Posts Tagged ‘scott-pilgrim’

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott gets it.

Question: how hard must a movie rock to escape from the pull of the Earth’s gravity, to jettison itself from our planet and our universe, and then to carve out its own world with the power of an electric bassline and pop-culture references to define a generation?

Answer: about as hard as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a nonstop whirlwind of energy which delights in cranking the fun up to 12 or 13–all the while winking back at us, because it knows a simple 11 would’ve sufficed.

Edgar Wright doesn’t settle for good enough.  Every inch of Scott Pilgrim is meticulously detailed, every scene packed with sounds and costumes and posters and special effects that, quite frankly, make Scott Pilgrim the film a more unique creation than Scott Pilgrim the comic.  In comics, onomatopoeia are almost necessary to transform the silent print medium into something we can fully relate to, but in film the audio pretty much takes care of that itself.  Yet this alternate reality, this wonderful vision of Toronto brought to life as a 21st century version of magical realism becomes more authentic and individual for all its comical sound effects, CG embellishments and narrative exposition.

Wright is relentlessly inventive, employing a dazzling variety of effects that blend together to create this coherent piece of media that doesn’t quite behave like any other movie out there.  And just when you think you’ve seen all the tricks, an old one will suddenly be used in a different way, as if the blend of sight gags and chiptunes and soundbytes and references could be endlessly combined in innovative ways.  This is just what we get.

A very few fans may gripe that Cera’s Scott isn’t the same as the Scott from O’Malley’s comics, or that the secondary cast are marginalized to make way for the hugely entertaining battle scenes.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a movie that never slows down once it gets up to speed, and combat does take center stage.  But it’s only a sign of excellence that we want more time with these characters–they’re far from neglected, all played with style and talent, and besides, this is Scott Pilgrim’s show.  He kicks ass, smiles goofily, rocks his heart out and freaks out about his haircut in perfectly measured proportions.

If this is a genre film, I’ll be damned to tell you which one. No action movie has this kind of music, crafted by Beck and other visionaries into an intrinsic element of the film’s world.  No romantic comedy has this much cultural awareness, this keen a sense of the baggage we all carry with us writ large with glowing katanas and videogame sound effects.  And no comic film ever used the elements of comic books so blatantly or originally, mixing illustrations and wild camera technique and multi-frame action to suit the scene at hand.

I don’t know how it could be possible not to like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World when it enjoys itself so much.  As long as you’re willing to leave our world and travel to one very similar, which delights in the sights and sounds we’ve grown oblivious to and promises to one-up your expectations at every turn, you will find something to love in Scott’s fantastic battle.

Scott Pilgrim and the Cross-Genre Adventure

Scott Pilgrim finds his way

It’s not too hard to picture pop culture as a massive, interwoven tapestry of media — movies and television shows and books and podcasts all borrowing ideas and themes from one another, trying to offer consumers something familiar enough to be appealing but original enough to be captivating.  And one of my absolute favorite things in pop culture is when the creative types unabashedly reference their favorite works, with in-jokes or overt name-drops.

Brian K. Vaughan, author of the incredible comic Y The Last Man, wears his comic book geekery on his sleeve.  Every issue of Y is utterly packed with cheerful jokes that won’t make much sense to readers whose knowledge of the medium doesn’t match Vaughan’s, but it’s cool nonetheless to see such a good writer pay homage to his own influences.

More recently, the seriously bizarre (but hardly serious) action game Bayonetta has fun dropping cheeky references to other video games.  Bayonetta’s wacko plot may be a bit too out there for me, but hearing one of its characters emulate the Resident Evil 4 merchant was amusing, and Bayonetta’s own “Henshin A Go-Go” a delight.

In most cases, that’s as far as pop culture goes to plumb the depths of its own history.  Surface-level window dressings can be a ton of fun, but how often do such references have a genuine impact on the heart of a story?  Pretty rarely — which is one of the reasons Scott Pilgrim is so awesome.

Bryan Lee O’Malley doesn’t just work in commentary on music, video games, anime.  I mean, he does all that, and he does it well.  But that’s barely touching on what makes Scott Pilgrim such an original, interesting work.  Scott Pilgrim is a surreal blend of the real world and a goofy, magic-imbued fantasy reality, where Ramona Flowers can use subspace to travel through people’s dreams, where vegans are imbued with psychic powers, and where Scott isn’t just a twenty-something loser — he’s a twenty-something loser who always wins his fights.

O’Malley’s art trends towards the cartoony end of the comic spectrum, which is perfect for the offbeat, experimental mash-up of styles and genres present in his work.  Every great comic creates a detailed world for its characters to exist in, and the way that world is realized appropriately mirrors the style of the narrative.  Cartoony, oversized expressions would seem just as out of place in a post-apocalyptic thriller as minutely detailed characters would look in a lighthearted comedy.  Which isn’t to say that Scott Pilgrim is never serious — but in the world of comics, cartoony, iconic characters are easier to latch onto, and the more stylized they are, the more likely we are to buy into the world around them.

Scott Pilgrim levels up!

Which is important, because the world of Scott Pilgrim is unlike any other.  As they become more and more advanced, video games have been gravitating towards emulating Hollywood to the best of their ability.  They’re trying to adopt the language of movies: the way cinematography works, how scenes are composed, how characters interact.  Comics, on the other hand, have a very distinct style of storytelling, a way of handling time that is very much their own.  But Scott Pilgrim doesn’t quite play by those rules; it incorporates the trappings of video games at a conceptual level.  In a comic, there’s a way you expect characters to interact with their world, and in video games, there’s a way you expect the elements in the interactive environment to work.  But by infusing aspects of video games into Scott Pilgrim, O’Malley has birthed a cool mix of mediums, in which the expected logic of comics doesn’t work the way we’re accustomed to.

1-UpWhen characters die, they don’t die like they would in a comic; they die like they would in a video game, leaving behind power-ups or 1-Ups (or bunnies, in one Sonic the Hedgehog inspired incident). Video game iconography often pops up to establish a scene with a minimum of wordy explanation.  Game-esque “stats” are applied to objects and characters, like Ramona’s bat (+1 against blondes!) and Scott’s leveling up.  Anyone who’s familiar with video games will take these things for granted in a game, but O’Malley uses them to tell a story in a way that games never have.  Narrative in video games often disregards the way we interact with them — RPGs will throw tons of stats and levels and weapons at you, but those things almost never have any bearing on how the story plays out.  But Scott Pilgrim tells its story through those tropes.  Pretty cool, huh?

There’s plenty more video game stuff packed into Scott Pilgrim in the form of references like Clash at Demonhead, and some moments that break the Fourth Wall, which seems only natural for such an offbeat comic.  As interesting as the Scott Pilgrim comic is, it’s even more tantalizing to anticipate how Edgar Wright will take the video game elements and incorporates them into the upcoming film adaptation.  Odds are it won’t work in quite the same unique way, but who knows?