Reviews: Scott Pilgrimvs The World
Should have been awesome, but tears itself apart.
Let’s begin with good stuff. I liked the film’s whole graphic style, which never ceased to amaze with its use of visual effects. Whether it’s the chalk scribbles labelling important moments, infrequent HUD elements or black-and-white interludes of Ramona’s backstory, this was definitely one of film’s core strengths. There are the break-out supporting characters, which are all funny and distinct, so everyone will have their favourites. Mine were Wallace, an engaging and surprisingly mature take on a gay character, and Knives, a Chinese girl who lights up all scenes she’s in. The fights with exes themselves are also great, always different from each other and never monotonous. Sadly, I ultimately found myself disliking the film when the credits rolled, in spite of the aforementioned strengths. This is because there are effectively two storylines: the nearly-carefree Beat 'em Up-storyline of Scott’s battles with the exes, and the more serious, subversive story of his attempts to juggle romance with Ramona with commitment to the band and trying to get past painful experiences with his own ex. I have no problem with tonal shifts or complex, multi-stranded narratives if done right, but here they don’t just fail to connect, they actively hurt each other. Fun as they are, I could no longer enjoy watching the fights after Todd was dispatched: not only was he finished off while already down, but all the build-up involving Envy before the fight leaves no doubt that he was Killed Off for Real. I know comic’s creator eventually stated they all just respawn eventually, but there is not even a faintest hint of that in the film, with each death treated rather seriously when it occurs. This effectively transforms Scott from someone likeable to a psychopath fulfilling a nerd’s revenge fantasy, who totally crosses the last Moral Event Horizon when he kills two bouncers in a nightclub that he left alone in previous life, for no reason other than twisted Rule of Cool. It doesn’t help that Ramona is a goth hipster stereotype and a personality void, who is consistently out-acted by Knives throughout the film. If she was more interesting and/or likeable, Scott’s rampages could have been salvaged as Love Makes You Evil and fit with film’s subversive tone, but instead you just stop caring for their romance halfway through the film. Sadly, Scott Pilgrim is an ambitious failure.
Genuinely Hilarious, With Genuinely Underdeveloped Characters
I did not read the graphic novel before I saw this film. The movie was essential a moving-picture comic book: subtitled sound effects, super powers, scenes that watch like consecutive panels, etc. It was funny, with lots of hilarious one-liners, lampshade hanging and meta-humor. The geek in me rejoiced. It was a solid movie. I do not regret that I spent $7.50 USD to see this movie. However, my impressions of the movie walking out of the theater were: (1) this is a movie about romance the creators tried very, very hard not to make into a romantic movie and (2) the creators were so busy pandering to the geeks in the audience that they appear to have forgotten about the characters. I was watching the climax and realized I didn't really care how it turned out. Ramona didn't strike me as a girl worth fighting for; Scott didn't strike me as a guy willing to fight for a girl he'd only just met (the whole movie takes place over the course of a few weeks, it would seem). There were so many characters that were simply there, which should have had stories but didn't (Kim and Envy coming first and foremost to mind, but every character who isn't Scott would count. Including Ramona). Wallace, the gay roommate, was the best character in the whole movie, hands down: a hilarious Jerkass (with a heart of gold...sometimes?) It wasn't a bad movie. If you like a dose of really trippy surrealism and funny moments that anyone who reads this site on a regular basis will find genuinely hilarious, it's a great movie. But you have to be willing to look past the weak characters holding up the plot.
