Who watches Scott Pilgrim vs. The World?

From where I was sitting Scott Pilgrim was poised to be the biggest film of the year. Leading up to its release, my Google Reader was inundated with previews, reviews, exclusive clips, on-set reports and hyper-excited blog posts. My Twitter stream became awash with people counting the days, hours and minutes till they got to see the film. The reports flooding in from those who had had the chance to catch early screenings were gushing in praise.

My internet world was filled with Scott Pilgrim love, and it was a magical place to be. I’d not seen this level of excitement since the days of The Dark Knight.

I have to admit to being a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the whole Scott Pilgrim thing. As a comic reader the book was never really on my radar, which in hindsight seems really strange since it’s almost targeted directly at me. It was the news of Edgar Wright directing the film adaptation that piqued my interest. Being a huge fan of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz meant I was ready to jump on whatever he moved to next – and if his next move was Scott Pilgrim, I thought I better check it out. I headed out to my local comic emporium to collect the first book, only they didn’t have any in stock. Not only that, but it seemed acquiring a copy through their supplier wasn’t possible [1]. I didn’t get it. Didn’t they know there was a film adaptation coming soon? Directed by Edgar Wright no less! Surely there should be shelves filled with Scott Pilgrim books at this point? Eventually I found a copy at an indie book store. I read, enjoyed… and then found out the movie release was still months away. Kicking the dirt in my cons, I settled in for a painful wait.

Time passed. I began collecting and reading the rest of the chapters in the Scott Pilgrim saga, and by the end of the third book (Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness [2]) I was hooked. It was around this time the first teaser poster appeared on the internet. I picked up the fourth book. My excitement climbed. The teaser trailer hit the net. I almost exploded. I read the fifth book. The full trailer was released. I did explode. I began counting the days until I would be able to witness Scott Pilgrim come to life.

And a quick glance towards the internet told me I wasn’t alone.

The night of its Australian release I was plane-ing my way to sunny Queensland for a short holiday. My iPod loaded with the Scott Pilgrim score and original soundtrack. My satchel holding the sixth and final Scott Pilgrim book. I dreamt about returning home to play the Scott Pilgrim videogame. If there was a Scott Pilgrim t-shirt [3], I would’ve bought it. I briefly considered checking to see if mylifeisscottpilgrim was already in use on Tumblr [4]. Looking at our week’s itinerary there didn’t look to be many opportunities for a cinema visit. Fortunately for me, my very accommodating and understanding girlfriend found us a window, and on the Sunday night of opening weekend we found a cinema and along with her father, took our seats to witness the majesty that would be Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

It was at this point that I started to realise things weren’t quite going as I expected.

Being opening weekend we arrived early for relatively early for tickets. I expected to see queues. Masses. Geeks ten to twelve deep at the candy bar. Instead, the foyer was close to empty. “Not to worry”, I thought to myself. “They’re probably already inside. Geeks are a punctual people”. I bounded beaming to the empty ticket counter, we collected our snacks and headed to the cinema. The crowd I expected to see where nowhere to be found. We shared our screening with a group of seven or eight youths (who decided to sit directly infront of us) and perhaps a handful of other couples. “Not to worry,” I thought to myself. “It is Sunday night. I don’t imagine it’s a big night for geek film viewing.”

Lights dimmed. Previews. Ads. More previews. And then the Universal logo appeared, and I smile crept across my face and stayed firmly planted for the next ninety or so odd minutes.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was everything I hoped it would be, and more. A perfect example of a passionate director taking a comic and placing everything that’s good about it on screen for everyone to enjoy. Edgar Wright has always had an amazing sense of comic timing and pacing, but here he outdoes himself. A breathtaking editing job. Effects worked perfectly, pulling you into the world without turning into an onslaught CG image after mind-numbing CG image  [5]. The soundtrack and sound design was an amazing blend of musical genres, all glued together with crunchy 8bit goodness. Performances were spot on. The whole thing just exploded with life. As a package, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was the film I’d been waiting to see ever since the Super Mario Bros. Movie broke my teenage heart and made me think that no one would ever be able to capture the fun I have playing video games in a film.

Was it a perfect film? Not quite. There were scenes from the comic I was looking forward to seeing that didn’t make it, or altered to fit into its run time and (I imagine) budget. What I missed the most were the moments that developed Scott and Ramona’s relationship. On screen I just couldn’t see what Scott saw in Ramona, besides the fact she was really pretty. Like, really, really pretty [6]. The film rushed from ex-battle to ex-battle, not allowing enough time to show the rocky road of their relationship, as it did in often painfully real detail in the books.

Was it amazing? Heck yes. As soon as I left the cinema I started planning a return visit. Daydreaming of the day where I’d own the film on Bluray so I could watch it whenever I wanted.

