Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I, of course, went to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World this weekend.

I liked the movie. It had a great, manic energy and it just kept moving forward without any hesitation. There really wasn’t a wasted moment nor was there any time to stop and get bored. Or honestly, really think. Director Edgar Wright did a beautiful job of capturing the giddy spirit of the comic. It’s a pretty seamless, joyful adaptation and the video game and manga-inspired touches are playful. The whole production design is perfect and spot-on.

But I guess my problems with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are the same problems I have with the comic. Mostly, Scott Pilgrim himself.

I did enjoy Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic. I think it captures a certain period of life very well. But I think that’s also its flaw. The older I get, the less I’m interested in the drama of young twentysomethings. I did love the final volume of Scott Pligrim and I think O’Malley brought it all together in a very satisfying manner, but I think it took too long to get there.

In some ways, the abbreviated pace of the movie works a bit better for me — it edits down the comic to its essential parts. And as annoying as he can be, I think Michael Cera was perfect for the role of Scott. Mostly because Scott is annoying. When his friends in the movie make fun of his naiveté and idiocy, it’s believable to me whereas it was less so in the comic (I know Scott’s friends in the comic treated him much the same way, but I often felt there was too much implicit approval with regard to Scott’s behavior and we were supposed to be cheering him on. I realize it’s personal, but I’ve known guys who were like Scott at this age, and well, they weren’t people I wanted to celebrate).

In the movie, Scott’s relationship, however chaste it is, with Knives is given a slightly more distasteful overtone. Scott’s too weak to be predatory, but he does come across as more unintentionally opportunistic. Likewise, all the supporting characters, especially Anna Kendrick as Scott’s sister Stacey and Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace, provide the voices of reason and are two of the more interesting parts of the movie.

I don’t think the movie quite did Ramona justice, though. Even in the comic, it did take a while for readers to learn much about her, but here, she mostly remains a mystery. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does play her with some pathos, but there’s not much to work with. I can understand what Scott sees in her — she’s cool and cute — but as for what she sees in Scott, I really don’t know (but unlike the comic, the movie only takes place over a handful of days, rather than a year, so it’s still a very young relationship).

If nothing else, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is incredibly entertaining. All in all, I think this movie is fated to play in dorm rooms for the next decade or so, and definitely shows what it feels like to be young in the early part of the 21st century. And it does have something to say about relationships and their baggage (although I think the movie does sacrifice a lot of the deeper issues of the comic for the sake of fun, which is understandable, but doesn’t make it as meaningful as it could’ve been).

It’s also wonderful in that it reveals what else comics have to offer other than “superheroes” or “serious autobiographical.” Whether or not that will have a lasting impact, I don’t know. Ultimately, I like this movie for what it is, and what it represents. I had fun, even if, in the end, I still feel a little ambivalent about the plot overall.

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