How Adaptations Should Be Done
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is an incredible adaptation of an incredible comic book, which means it's pretty incredible itself. It takes the weird/unique style and energy of the books and takes it onto the screen, both imitating it and reinventing it for the new medium. When the film zooms and pans and cuts around, somehow it feels exactly like thats what the books do to. Even the characters look and feel exactly like their counterparts and more than that, they all feel comfortable and alive in their roles, as if they're as they should be. The two exceptions are Kim Pine, who for some reason (the hair?) is stiff and doesn't seem to fit into the world, and Scott Pilgrim, which is pretty understandable. But Michael Cera does a good job with the role and although it's hard to imagine him as the Scott, he does fit into the film. The film restructured the plot and condensed it into a film form ingeniously, watching it again it's hard to believe how they manage to fit the events which are deliberately staged over months in the books, seamlessly into film where everything is a lot more immediate. The good jokes are all in there (even if they have to change the people who say them every now and then), there are new jokes that work too, the action is good and they aren't afraid to correct some of the few parts of the books that are less than perfect (the double LOVE from Knives as a tiny example). Of course it can't quite match up, it has to lose the sense of things taking place at a natural rate and some of the story lines had to be dropped and shortened to fit in. The bigger mistake was the way they changed slightly the reason Ramona found so difficult to get out of her head. In the film they sort of say there is no metaphor (for a joke) but it devalues the events a bit and makes the action in the finale feel a little literal so it can come off as a little empty. I saw it before the books and I loved, I saw it after I read the books and I loved it more. At first it did feel a bit heartless but its felt less so on repeat viewings. Most of it, including the formula, really is symbolising some pretty cool themes. But mainly, Scott Pilgrim vs the World doesn't feel like an adaptation of the books, but rather the books in film form. And thats pretty good going.
Very Spirited, But Ultimately Heartless
I actually read the comic before watching the movie, and I'm thankful I did so. The movie is not that bad of an adaptation. The special effects are pretty good at capturing the spirit of a comic and the video game roots of Scott Pilgrim, and the fight scenes are at least decent. The problem is a very bad case of Compressed Adaptation; that there was very little room for much else, like most of the story and the Character Development. The story was extremely rushed, turning events/flashbacks in the cominc into vague references in the movie, and I was heartbroken when I realized that both Envy's story and Character Development in Book 3 and Scott's Character Development in Book 6, arguably the best parts of the comic, were omitted entirely from the movie. The end result is an unintelligent story featuring characters that are either shallow or that you never get to know and love before the credits role. It would have been a much better idea to split the story between two movies. Another problem, albeit quite minor compared to the ones mentioned above, is Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim. I have nothing against Cera, but he was miscast, and while he plays the Loser Archetype well, it breaks Willing Suspension Of Disbelief to portray him as the "best fighter in the province". I think it's best to read the comic first and view the movie as a companion to it rather than a stand-alone.
Characterization sacrificed for plot
This movie wants to do so, so much. It wants to accurately represent the style of the comics on a visual level, it wants to tell the entire story, it wants to keep all the funniest bits in. What it seems less interested in is the characters, who lose a lot of development, specifically the supporting cast. Which might've been fine, but Scott, Romana and Knives—here given much more focus than in the comics—are shafted as far as characterization goes as well. Scott's core character is mostly in tact, but he doesn't develop or grow much, leaving us following a thoroughly unlikeable character with Kim being the only one who seems to give him even a little grief for his faults, leaving him in an unearned sympathetic light. Knives is pretty much the Clingy Jealous Girl personified, her sole act of development is one line at the end (at least Scott gets the last twenty minutes.) And Romona? Romana is cold towards Scott at the beginning, warms up to him for no readily apparent reason, and then toys with him until the last act of the film. She's been hollowed out, now more a Mac Guffin than a character, going through the necessary motions to get us through all six books without a second thought given to how this makes her personality seem. On a more positive note, stylistically the film is wonderful. I felt like I was watching a live-action version of the books, specifically during the fight scenes, and those little captions were wonderfully placed. The actors did well with what they had too, the hamminess of the League was great fun. But given the lack of attachment to any characters, the whole thing felt a little hollow, like spectacle for spectacle's sake. The film wasn't adapted because Edgar Wright loved the characters, but because he wanted to get to see stuff like the POW sign shattering and the coin explosions. I admire the film's ambition, for sure, and perhaps stretched over two movies, or with a few of the more superfluous boyfriends hacked out (as none of them did anything to advance the character or movie's arcs, save for Gideon and maybe Patel) this could've been a great adaptation, with more room for genuine emotion. As it stands, perhaps a bit of pragmatism was in order.
