SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Review by Gordon Justesen
Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison
Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman
Director: Edgar Wright
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2010
“WE ARE SEX-BOB-OMB AND WE ARE HERE TO WATCH SCOTT PILGRIM KICK YOUR TEETH IN! ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR...”
Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is a true cinematic game changer! Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film experience that astounds with brilliance on so many levels, and astounds even more so on multiple viewings. It's one of those special films that ultimately deserves to be passed down from generation to generation of true film lovers.
This is a film to be treasured for many reasons, the first and foremost being that there has simply never been anything like this brought to the screen. While it's true that this is an adaptation of a graphic novel series, which are the basis for so many movies these days, there are two key ingredients that play a vital role in what makes this distinctive from all other graphic novel adaptations that have come before it, including even the wonderful Kick-Ass from earlier this year. Those ingredients would be the world created in the graphic novels by writer Bryan Lee O'Malley, and the astonishingly meticulous fashion in which director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) has brought this world to the big screen.
With this film, Wright displays a level of filmmaking here that is among the best I have ever seen, and I mean EVER. He literally transforms the graphic novel into a full fledged motion picture, using words to pop out in the frame to illustrate even the most subtle sound effect. It's like what Ang Lee tried to do with Hulk, only to a much grander effect and without so much overkill.
If you've seen any of Wright's previous films, you've probably noticed his unique style when it comes to editing and scene transitions. The way he in which he executes that in this film had me in sheer awe. It makes the film flow in such a unique and magnificent way, and you can imagine how much that greatly benefits a film adaptation of a graphic novel.
Scott Pilgrim (a perfectly cast Michael Cera) is a twenty-something slacker living in the mysterious land of Toronto, Canada. He plays bass in a garage band struggling to find themselves a big time gig. And for about a year, he's been reeling from a bad breakup, which he is currently attempting to get over by dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong).
It's not so much dating as it is shooting the breeze with a girl who isn't allowed out of the house by her parents at night. But she loves to watch his band practice, eventually becoming their biggest and only fan. As for Scott, he gets to slip back into the dating scene without any real pressure, so it's win-win for both parties involved.
But Scott unexpectedly encounters the true girl of his dreams, and it should be pointed out that she is in his dreams before they even meet. She is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a rollerblading delivery girl whom Scott becomes tremendously obsessed with. He even orders something off Amazon just so he can sit by the door and await her arrival.
When she does arrive at the door, Scott delays accepting the package by asking her out on a date in a most awkward manner. She eventually agrees to it, if only as a way of getting him to sign for his package so she can leave. Later that night, the two meet up and, as it turns out, hit it off quite well.
But Ramona, like any girl her age, has got baggage. The only problem is her baggage comes in the form of her seven evil exes. And she informs Scott that in order to be with her, he will have to defeat all of them.
This brings us to the neat little twist of the film, which will be a surprise only to those who've never read the graphic novels, which is that the characters break out in video game fighting mode in the same manner in which characters in a musical break out into song. So when Scott is brought face to face with one of Ramona's evil exes, he immediately leaps into fighting mode. Thus, we have a movie that manages to master not only comic book sensibilities but that of hand to hand video game combat...I believe we can now insert the word GROUNDBREAKING!
It's interesting to note that the best video game movies to date are ones that are not even based on video game properties. This and the Crank movies are as great as great as we're ever going to get, but this film especially conveys video game sensibilities about as dead on perfect as any fan of the medium could hope to see. Edgar Wright establishes this from the very beginning of the film, in which the Universal logo and theme music are astoundingly delivered in an 8-bit video game format.
Furthermore, the fight choreography represents some of the best ever put to film. Not only does Wright apply the combat styles of classic Street Fighter-like game play, but even a couple of fight sequences pay homage to that of classic Jackie Chan, as illustrated in a scene where Ramona assists Scott in the fighting of a female evil ex (yep, there was some experimenting going on), with her controlling his arm movements, as he doesn't want to hit a girl. And the climatic battle, where Scott unleashes all kinds of fury via a digitized flaming samurai sword, is one of the most visually riveting pieces of movie fighting you will ever see, and we're even treated to an encore of it by way of a most genius plot device.
Michael Cera has become something of an acquired taste, though I have to admit I think he gets way too much hate from those who feel he gives the same one note performance in each film. To those people, I say witness him in this movie because he actually displays a strong level of range and a brilliant sense of comic timing, not to mention becoming a true badass by the film's end. It is without question the best role of Cera's career, and the one I feel he should be forever remembered for.
The supporting cast is one for the ages. The seven evil exes, in particular, are brought to life memorably by such actors as Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman (who coincidentally played Michael Cera's Christian girlfriend Ann Veal on Arrested Development) and Jason Schwartzman as the pretentious leader of the League of Evil Exes. We also get fantastic work from Anna Kendrick (always a delight to watch) as Scott's gossipy sister, Stacey, Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate and frequent life advice giver, Wallace, and Aubrey Plaza as Julie, the only one in Scott's inner circle who seems to thoroughly despise the guy.
And I can't leave out three vital supporting characters; the additional members of Scott's garage band, Sex-Bob-Omb. They are made up of Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), aka “The Talent”, Kim (Alison Pill), band drummer as well as another ex-girlfriend of Scott's and, most importantly, Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). And let's just say that it's best if I leave Young Neil's role in the band for you to discover. And bonus points for anyone whose already picked up on the significance of the names Stephen Stills and Young Neil.
Like Christopher Nolan's Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is more than just a riveting piece of high-caliber escapist fare, but also one of those rare films that has the ability to restore ones faith in filmmaking as a whole. Originality is unfortunately quite rare in a movie market obsessed with nothing but remakes, reboots and sequels, so the fact that a truly groundbreaking and extravagant piece of entertainment like this exist is definitely a cause for celebration. And when talking about the filmmaker responsible for the real cinematic game changer, let's make sure we say the name Edgar Wright and not James Cameron.
