Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Signal Watch Watches: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I have previously discussed the Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels from Oni by Bryan Lee O'Malley. You can read my previous columns here and here.

As any self-respecting comic geek has already read: yes, the movie mostly follows the comics very closely, condensing time and space in order for the movie to move along at a good clip. Yes, Kieran Culkin is the most amusing thing about the film.

As Scott Pilgrim, I honestly think I preferred Cera's deadpan delivery to the Scott of the comics. At least I found him far more sympathetic. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a slighty smarter script breathe life into the cipher-on-a-pedestal that was the Ramona of the comics. And, for good or ill, Ellen Wong played about the Knieves Chausiest Knives Chau I think we were ever going to see on film.

As you've likely also heard: yes, O'Malley's expansive cast of characters is trimmed back severely. In two hours, there just isn't time for sub-sub-plots about thirs tier characters' romantic entanglements, etc... But the film's team also cut what I saw as fat and parts of the books that didn't seem to go anywhere. And, honestly, they also kind of cut parts of the book that I felt O'Malley just really didn't carry off very well.

I've read a few reviews that complained that the movie wasn't specific enough in its homage to this or that brand of manga or missed the essence of MegaMan or somesuch. And, to be honest, I kind of sort half wondered if those reviewers were reading something into the comic that wasn't really there to begin with, but... whatever.

Edgar Wright is a talented director, and despite the poor performance of the film in its opening weekend, I kind of felt like he took the comic and made the sharpest, funniest picture anyone was likely to make. He "got" what O'Malley seemed to be trying to do, and kept the core honest while tweaking some things to make them a bit tighter or kicking up the visuals, incorporating game visuals in a way that was truly fun.

I still have a bit of a problem with the notion that the comics were about Scott growing up, and so I appreciated Wright steering the story to suggest what Scott really got was "self respect", but... somehow it just didn't feel like that had been the set-up. And I'm not sure the ending (which differs from the comics) is any less convoluted when it comes to the semi-metaphor of the movie.

Further, Ramona's choices in the film do sort of pull some of the wind out of the "love story". The plot device was perhaps a bit too plot-devicey, even for this movie.

But, you know, its a big, bright colorful movie with surprisingly great action sequences, clever bits about every four frames, a killer soundtrack and lots of cute hipsters girls. So... you know, your mileage will vary.


I didn't miss:

1) the fight with Knives' father.
2) Scott "forgetting" stuff and the Nega-Scott. If one thing O'Malley tried to do and it just fell flat on its face, it was Scott's memory lapses. It might have worked, but when its explained in the sixth volume, its anticlimactic and doesn't actually solve or resolve anything. The movie handled "Nega-Scott" and Scott's ambivalence about his own past in a much more concrete manner.
In a way, I almost felt like the treatment of "Nega-Scott" here was Wright's suggestion that maybe a big fight isn't the answer, but it got one of the biggest laughs from em of the movie.
3) The entire last half of the 6th volume.
4) The dangling thread about Scott's old house, his family, etc... that never really resolved or went anywhere.
5) The random hook-up of Kim Pine and Knives, that suggested something big, and then... nothing.

Things I might have liked better from the comics:

1) Knives' conclusion to her storyline in the comics makes far more sense. She doesn't need to get engaged in the big boss fight, and she's over Scott and sees what he did for what it was. In the movie, it just felt sort of dishonest, like "I have to smile and forgive. You're our lovable protagonist".
2) Any explanation whatsoever of how Scott got his money.
3) The extended timeline. Its hard to get your head around the storyline in the movie if it all takes place within about three weeks.
4) They really dropped the whole Envy thing after a ton of set-up, didn't they?
5) The fight in the central Toronto Library between Knives and Ramona. Not just visually striking, but it ends things for Knives' beliefs in getting Scott back and sets Ramona on a different path with Scott. This happening so late in the movie felt very, very off.

At the end of the day, it still seemed like a movie about coming to maturity or finding self-respect and love with each other just shouldn't end with kung-fu and video game cliches. What's wrong with either of these characters just taking one another's hand and walking away from a ridiculous situation?


Anonymous said...

Did I call on the box office?? :-D


The League said...

You very much did. I still can't believe that a $10 million opening weekend is a bad opening weekend.