It was good
I thought it was good. Not great, but good. It has an interesting plot and successfully integrates video game and comic book tropes into its story. But, I can see why it didn't do too well in theaters. It requires too much knowledge of video games to know. If you aren't a huge video game fan, you probably won't get the references. The only game that had a Shout Out in there that I've played was Legend Of Zelda. So yeah. That's my review.
The film is overrated, and the book less so.
I'm just going to put this out here now: I'm not really a fan. But let me explain myself, please. I saw the movie about six months ago; I went in with an open mind and was duly disappointed. I genuinely couldn't sympathise with Scott (but maybe that's because I dislike Michael Cera), and I honestly couldn't see why he'd want to be with Ramona. (Yes, I found Knives Chau to be cooler than her). The film seemed to get increasingly ludicrous as it wore on, and I wasn't particularly sad when it was over. There are some good things to be said for the movie, though. I'm still fond of this piece of dialogue:
Ramona: I was just a little bi-curious.
Roxie: Well, honey, I'm about to get a little bi-furious!But, in another moment of uncharacteristic open-mindedness, a friend lent me the comics and I read them too. I liked them a lot more than the movie, as they gave depth to many of the characters who were otherwise ignored in the movie (read: pretty much everyone). I especially liked seeing more of the other band members Stephen Stills and Kim Pine. It changed me from a Scott/Knives shipper (because the latter was suitably creepy this time around) to a Scott/Kim shipper (especially considering their history). Ramona was, again, uninteresting. And therein lies the problem. The crux of it was that I just didn't like the main pairing of Scott/Ramona very much at all. And, considering the entire plot is based around his quest to get the girl, it was only natural that I was so unengaged.
A movie for the Peter Pan, gaming, digital generation. Who might be broke and going nowhere.
When I first heard of Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and watched the trailer, I wasn’t sold. Michael Cera and action scenes without any explanation as to what was going on, gave me the impression of a movie filled with ADHD, slacker antics. A movie that translates the proverbial geek into some kitsch, ne’er-do-well, sex hound. Where their pathetic nature is played for laughs. But when I actually found the time and the boredom to watch this movie I found a movie which some might describe as zeitgeist. The movie made the effort to flesh out a universe which I would relate to the Zoolander concept of Derelicte; a fashion which captures a kind of generational squalor but manages to give it some unique character. But although the film shows appreciation for technology, it isn’t exactly cutting edge. The setting along with the characters, music/band theme, sucked me right it in. The band angle in particular, cements the movie as a cult-hit for me as it creates a buzz to a hobby that can be pursued in real life, and thus the enthusiasm of the movie helps fuel that direction even after you’ve finished the movie. Of all the colourful characters in this movie, mine had to be Kim Pine; a sarcastic Daria-esque “smoking-hot red head on drums”. She is like the Mona Lisa of the movie, in that in every scene she occupied she had me totally enraptured. The sarcasm in the movie that amused us all, was her way of masking a deep emotional wound, as is with many characters and their over-the-top portrayals. Thus I found I could love some characters on different levels. But if you find you didn’t love this movie then I cannot blame you. It is of course something that doesn’t really take itself seriously and it’s ultra quick style of joke-jumping with its epileptic visuals may be off-putting. Some may think of the videogame references as merely an annoying backdrop with little relevance to a story about young people and their immature relationships. Some of that characters can be annoying (e.g. Knives Chua) or unintresting (like the love interest; Romona). Plus it is Michael Cera acting as well, Michael Cera. Still, after hearing the song “Black Sheep” during the movie. It dawned on me that I was drawn to something a lot sadder and mystifying , than I had ever thought possible. A fantasy world that we wish in some small way, our own lives could follow.
