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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Reviewed by Alan J. Porter, © 2010

Format: Movie
By:   Edgar Wright (director)
Genre:   Comic book adaptation
Review Date:   August 13, 2010
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

"We all have baggage."

"Well, my baggage doesn't try and kill me every five minutes." -- Ramona and Scott

If you've ever played a video game, read a comic, watched anime, jammed in a garage band, liked movies, or been in love; then you need to see this movie.

It's as simple as that.

I've read snarky reviews in some of the mainstream press that say this movie is only for video game obsessed twenty-somethings. They are wrong.

I'm not a video gamer, and I'm well past being twenty-something, and it caught me from the opening seconds.

This is a movie that is a touchstone for anyone who has experienced the angst and joy of being a teenager at any time since the dawn of Space Invaders. The opening seconds of the Universal theme played like it was coming from an 8-bit console. That speaks to a generation more in their thirties and forties than twenties.

The trailers, and the well-managed publicity machine, (kudos to whoever handled that campaign for building and sustaining buzz without falling into the blatant over-hype trap that most summer movies are prone to), outlined the plot pretty well: Slacker Scott Pilgrim falls for mysterious girl Ramona, and has to fight her seven evil exes to gain her love.

But that only touches the surface of what is ultimately a multi-layered romantic comedy that will appeal and resonate with a wide audience.

I also rate this as probably the best comics to movie adaptation I have ever seen. I'd go as far as to say it is one of the best movie adaptations, period.

Director Edgar Wright clearly respects and understands the source material without being slavish to it (Are you listening, Zack Snyder?) Sure, certain subplots and dialog from the graphic novel are missing, while others are added, and a key scene is relocated from its place in the graphic novel plotline to a later point in the movie's narrative, but it all works.

This is the consummate example of how to translate a property from one medium to another while exploiting the storytelling tools that make both work.

You don't have to read the comic books. I'm glad I had not yet read the final two volumes of the six-volume comics series, as it allowed me to fully enjoy the will-he, won't-he dilemma at the movie's conclusion. (Here's the RevolutionSF review of the Scott Pilgrim comic books.)

It was also fun to see both the visual language of comics on screen, and numerous examples of creator Bryan Lee O'Malley's art used to such great effect, from background posters to full blown animated back story sequences.

Visually the movie is both stylish, and in many ways ground breaking. It also treats its audience with respect in that, as in the graphic novel, it doesn't explain away every strange nuance of Scott Pilgrim's world. You just accept that this is the way this reality works, and that's enough.

The strength comes from the characters and their interactions. Wright plays with the fact that most people have the capacity to move beyond a one-note linear plot and can hold multiple ideas and concepts in their mind at once. Some may see this as fractured story-telling but in reality it's a pointer to what movies can achieve, when, like the best comics, they let go of established narrative conventions.

This movie doesn't follow the standard Hollywood cookbook, and is all the more powerful for it.

Michael Cera is perfect as Scott Pilgrim, with a subtle performance that sees him quietly grow from a sniveling, whiney slacker into a self-confident, yet still deeply flawed hero. Pilgrim is a hero who can fight, without ever fully realizing what exactly he is fighting for. There is no major Shazam-like transformation scene here, just pure character growth demonstrated through great writing and subtle changes in voice, tone and body posture. You know: Good acting.

The rest of the cast is note perfect, too. There are even a few fun cameos thrown in for good measure.

This is a movie to watch, rewatch, and rewatch. I am sure you will spot something new every time you see it.

I know this movie will play well to the geek crowd, but I hope that it also finds an audience in the general movie goers, audience as it deserves to be the breakout smash of the year. It may not break any box office records, or even be the top grossing movie on opening weekend, but Scott Pilgrim will take on the world and last a lot longer than Sly's Expendables crew and the latest chick-flick.

The movie posters said this movie is "an epic of epic epicness." Go see it.


Pop culture historian Alan J. Porter writes the Cars comic book and the RevolutionSF blog Can't See The Forest. RevolutionSF would like to apologize to The Expendables, on behalf of we don't want them to break Alan's face.


 
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