You’ve been drooling over every trailer, screenshot, and poster for months. You’ve been playing the game non-stop. And now, after years of waiting, Edgar Wright’s live-action adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malleys 6-volume graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is finally in theaters. And it’s good. Real good.
If you’ve never read any of the books and have somehow managed to miss the trailers and TV spots, the plot goes a little something like this: Scott Pilgrim is your basic 20-something slacker. He lives with his gay roommate and they share a bed, but in a totally non-gay way. He plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-omb with his friend Steven Stills (the talent) and ex-girlfriend Kim Pine (his ex.) He’s also dating a 17-year-old Chinese school girl - a Catholic school girl with the skirt and everything.
Then one day this girl Scott’s never seen before rollerblades through his dreams. Then one day he sees her, like, in real life, and that’s where things get complicated; this girl is Ramona Flowers and in order to date her, Scott must defeat her league of evil exes, most of whom have some kind of superpower, like Todd Ingram, the evil Super Saiyan/Jedi whose “The Force” like powers are made possible by the fact that he’s a vegan. Seriously.
Needless to say, Scot Pilgrim vs The World doesn’t take place in the real world. Just like in video games, bad guys turn into coins when they die, characters can level up and learn new abilities, and people can do all sorts of crazy shit like teleport and summon monsters from their amps. Over the top? Quite. Awesome as hell? Fuck yes.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World manages to stay faithful to the source material while also being different enough to stand on it’s own. As is the case with most movie adaptations, it’s not exactly like the comics, but that’s not a bad thing by any stretch.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its flaws, because it does, but they’re few and far between. By the time the high notes kick in, you’ll forget all about the low notes because you’ll be busy having your face rocked into pieces by a fury of video game references, rock and roll, hyper-stylized special effects, insane fight scenes, and lots of people being turned into piles of coins.
The References. Seriously, this may be one of the first movies to accurately portray nerd culture. Whether Scott’s playing the bassline from Final Fantasy, explaining how Pac-Man was originally going to be called Puck-Man, or when Young Niel’s asked what he plays (as in, what instrument) and he responds with answers like Zelda and Tetris, none of the nods and references ever feel forced. It’s also nice to see nerds represented as cool kids for once.
And the references aren’t just gaming-related either. Anyone who grew up going to local punk/indie shows, has ever shopped at Goodwill to be stylish, or has ever known a pretentious vegan who’s broken vegan edge will totally find this flick relateable.
The Music. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic version has lots of scenes with music, but since it’s a comic, you just have to imagine what it sounds like. The actual music in the film is most likely better than what you imagined. It’s silly, but takes itself seriously enough that it actually sounds good. Like "Launchpad McQuack" (not the real title), the first song Sex Bob-Omb plays during the opening credits. It’s dirty, fuzzy, and full of rock. Or Sex Bob-Omb’s song about being a garbage truck driver. It’s melancholy tones & grooves with Micheal Cera’s high-pitched backup harmonies are actually kind of catchy. Even the song played by Clash At Demon Head, fronted by Scott’s ex, Amy Adams, seems like the sort of thing you’d find on the iPod of any 20-something with a hipsterish sense of musical taste these days.
The cast. Everyone was spot-fucking-on. While Micheal Cera played a good Scott, a few of the supporting characters managed to steal each and every scene they were in.
Ellen Wong as Knives Chau was just adorably brilliant and her subtly cute body language brought the comic panels to life perfectly.
Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace Wells, almost stole the whole movie at times. At first it might seem like the character is just a cheap gay joke, but he’s also Scott’s voice of reason, giving him pep-talks to boost his courage, while kind of being a dick at the same time, but in a funny way. It’s maybe safe to say the movie version of Wallace trumps the comic version.
And then there’s Chris Evans as Lucas Lee. Maybe the most entertaining performance in the whole movie. You’ll find it hard not to consider Lucas your favorite evil ex.
The special effects. Edgar Wright made a smart choice by incorporating comic-styled effect sounds in the film. They’re not super cheesy like in the old 1960’s Bat-Man show, and they help enforce the idea that everything is taking place in a fantasy world. But they’re just the tip of the special effects iceberg. Hyper-stylized fight sequences are full of anime-esque speed lines, characters summon giant dragons and beasts made of pure electricity from their amps, and during the climactic final battle, characters become outlined in flashing red pixels when they’re low on health. It’s blend of both comic and video game imagery that’s never been seen in a movie before, and it’s truly a sight to behold.
The first few minutes. Seriously, I was worried. It felt like a checklist of scenes from the comic being played in short bursts with total disregard for whether or not it was seamless. Although it stumbles a bit in the beginning, it gains momentum pretty quick and goes from awkward stumble to insane aerial acrobatic kick-assery.
It doesn’t end like the comics. Okay, so the final volume of the book hadn’t even been released yet by the time shooting for the film wrapped up, so some differences are totally forgivable. But the end of the books did a better job with explaining a few things like why Ramona could Rollerblade through Scott’s dreams in the first place. It also did a better job at tying up some loose ends like Scott’s personal issues, finding closure with Kim, etc. And Gideon was WAY more evil in the books.
But the ending did manage to do some things better which kind of makes up for things. The encounter with NegaScott was hilarious, and the whole scene where Scott uses his 1-up? Fucking brilliant and loads better than the book. Oh, and when the boss battle goes into 2-player mode!? Jesus balls, I think I might’ve cried. I definitely had goosebumps.
Sure, it’s not exactly like the movie, but it stays close enough while carving out it’s own respectable spot in the Scott Pilgrim universe. Scott Pilgrim vs The World encapsulates an entire generation of kids who grew up on video games, anime, comic books, and indie music culture. You’ll leave the theater more than completely satisfied that the overall spirit of the books remained in tact, and that’s what matters most.