Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

It had me at “An epic tale of epic epicness.”

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the film adaptation of the graphic novel series by Brian Lee O’Malley (first volume here), lived up to my hopes, being a good adaptation of the key parts of the series, while also being a hilarious and at-times touching film in its own right.

It’s not exactly an examination of slacker culture, or hipster culture, or any other culture, so much as the story of slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), bassist in a small-time band, who is recovering from a bad relationship by dating high school student Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), but who meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). As if that wasn’t enough, in order to date Ramona, Scott has to fight and defeat her seven evil exes.

Considering it condenses 6 graphic novels into a just-under-2-hour movie, Scott Pilgrim does a good job of staying faithful to the source material, especially the first (and best) volume, which takes up the first half-hour of the film. But whereas in the first book Scott seems almost heroic, albeit basically clueless, and then descends into being hapless and pathetic, the film is consistent as portraying him as a loser, a likable but hardly admirable protagonist.

None of that really matters, though, because what makes Scott Pilgrim worth seeing is that it’s frickin’ hilarious, and full of exciting and over-the-top fight scenes based on martial arts video games. Whereas in the comics the fights never quite seem fully-realized, in the film they have the extra impact that came in the fight scenes in Watchmen, while being at the polar opposite end of the ridiculousness spectrum from that film. It works much better here, since it’s all thrilling rather than troubling.

And the film is loaded with quotable lines, which have kept me giggling for two days since I saw the film.

The cast is superb, too. Okay, no one’s going to win an Oscar here, but Michael Cera is excellent as the earnest-yet-pathetic hero, Jason Schwartzman is appropriately creepy and smarmy as the ultimate evil ex in the film’s climax, seeming like an evil version of Austin Powers. Then there’s Brandon Routh (yes, from Superman Returns), made up almost unrecognizably as another evil ex. Chris Evans, the Human Torch from Fantastic Four, also does a turn as an ex. Ellen Wong steals a few scenes as Knives, especially when she’s dealing with being dumped by Scott. But special mention has to go to Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells, who practically steals every scene he appears in. If nothing else, I hope this film gets him some choice roles, because he’s earned them with his turn here. May Elizabeth Winstead is perhaps a little disappointing as Ramona, but her character seemed rather underwritten and passive, so she wasn’t given as much to work with (unfortunate since Ramona is a pretty string character at the beginning).

Really, between the script and the delivery, there’s just a lot of fun to be had in Scott Pilgrim. It doesn’t seem to have been doing well at the box office, so go see it soon if you’re interested, because it benefits from being seen on the big screen. Not that it really matters whether we get a sequel, because it’s complete unto itself. Check it out.