Takes some getting used to
I'll start by saying Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is alright. This film tends to get over-hyped by those who watched it, possibly as a reaction to all those who didn't and damned this movie to box office failure. This film is not awesome or ground breaking. It is just okay. It took a while for me to get into the movie. The film's use of comic book imagery (accompanying sound effects with actual words like "knock knock" etc.) is often kind of annoying and doesn't save the more feeble jokes. An example of this would be some recurring gag in which the drummer keeps shooting herself with her finger. The word "bang" illustrates this action everytime. Despite the bad start, the momentum picks up after the first act and the jokes get better. The fights are energetic, diverse and colourful. The movie does a good job of taking people who clearly look as though they have no martial arts expertise and makes them into plausible on-screen warriors. Their odd personalities and ridiculous, videogame-esque dialogue makes them the scene stealers of the show. I particularly liked the defeat of boyfriend #3 (a psychic vegan), though they missed a perfect opportunity to reference The Princess Bride. Because the story focuses around a band, we inevitably get two things: plenty of on-screen performance and the story of the band's struggle for success. I didn't care for either (I have no taste for modern Indy music) and found both to be a fairly annoying distraction from the far more interesting story of romance and video-game bosses. Speaking of the romance, I wasn't entirely convinced by the romance between Ramona and Scott. It was shallow, we never really get to grips with Ramona, and the idea that Scott is a "lady Killer" is hard to buy when he is so awkward around women. Scott Pilgrim is fine rental, but it is not some kind of masterpiece of cinema. To those reluctant to see it (like I was), I recommend seeing it as you might be missing out. Just don't have your expectations set too high.
"She has the capacity to geek..."
I loved watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. (For reference, last I checked, I was about halfway through the original comic. Have webcomics been doing similar things for years? Yes. It's still quite good.) I just wanted to make that clear, because most of this review is going to focus on three of its major flaws. The whole movie is very fun, very funny, clever, visually unique, and relentlessly geeky. That said? Three problems. 1. The central romance between Scott and Ramona is shallow, rushed, and moreover, completely overshadowed by the genuinely appealing character of Knives Chau (17 years old), Scott's original girlfriend. (Incidentally, her actress has a strong future in cinema. She'd better, anyway.) We have no compelling reason to root for Scott, in winning Ramona's heart or winning against her Evil Exes, and Ramona herself doesn't become very sympathetic until later in the movie. That the movie can still be so entertaining in spite of its weak central conflict says something, and sets it above many other shallow "love" stories. In fact, come to think of it, it's a lot like a video game that way... 2. [After a second viewing — with subtitles, which helped considerably because this is a very packed film — I must retract my complaint about Gideon's lack of apparent villainy throughout the movie. I also maintain my praise for his actor, who remains punchably slimy, and my favorite Evil Ex, Todd.] 3. The ending isn't bad — I've seen much worse — but it doesn't seem to mesh with the rest of the movie. (I have heard good things about how it was originally going to end, but what's there is there.) I understand that it makes more sense after a few hundred comic book pages of development. In fact, all three of these things are handled better in the comic. However, don't let that stop you. Taking for granted its status as a shiny, multimillion-dollar film made to entertain, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World both deserves and needs more love. Your other movies will understand.
A Unique Style elevates a formulaic story
That title sentence pretty much sums up Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It is a tightly told tale with good performances going through a romantic storyline in a pretty familiar pattern. What elevates it, twists it and makes it raucously entertaining is the way in which the story it told. The acceptable breaks from reality, the video-game style methodology and atmosphere of excitement not only permeate the film, but act as vital plot points later on in the picture. Without these elements, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World would be...honestly un-tell-able in a way that would resemble Scott Pilgrim. But if one did, it would be a pretty average tale. The elements of Video-Games bring up the frenetic energy and make it a true joy to behold. As an Adaptation, I cannot rate it due to my lack of experience with the source material, but the story stands on its own merits and even pokes fun at the "Original comic was better" mentality. Standouts from the cast/characters include Ellen Wong as Knives Chao and Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells. Kieran provides one of the snarkiest, least well meaning Mentors I've seen. Not the most, but close. Ellen's knives is the right level of fan-girl obsessive and pure Moe. She reminded this anime nerd of Hinata of the popular series Naruto, in a positive way (as much as I dislike aspects of that series). Overall, well worth a trip to the theaters to see. We need more movies as energetic and amusing as this.