When it comes to comic book movie adaptations, a genuine sense of doubt clouds the viewer’s perception. Besides Christopher Nolan’s entries into the Batman series, most comic book adaptations have left a lot to be desired (re:Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand). Typically, they find themselves diverting too far from the source material in order to attract a wider audience. Of course, this tends to alienate the die-hard fans who made the material popular enough to even be adapted into a movie. What happens, then, when a movie stays true to its comic book roots?Scott Pilgrim vs. the World makes a solid attempt to cater to devoted Scott Pilgrim fans at the expense of confusing those unfamiliar with the series.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s very popular and successful Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels from Oni Press. The story follows Scott (Michael Cera), a 22 year-old slacker primarily interested in nothing more than his band, Sex Bob-Omb, and video games, as he embarks on an adventure for true love with his dream girl, both figuratively and literally, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). However, like all dreams, nothing comes easy as Scott finds out he must defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes before they can truly be together. With exes ranging from an action movie star to a glam emo pirate, Scott is presented with an eclectic rogue’s gallery to fight.
Scott Pilgrim, the series, is full of various gags and pop culture references and its movie counterpart is no different. It’s very apparent that director Edgar Wright truly understood the books, opting to add into the movie the nuances that helped give the books personality. Little things like visual, comic-book style sound effects to character fact boxes give the movie that Scott Pilgrim effect. In fact, Wright’s attention to the visual aesthetic of the movie is what will ultimately be remembered following its conclusion. For example, the jump cuts and scene transitions Wright uses are clever. One second, Scott could have his head directed to the left in a music shop, only for him to turn it to the right and he’s suddenly in his band’s practice space.
Unfortunately, the books’ greatest strength, its story, is the movie’s ultimate weakness. Beyond Scott’s quest to defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes, Wright and co-screenplay writer, Michael Bacall, tacked on a battle of the bands subplot to keep the plot somewhat rooted in reality. However, it’s as if Wright felt more inclined to concentrate on the visual presentation more than the plot. The movie could have done a better job developing Scott and Ramona’s relationship. It’s never really made clear why Scott’s so in love with her, other than the fact she’s hot and mysterious Furthermore, there are major problems with pacing as the movie sets the tone exceedingly well during the first third, raising the bar of excitement exceptionally high, only to continuously drop as the movie plays out. By the fourth of the seven evil exes, you begin to feel restless, with these boss characters feeling more like high-powered random encounters.
Despite the drawbacks of the story, the acting is top notch. Kieran Culkin, playing Scott’s gay best friend/roommate, Wallace Wells, showcases his exceptional comedic timing, leaving a trail of wisecracks and one-liners in every scene he’s in. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get enough screen time as his role would suggest. Furthermore, if there had to be one actor who stood out the most amongst the star-studded cast (which also includes Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Allison Pill, Mark Webber, and Mae Whitman) it’s Ellen Wong as Scott’s ex-girlfriend, Knives Chau. Wong plays her character perfectly, portraying a naïve, love-struck high school girl pining for her first love. You can’t help but empathize with her as her eyes twinkle with child-like naivety and her voice trembles with genuine amazement.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is aimed almost specifically towards the comic book/video game/geek subcultures and is rewarding to those who are a part of them and aware of the fantastic series. However, it doesn’t have the widespread appeal that a mainstream comic book series does. Think of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as a supplementary, alternate-reality addition to the overall Scott Pilgrim universe. However, if you’re a Scott Pilgrim newcomer, you’re likely to enjoy the visual gags and pop culture jokes that litter the movie while not comprehending exactly what’s going on. Just know that you will want to dive into the books the moment you step out of the theater. As Michael Comeau states in the penultimate scene, “It’s just the comic book is better than the movie.”
Overall Score: 6.85 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of the most visually-delightful movies released this year. However, it’s mostly style over substance. If you have ANY interest in the Scott Pilgrim universe, I highly suggest reading the comics before you watch the movie.