Man, oh man, what a great film. I’ve been a fan of the great series of graphic novels by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley since I picked up Volume 1 last year. Since 2004 there have been 6 of the enchanting black and white digests, with the final volume, entitled, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, having just been released.
The books, from publisher Oni Press, centre on slacker Scott Pilgrim, who in his own words remarks,”I don’t need fun to have a good time.” Basically the story is like a manic soap opera that wears its much loved influences boldly on its sleeve. Those influences include pop culture, from comics to video games and classic TV series, and O’Malley manages to weave all that and more in his seemingly rambling, but not really, tale of Scott and his numerous friends as he must defeat the 7 evil exes of the new love of his life, Romana Flowers. Perhaps the trailer can explain it better than I can.
There couldn’t be a better director for the film version than Edgar Wright. The British director has proved his love of pop culture is as evident as O’Malley’s in his TV series Spaced, and showed that he knows how to combine heartfelt drama, comedy and wild action with his first two films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
This was always going to be a hard film to make, not merely because there’s over 1000 pages of source material, but also because it’s not a straight forward tale, with its ever growing cast of characters and a concept that may be hard to grasp for some. As a loyal reader, I can honestly say that the movie exceeded my expectations. Michael Cera (TV’s Arrested Development, Juno) was the only logical choice for the confused, yet dedicated man-boy that is Scott Pilgrim, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Die Hard 4) lays on quiet charm and beauty as the object of his affection and relative newcomer Ellen Wong is great as Knives Chau, the immature teenager that Scott is dating at the film’s beginning, and who is also a huge fan of Scott’s average band Sex Bob-Omb.
The evil exes don’t appear for long, as there are seven to get through after all, but thankfully they are played very well and the battles that are sprinkled throughout the film are unique and visually remarkable. Comic book fans have more reason to see this film, as Chris Evans, who has played The Human Torch in Fantastic Four and is currently acting as Captain America in next year’s film shows up as ex-skateboarder/current hammy action star Lucas Lee, while Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh is a mindreading Vegan and Jason Schwatrzman arrives at the climax as mastermind Gideon Graves, the man behind the League of Evil Exes. Thomas Jane (The Punisher) and Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek) also show up as Vegan cops.
With its cast of sometimes selfish friends and a world charmingly placed in fantasy land, in which fights resemble something from a frantic video game, it won’t be for everybody, and the first half is more concerned with hilarious jokes and visual gags, while issues of love and maturity are the focus of the second half.
You’ll get more out of it if you’ve read the comics, and don’t mind going with the rich and hypnotic world in which Pilgrim is set. This is not a film for those who like cinema to reflect reality. However, it does have a surprisingly emotional centre (more so than even the comics) and an unashamed sense of child-like, and often childish, fun. Filled with a hectic pace, yet never seeming rushed, it explodes onto the screen like a multicoloured volcano and entices you to pay attention lest you miss a joke. There are plenty of those here, whether it be a running gag about Pilgrim’s haircut or a scene complete with the Seinfeld theme and a laugh track. Yep, charming nonsense has a new name and it is Scott Pilgrim.
Oh, and this is what I’d look like in Scott Pilgrim’s world. See yourself right here.