Thursday, 3 August 2017

TBT - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)


When I was writing one of my recent Chris Evans' reviews I remembered that he appeared in 2010s adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim. I know why I forget Evans is in this film: it's cause he's so good and I wasn't used to that feeling 7 years ago. It does mean that I've had a deep-seated desire to watch this film ever since so I decided it would be the perfect film to talk about this TBT. It's been a while since I saw this but I absolutely love this film. I'm also a fan of the graphic novels that it is based on. Really, Scott Pilgrim is the reason that I often get the desire to dye my hair bright pink or blue every now and then. I've always wanted to be more like Ramona Flowers. I mean, without the crippling emotional detachment and stuff but, you know, the coolness. It's no wonder Scott falls in love with her at first sight. I certainly did.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's series of graphic novels. It is a special effects dream that plays out like a video game. It sees Hollywood's favourite geek, Michael Cera, take on the role of Canadian slacker, Scott. He is living an uneventful and uninspiring life until he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls head over heels. In order to win Ramona's heart Scott discovers that he must first battle her 7 evil exes in a series of fantastic showdowns.

The genius of Scott Pilgrim is that it places itself firmly in reality whilst also amping everything up to ridiculous proportions. The characters and relationships are all very believable but every dispute is solved in an epic showdown where one combatant inevitably ends up as a pile of coins. The world of Scott Pilgrim is just that little bit more technicolor than ours and there are different laws regarding injuries and death. It's a weird setting, then, but, director, Edgar Wright manages to pull it off.

He manages to do this by sticking fairly closely to original text and mimicking their style. It expertly mixes the crazed action sequences with the quieter moments of Scott's slacker lifestyle. The action cuts seamlessly from one venue to another and the use of on screen captions and cartoony sound effects help to remind the audience what's going on. Scott Pilgrim has more in common with Wright's tv show Spaced and it's endless supply of pop culture references than it does with his Cornetto trilogy. But the end results is smarter, sharper, and more relaxed than any of his previous work.

Wright manages to capture the mood with his manga-styling and picks up on the comedy and the drama on screen. He uses whip-pans, extreme close-ups, split screens, and changes in speed to get things moving in the right direction. The evil exes are introduced with animated sequences accompanied by Ramona's voiceover. The game also embraces everything good about video games and becomes one of the few successful video game movies. Who can't help but feel joy in the references to Street Fighter and 8-bit animation that keep cropping up? It's a film that loves the world of gaming and will feel familiar to pretty much anyone who has had any contact with a game.Scott Pilgrim is a triumph of visual effects and style. It is a treat to watch and is an absolute hoot. It never takes itself seriously but it never makes the mistake of being too derisive.

The source material is treated with the utmost respect and the film works because of it. However, the fact remains that there are moments when the scipt and the narrative just don't live up the visuals. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the series of graphic novels but there can be no denying that a lot is lost in translation here. Scott's story plays itself out over 6 volumes but the film chops it all up to fit into a neat 112 minutes. It all feels a bit rushed and simplistic in this form. The battles become rather repetitive and confusing here. You don't really get any time with the exes before they explode into currency.

Of course, this isn't enough of a problem to dampen the film. It's sometimes difficult to connect this with the series in which it originated but, as a film in itself, it is perfect. The cast are all really well chosen and bring something fantastic to their characters. With a host of actors who have since become big or even bigger names, it's wonderful to revisit. I keep forgetting that Chris Evans plays Lucas Lee, Ramona's second ex, and he absolutely steals the show. He plays a brash and egotistical actor who talks a bit like Christian Bale as Batman. It's amazing. Kieran Culkin is hilarious as Scott's gay roommate, Wallace, and Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, turns up as Scott's ex-girlfriend.

Scott Pilgrim may not be the film that fans of the comic books necessarily wanted it to be but the source material is in safe hands with Edgar Wright. The film is funny and an absolute wonder to watch. I defy anyone to watch it and not feel better afterwards.

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