BONUS TRIVIA: Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins Jr, have a show-stopping cameo, and that's all I'm gonna reveal about the scene in question.
ADDITIONAL TRIVIA: The voice providing the periodic bits of narration, as well as the many video game voice effects, belongs to SNL funnyman Bill Hader.
As much as I had to write about my love for this movie, I have even more to write now that we've reached the technical portion, because it just so happens that this Blu-ray release Universal has the ability, I think, to define the overall power of the format. The video quality is nothing but pure astounding gorgeousness right from the very opening shot. Colors, as you can imagine, play a pivotal role in this amazingly realized world that Edgar Wright has brought to life. The color palette first appears a bit muted, purposefully so, but around the time the colorful Ramona enters the frame, they are elevated to a strikingly vibrant level, which never lets up from this point. The cinematography courtesy of Bill Pope (The Matrix) also serves as something of a first. Though shot in the 1.85:1 flat ratio, the image will sometimes switch out to a widescreen anamorphic look, mainly during the fight sequences and extended rock music bits. That aspect of the presentation also makes this a groundbreaking BD release. If there was ever a movie that was made to be viewed only in the Blu-ray format, this would be it!
This movie is just as dependent on its sound as it is its look, and the 5.1 DTS HD mix supplies one ass kicker of a presentation, for lack of a better description. And the unique flow of sound is imminent right from the very beginning, and doesn't even begin to lowering it's assault on your hearing senses (and I mean that in a GREAT way). I haven't even yet mentioned the outstanding soundtrack to the movie provided by Beck, who's songs are all fantastic pieces of rock music and will blast your sound channels to the fullest effect possible. There's a music battle sequence midway through the film that is unquestionably one of the best individual sequences you will ever hear in HD sound. Dialogue delivery is a hundred percent clear, the action sequences are all rendered in pure sounding excellence, and the many video game sound effects add a nice extra punch to the proceedings.
Where to begin, my friend? Where to begin??? Edgar Wright has very much joined a certain league of directors, including Ridley Scott, Judd Apatow and Peter Jackson, whose films pretty much guarantee an extravagant lineup of extras. And on Blu-ray, that means fans are treated to as much as can be served on a single disc, with some of the extras brought to us in HD and the rest settling for SD. This Universal Blu-ray release was definitely made with all the fans in mind, and the result is one of best all around releases of the year!
We start off with not one, not two, not three but FOUR audio commentaries. I listened to each commentary and can state right up front that they are all worth the individual listen. Edgar Wright is not only one of my favorite filmmakers, as his commentaries are always a grand mixture of informative and extremely hilarious. He headlines the first two commentaries, the first of which also includes co-writer Michael Bacall and graphic novel creator Bryan Lee O'Malley. The second commentary features Wright and cinematographer Bill Pope. The next two commentaries feature cast members, the first of which includes actors Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong and Brandon Routh, while the final commentary features Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin and Mark Webber.
Universal also incorporates their U-Control interactive feature this time around for a neat little storyboard Picture-in-Picture that runs literally nonstop throughout the entire film, without any gaps whatsoever.
And we're far from being done as we get nearly a half hour worth of Deleted Scenes, as well as twenty minutes worth of Alternative Footage, which is essentially a combination of alternative edits of various scenes and a collection of improv bits that were tossed out. Among the Documentaries supplied are “The Making of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”, a music featurette which takes a look at what went into the development of the songs for the film. Lastly, there's a brief acoustic instructional bit titled “You Too Be Sex-Bob-Omb”. These all add up to 80 minutes in running time.
Next up is the Pre-Production section, which includes five individual featurettes which all add up to 90 minutes in length. This includes Pre-Production Footage, Animatics, Rehearsal Videos, a Props, Rigs and Sets Montage, a Casting Tapes reel and Hair and Make-up Footage.
Then we are treated to look at the Visual Effects. This includes the featurettes, “VFX Before & After”, which turns out to have included even more painstaking work that I initially thought. There's also a look at the girl on girl fight sequence prior to FX use, as well as a montage of footage shot with the specialized digital Phantom camera, which is designed to shoot slow motion shots in front of blue screens.
We also get Music Promos, which consists of four Music Videos for the songs “Garbage Truck”, “Black Sheep”, “Threshold” (my personal favorite) and “Summertime”. Also featured are seven individual Audio and Visual Remixes courtesy of Osymyso.
Rounding out this extensive list of epic extras is quite a bit more extras, including a sound design featurette titled “Soundworks Collection: Sound for Film Profile”, three particularly engaging extras: a gag reel titled “Scott Pilgrim vs. The Bloopers”, an animated short created for Adult Swim titled “Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The Censors”, which gives you an idea of what the movie will sound like on network TV, which had me dying with laughter. There's also 45 minutes worth of video blogs from Edgar Wright himself, a Trivia Track, Trailers and an extensive Gallery containing up to a THOUSAND pictures/storyboards. Finishing out is both a DVD copy and a digital copy disc.
I honestly can't think of another Blu-ray disc, at least in my collection, that contained so much bonus material on one disc. All I can say is a might bravo to the folks at Universal!
I honestly can't think of another film I've seen that is brilliant on so many individual levels (comedy, action, romance, rock music, video game and comic book sensibilities) while at the same being revolutionary cinematic achievement. Although it may appear to be a movie designed specifically for a younger generation, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a film to be admired by those wanting to experience something truly one of a kind in terms of groundbreaking filmmaking as well as good old escapist fare. It's one of the greatest cinematic achievements of 2010, and one of the absolute best all around Blu-ray releases to ever exist!