen a film so visually unique since Trinity hung in mid-air and killed cops.
Every little part of me is screaming alarms that the world of Scott Pilgrim is never explained. We never learn why Scott can fight, how Ramona can use Sub-Space (which will be a bit confusing) or why a flaming sword suddenly comes from Pilgrim’s chest. O’Malley reached into a world of video game laws that will make instant sense to anyone who’s worn their thumbs out on a D-Pad, and he’s able to skip a lot of slow exposition because of it. It gives the film a very frantic and fast story. Towards the end, the last few exes fly by so quickly you can barely keep up. If Scott was older, the story wouldn’t work. As it is, the self-centered “I am the hero in my own story” focus of a naive twenty-something wouldn’t be one of stopping and pondering. SPVTW shouldn’t either.
Who knows how well the film will do. Popular consensus among peers is that, “Yes. It’s a film. So it’s like Superbad with powers?”. At the very least, this film is destined to become a cult-hit and a DVD success. Wright has created perhaps the first time a popular geek IP adaptation was better than its source material, and he did so with loving detail.
P.S. If Ellen Wong (Knives Chau) doesn’t breakout into mainstream success because of this movie, her agent should quit.