Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Right Side

Not really, I love Scott Pilgrim. June 5th marked 5 years since I first started reading the series, having read the first two volumes at a friends loft while waiting for him to take a shower and get ready for a party. I've been hooked ever since.

The main reason I'm making this post is because of the latest trailer for the movie adaptation of the comics, named after the 2nd volume of the series: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I've seen so many comments from people on different websites, people who say they don't "get" it, or that it looks stupid to them. I understand where they are coming from, Scott Pilgrim is an interesting beast...

For those who have not read the comics, I strongly recommend you do so. The series starts out "ok" but the story really picks up with each consecutive volume. Right now the series is at it's penultimate volume, which ended on a cliff-hanger. The story has reached a point where you are left begging to know what happens next. We have to wait till July 20th to find out how the comic ends though.

The series kicks off like a typical "slacker boy tries to get with unattainable girl" scenario, but quickly subverts this when the slacker boy gets the girl by the midpoint of the first volume. The series is more about the challenges he has to face in order to keep the girl, and the internal journey he goes through to understand why he should fight for her, and what it says about him. The humor in the series is pretty bizarre, as there are many unexplained facets about the world that the series does not explain, it just expects you to roll with and do your best to keep up. Many common video game tropes exist in the world of Scott Pilgrim, and while this is a shock to the reader initially, the characters treat it as second nature. Enemies burst into piles of coins when defeated, Scott gets experience, levels up, and sometimes gets an item after winning a fight. There are many references to 8-bit and 16-bit games like Mario, Sonic, Zelda, etc.

The story is easy to follow even if you aren't familiar with the video game elements, but if you know your games, you will appreciate the series on another level. When you first start reading the series, it's easy to pass it off as an immature, nerdy comic about love and video games. But if you stick with the series, you'll realize that there's a lot more to it. Sure it's about love, and Scott getting to keep the girl and what not. But it's also about Scott slowly making the realization that in order to drop his slacker nature, and succeed at anything, he has to grow up, take a step back and look at himself. The girl, Ramona Flowers, has to let go of the past. It's enthralling to see how they do so...

Many people who have not read much of the comic ask: "What makes Ramona special? What's so great about her?" As if being able to travel through sub-space and having a league of evil exes isn't enough. She's not really special in the context most people might be looking for. But really, that's kind of open for interpretation right now. She's mysterious, Scott finds it intriguing, and in the duration of the series is slowly starting to pick up on what makes her special, if anything. Little things the characters learn about themselves, whether spelled out for the reader or not, are what keeps the series smart and entertaining.

That's all I'll really say about the comic though, I'm sure that was hard to follow, but this post is supposed to be about the movie.

Based on the two trailers that have been released, this film looks to be extremely faithful to the series. Many of the comic book panels are expertly translated to the screen, and it looks like much of the video game elements have been kept in. Though... I am disappointed that that trailers have already given away several surprises that shocked readers of the series. That being said, the movie should be fun, entertaining, hilarious, and AWESOME.

A lot of people are put off by the fact that the titular character is being portrayed by Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno), many automatically assume be will be playing "Michael Cera" or, the same character he's played in every movie. These people have not seen enough movies with Cera in them. Yeah, he's been typecast as the awkward, shy boy who manages to get the girl through his sheepish charm, BUT... have you seen him in Youth in Revolt? Arrested Development? Have you seen him actually BEING himself in behind the scenes videos, special features, or audio commentaries? He has a soft voice, but he's not shy and meek. He's quite confident, and he's actually pretty funny and at times obnoxious. This is why I think he will be great as Scott Pilgrim. Scott is awkward, but he doesn't know it. Scott thinks he's the coolest guy in the world and nobody knows it yet, Scott is unintentionally funny and obnoxious.

I think Michael Cera is great for this role. To be honest, he wasn't my first choice, and it wasn't until I saw him outside of film that I warmed up to the idea. There are times in the series when Scott is a bit of an ass, he can be pretty unlikeable, you need an actor and a face to play him, one that audiences will still get behind even when the character he's playing isn't being a nice guy. Also, the series is set in Canada; Ramona is the only American character in the series. Michael Cera is Canadian which gives him a bit of an edge in the role. Just as there's a difference between British humor and Asian or American humor, Canadian humor can be pretty distinctive. It's not about cultural reference, it's the point of view. When crazy things start happening around a character, American humor would dictate an over exaggerated reaction. Canadian humor would call for a laid-back reaction, one that undercuts the situation at hand. Truth be told, I can't think of anyone who I would have cast in his place anyway. Just... don't let your petty hatred of Cera prevent you from seeing this movie, and hopefully enjoying it.
That aside, I must say the casting for this film looks phenomenal, all the characters look like they're graphic novel counterparts. That rarely happens in adaptations of games and comics.

Another reason I'm pretty excited for this film is because Edgar Wright is directing it. If you've ever seen the show Spaced, it's like a European Scott Pilgrim, full of ridiculous set pieces, and spot on movie/game/comic references. Wright handles surreal pop humor well, and given his love for the source material, I have no doubt he'll do the same for this film. Also, the movie went into production around the release of the second volume of the series. The film is supposed to follow the first three volumes for the most part, before branching off. The ending of the film is supposed to be different from the books, because the last books had not been written by the time the film was made. Normally that would worry me, but Wright has stated many times that he has been in close communication with the series creator, Brian Lee O'Malley. The ending is supposed to be based off O'Malley's original idea for the series finale, so it'll still feel right I'm sure.

Yet another reason I'm sure this movie will be great? A special screening of the film was held for Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Legend of Zelda series, Mario Bros., etc. The screening was held to request permission of the use of Legend of Zelda music in the film. Miyamoto granted his permission without a second though, and showed great satisfaction in the use of the music and the film itself. Optimism +1

I'm also excited for the special effects in this film, they look just like comic book stylings but with an air paint sort of feel. The fights look very neat, speed ramps giving each connected hit extra emphasis, single frame flashes of black and white, line art, and inverted colors to give it all that extra ooomph. I also noticed that certain weapons, like Ramona's Large Hammer, are pixelated and have a mosaic overlay which makes for an interesting effect. The cool thing about having video game graphics and effects in the movie is that multiple generations of people have grown up playing Mario, Donkey Kong, and various other classic games. These people will latch onto the video game culture aspects of the film because everyone knows bad guys drop prizes when they die, or what have you. The 8-bit graphics used in the film (and tie-in video game; which looks like a loving throwback to River City Ransom, Streets of Rage, and the like) were done by phenomenal 8/16bit artist Paul Robertson of Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 fame. All that's missing is an awesome chip-tune soundtrack composed by punk band Anamanaguchi.... OH WAIT. They're doing the soundtrack for the game? Day. One. Buy.
If you can't tell, I'm excited about this film. Kim and I don't know any people who had read this series before now, hopefully with this movie coming out more people will take interest in the books and feel the shame in almost missing out on such an awesome series. Read the books people! See the movie! Go in with an open mind, and don't take everything at face value. There are deeper messages than most people realize with these books... that's why there's such a large rift between the people who enjoy the series, and those who don't "get it". I don't mean to sound elitist... so I'm sorry if it came off that way... but I do encourage those who have written off the series to give it a second chance before dismissing it altogether.
Ugh... I just looked back on all that. I have shite writing skills.


  1. eh, we didn't go to school to become English majors.

  2. You should let me borrow them.