By: Addison Wylie
Movies based on comic books or graphic novels usually aren’t given the benefit of the doubt. People are instantly ready to write the film off as nothing but “no brainer, popcorn entertainment”. However, with recent submissions such as Kick-Ass and The Dark Knight, audiences have opened their minds a little more to the fact that these movies could hold a lot more substance than the average audience thinks. The trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World provides an insane, frantic style of filmmaking as well as a hipster outlook and audiences, who haven’t read the books, were already being skeptical towards director Edgar Wright’s film. However, this is the style of the film. The trailer is not misleading in the slightest. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a whirlwind of frenetic excitement that stays very faithful to the original source material while making a few minor changes to move the film along and the film works marvellously.
In a film based on graphic novels written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera, has a pretty awesome life, or so he thinks, in Toronto, Canada. He has good friends, they’re all in a band, and he’s dating a very energetic high school girl who is head over heels for him. Life is moving at a comfortable pace when suddenly a girl in town named Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, rollarblades into his dreams and into his existence. Scott can’t get his mind around her. He begins thinking about her all the time and fantasizing about him and her, even stalking her at a party, but it’s all in good fun provided by text bulletins and snappy sound effects. The two have awkward confrontations but, due to Scott’s persistent attitude, the couple soon begins to hang out and get to know each other better. Faster than you can say “Pac-Man”, Scott soon figures out that if he is going to date Ramona, he is going to have to confront the League of Exes; a team of ex-boyfriends/girlfriends from Ramona’s past. Scott will now find out whether his love and passion is strong enough to fight off seven of these furious flings in order to live happily ever after with Ramona.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is absolutely bonkers and fires on all cylinders. The movie takes a genre that people may find tired and spins it on it’s ear. First of all, let’s talk about the director of this absurdity. Edgar Wright, who has made a name for himself with his films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, grabs the source material, runs with it, and adds his insane vision to the material given in the written work. Wright knows exactly how the film should look and feel and he certainly isn’t afraid of going over-the-top. Hell, I think with material as chaotic as this, there’s no other way to go. Wright, however, isn’t afraid of tackling the impossible. If the book calls for Scott to be punched by an evil ex-boyfriend so hard, that he’s going to fly towards the moon, Wright is not afraid to portray that in the movie. If Scott punches someone so hard, they explode into toonies and loonies, chalk up another powerful directorial move for Wright. What I’m trying to convey here, I suppose, is that Wright isn’t afraid of mixing realism with surrealism. The characters, even though they may seem like they are pulled directly out of a video game or comic book, all feel real. They all are developed enough for an audience to be convinced they are real people in Toronto. Their motives are distinct, their reactions feel authentic. Not only is Edgar Wright able to project his vision successfully while being incredibly faithful to the book, but he is also able to bring out strong performances in every single cast member. Not only are main performances like Cera and Winstead’s fully developed, but even the supporting characters feel well-rounded. Characters like Scott’s gay roommate Wallace, played by Kieran Culkin, and Cera’s asian high school girlfriend Knives Chau, played by Ellen Wong, could have been exaggerated stereotypes. Instead, their given a background and enough depth for them to be three-dimensional and not used for cheap laughs. It’s a great example of extremely strong scriptwriting and my hat goes off to Michael Bacall and Wright once again for penning this crazy script packed with not only hard hitting punches but with truth as well. Now that I think of it, even the background extras were authentic characters. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of background actors being really distracting but Wright’s flawless direction is leaves no flaws.
Not only is the direction perfect and the performances filled to the brim with off-beat reality, but Edgar Wright also shares the triumphant victory of this film with his editor and cinematographer. The two geniuses who edited this, Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, are absolutely mad. Since the pacing of the film and the book are very ecstatic, the two editors are put up to the task with keeping the feel of the film apparent throughout and, well, keeping up with the film. Amos and Machliss utilize flashy imagery and 8-bit video game references to stick with the sense of humor the books provide. When there are fights going on, the duo uses a lot of quick, jumpy editing but it’s used to make your heart race and the action is at a good distance away from the camera that an audience can still tell who is winning and who just delivered a knock-out punch. I’ve noticed movies lately have decided to shoot fights at close-up views with dark lighting and at that point, no one can tell what’s going on. I suppose this method of filmmaking wants to go the route of “what you can’t see, makes the situation more intense”. I don’t think this can be used when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is able to make audiences gasp in awe as they see the extremely well-choreographed fights and their hearts are still pumping a million miles per second. This point segways into the amazing work of cinematographer, Bill Pope. Many of us have seen Pope’s work in blockbuster successes such as the Matrix films and in lesser successes such as The Spirit. That said, whether the films are hits or bombs, the cinematography always stands out as a positive aspect of these films. It’s no different here. The man knows exactly how far to shoot his action and how to utilize camera functions such as snap zooms, namely a scene where Scott, Ramona, and Knives are in the same place for the first time, and slow pans, such as during discussion segments during fights, for effective filmmaking. It allows the film to raise from its already high bar and is unlike anything we’ve seen this summer. I really hope, at the end of the year, the Academy gets off its high horse and recognizes this mental little film for its merits in editing, cinematography, and even the direction provided by Edgar Wright.
The more I think about what Edgar Wright, his cast, and his crew have done with this film, the more I fall in love with it. It deserves all the success it gets and I hope it has legs at the box office in the future. In a summer full of dull, this is the movie to break that boredom apart. With slick direction and other perfect technical aspects, well-rounded performances from skilled actors, and a smart and funny script, you can do no wrong with checking out Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.