Edgar Wright’s wildly innovative film adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels should more than satisfy fanboys while engaging adventurous newcomers. Wright does a terrific job establishing and adhering to the tone of the book while providing a faithful adaptation of O’Malley’s six-part series. While other comic book adaptions have failed when translating to the medium, Scott Pilgrim overachieves in what it sets out to do. A bold exercise in the liberation of movie conventions, Pilgrim is a mash-up of a comic-book movie that dares you to dive into its chaos.
Scott Pilgrim boats an enormous burst of imagination – a unique and totally original work of art that still finds ways to channel moments of the humanity and humour present in O’Malley’s work. Its outer shell may be a comic book/video game hybrid movie but Scott Pilgrim is also a tender, smart and subtle coming of age flick that doesn’t focus on love but a shallow twenty-something romance. While most Hollywood teenage movies give us troubled youths and earthshaking-life changing revelations, Scott Pilgrim presents us with the everyday simplicities and past times of today’s youth, throwing it all into a blender and pouring out one audacious, irresistible piece of pure entertainment. Like The Breakfast Club, Scott Pilgrim is a generational milestone whose impact is still measured all these years later.
Director/producer/co-writer Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has successfully reproduced the worldview of the graphic novel with an array of cinematic tricks including voiceover; on-screen text; an opening 8-bit Universal logo; inventive editing techniques; comic-book-style dialogue bubbles; dazzling special effects,; catchy music; layers of sound design; swordplay; martial arts, split screen, slow motion, fast motion, and even a musical number. By bringing together several popular strains of contemporary moviemaking and an orgy of visual gimmickry, Wright has found a way to showcase a generation lost in a world of manga, video games, music videos, and comic book iconography. Wright, along with collaborator Bill Pope (Sam Raimi’s go-to director of photography), borrows inspiration from everything “pop culture” and effortlessly juggles the cinematic elements both physically and emotionally. Ultimately, Scott Pilgrim defines our YouTube/social media generation, and by providing countless Easter eggs, running gags and inside jokes, the film demands multiple viewings just to catch it all.
Aiding in the hipster spirit (which the film perfectly captures) is Edgar Wright’s good ear for the way the youngsters speak and the wide range of hip indie slang. Contributing to the soundtrack are underground college radio station favorites Nigel Godrich, Beck, Metric, Broken Social Scene, Cornelius, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala. And while the entire cast is uniformly great, the film benefits from a hearty dose of charm, thanks mostly to the most outrageous performance yet from Michael Cera. Cera, the titular hero, is perfect in the role, silencing any concerns of his being typecast. Wright wisely tweaks the character to play on Cera’s strengths – the net effect adds new layers of comic relief not present in the books. Cera (as Anthony Michael Hall was in the 80s) is the perfect embodiment of the lovable, dewey-eyed male innocent. Cera plays Pilgrim in a very honest way, and the end result is, without a doubt, the best work he’s done so far.
Visually stunning, technically astounding and emotionally resonant— as Edgar Wright once said, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is like a nursery rhyme to slackers of the past, present and especially the future.