Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

It took a bit of convincing from Dan, but eventually I read the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels.  I knew right away that this was a book written for people like me.  Just like Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, people older or younger than me would never get the full appreciation of all the references.  I thoroughly hated the eponymous protagonist until I got near the end of the book and realized why he was so annoying.  So, once my brother got the movie on Blu-ray, I knew it’d be just a matter of time before I saw it.  I think the movie’s casting was spot-on.  The actors who played Kim Pine, Knives Chau, Wallace Well, and Young Neil were perfect.  Their delivery (and, to some extent, appearance) was exactly what I pictured it would be like.  Michael Cera was even a really good choice for Scott.  He wasn’t as perfect, but he did a good job and it fit his acting abilities.  Ramona Flowers’ actress was also good, although not as great as the others.

I’ve seen a few movies that have come from comic book adaptations.  Some, like the Marvel movies (X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk, etc) take the comics as a starting point and then create something new specifically for the medium of film.  It’s similar to the way that Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has changed in every medium it’s been adapted to, while remaining faithful to the source in terms of characters, motivations, etc.  Then there are movies like Watchmen that use the comic as a storyboard for the film and copy it almost completely.  (And I’ve also seen Sin City and V for Vendetta, but never read the comics)  I really did not enjoy the X-Men and Spider-Man movies as much as I should have.  I was a collector of the books and a huge fan of the comics and the cartoon adaptations.  There were a lot of different reasons for that, but I think what killed it most strongly for me is that those characters are best adapted to a TV Series.  Movies can’t do justice to the complex storylines and characters.  I really enjoyed Watchmen and I think that’s party due to the fact that it’s a self-contained story.  Of course, as the professional reviews and opinions of my friends and family have revealed, there are perils to adapting a comic straight to a movie.  Some things just work better in some mediums.  For example, most (though, not all) books are better than the movies they’re made into.  While movies that were born as movies or even expanded out from a short story source material, tend to be better movies.  For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed Sin City and V for Vendetta.

Scott Pilgrim was an attempt to make the movie along the same lines as Watchman – adapting the comic as closely as possible.  To that end, I think it had a wonderful start.  The first 1/4 to 1/2 of the movie is great.  After that, however, it becomes a train wreck that only someone who read, understood, and enjoyed the graphic novels can make any sense of.  In fact, the part of the comics that was the most important – Scott’s discovery of Nega-Scott and what that meant for the way he interacted with his friends and what he remembered – was almost completely cut from the movie.  What happened, and I think Dan agrees with me, is that they ran out of time at the pace that they were going.  The movie would have had to be way too long and so they rushed the ending.  What I wish they would have done is just split it into two movies.  I think it would have made a lot more sense and garnered much better reviews that way.  The ended really does get too bizarre the way it’s written and there really is too much good stuff that doesn’t make it in.  Of course, as Dan countered, the second film might not have been made due to the niche audience behind Scott Pilgrim.  I think that could have been ameliorated by filming both movies at once.  I’ve read about quite a few directors/producers that have done that in order to ensure that both movies are made and it tends to reduce costs.  Afterwards, if it didn’t make it to the theatres, they could have recouped the money on DVDs – the same way that the first Austin Powers movie became a hit.

If you never read the Scott Pilgrim books, stay far away from this movie.  You’ll probably hate it (most people I know that did this did hate it).  If you have read the books, the movie is entertaining, but it’s frustrating to know they started off so well and then bombed at the end.

One response to “Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World”

  1. I think train wreck is a little harsh, but I see what you mean with that. What may also be part of the problem is that the sixth book and the movie were being worked on at the same time. Brian Lee O’Malley gave some spoiler clues to the characters to clue them into character facets that had yet to be established, but I wonder if the finer points of book six (Scott’s sabbatical north to see Kim, his confrontation with Nega Scott, the issues with his memory, and his gradual maturation) were as established with Edgar Wright as the rest of the canon. For all we know some of this stuff could have come together at the final hour and the movie and book were released about a week apart.

    We’ll see what happens to Scott Pilgrim in DVD sales because those aren’t what they once were. Studios are feeling the crunch (also why they probably wouldn’t have been able to make a two-movie deal, even if it was simultaneous).