Straight after the film I finished reading the last half of book six; I’d been holding off for fear of spoiling the film. I do think that the movie was able to massage out some of the issues I had with the book’s conclusion; without going into too much detail, it provided much more straight forward, easy to digest screen ending than the perhaps a little too convoluted and obtuse paper version. We’re not talking giant mutant squid levels of change, but enough to make it more cinema friendly for the masses.

I slept well that night my friends, content with the knowledge Edgar Wright had been able to take Brian Lee O’Malley’s books and work his screen magic. Here was a film that sat perfectly along side its source material. So much more than just another comic book movie. This film was sure to be a hit.

The next morning I woke to the news that Scott Pilgrim had opened fifth in the US, behind The Expendables and the weeks old Inception. I was stunned. Flummoxed. How could this be?

Over the next few days of conversation with friends, the inevitable talk of what we’ve been doing on holiday turned to Scott Pilgrim, which turned to people asking us this whole Scott Pilgrim thing was all about. They hadn’t heard of it? Had they not watched and re-watched the trailers? Weren’t they reading the blogs? Apparently not. It was after the third or maybe fourth conversation that the penny began to drop. Of course my internet world was filled with Scott Pilgrim love – that’s how I chose to view it. While the internet spans countries and continents and millions of people having billions of discussions, I spend most of my time over in my own, cozy little corner. I subscribe to a number of gaming, music and movie blogs, all of which the either target, or are written by the Scott Pilgrim crowd. I only talk to a handful of people on Twitter, and our conversations play out between updates from comic book writers and artists, musicians, actors and directors. Most of whom are either fans of the books and film, or even had a hand in creating it. Of course everyone inside my internet bubble everyone loved Scott Pilgrim and were singing its praise.

I don’t pretend to be smart enough to know why Scott Pilgrim vs. The World performed badly at the box office. A quick search of the Googles will point you towards many different theories, most suggesting the film was always going to be too niche to ever connect with the general film going masses. I’ve heard people saying they were confused by the trailers, thinking it was a kids film. Others have blamed the casting of Michael Cera, blaming the Cera-saturation point. Maybe people just don’t get it? I don’t even think it’s a case of people being sick of comic book films – most of the people I’ve spoken to aren’t even that aware of the film, let alone the fact it’s based on a comic.

I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably already seen the movie, but on the off chance that you’ve come this far and you’ve not seen Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and you’re still not sure about forking over the money for a movie ticket, this is all you need to know:

  1. If you’ve ever played a video game and enjoyed it, you’ll like Scott Pilgrim.
  2. If you’ve ever played, or even dreamed of playing in a crappy garage band, you’ll like Scott Pilgrim.
  3. If you’re a fan of boy fights for girl’s love love stories, you’ll like Scott Pilgrim.
  4. If you’re tired of Hollywood rehashing the same over and over again and reselling it to you in different packaging, you’ll like Scott Pilgrim.
  5. If you have a heart, you’ll like Scott Pilgrim.

Please, go and see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. You won’t regret it.

———-

[1] My comic dealer attempted to explain the situation to me but most of it went over my head. Something about the fact that their supplier didn’t stock books by the company that was publishing Scott Pilgrim, which meant they weren’t able to order it directly. Word on the street was that heading up to the film’s release they would be printing copies of the book in Australia, meaning it would be easier to come by. As a consumer the concept of a producer limiting the sale of their product to certain regions has always confused me. I’ve learned to live with  the limitations placed on DVDs and Bluray discs (and by live with, I mean have found ways to get around), but to not be able to buy a comic that’s made of ink printed onto paper because I’m in the wrong country seems redonkulous.

Ironically, the week after the film’s release I walked into a major Sydney comic store to be greeted by a full shelf-and-a-half of unsold Scott Pilgrim books, all featuring a “Soon to be a major motion picture” sticker. From one extreme to another.

[2] Seriously, why did it take me so long to find out about Scott Pilgrim? I feel at this point someone should’ve well and truely come to collect my geek card.

[3] There probably is.

[4] It’s not.

[5] See: Transformers.

[6] Seriously. So pretty.

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Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

2 thoughts on “Who watches Scott Pilgrim vs. The World?”

  1. “If you’re tired of Hollywood rehashing the same over and over again and reselling it to you in different packaging, you’ll like Scott Pilgrim. ”

    you mean the story of: boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy fights for girl who is running from her past, boy and girl live happily ever after…this story has never been told before??

    what original genius of Scott Pilgrim!!

    1. Dear ‘whatevs’,

      I didn’t say the story hadn’t been told before – it’s a pretty basic plot outline, for sure. What I said was, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it told in this way before. Scott Pilgrim strikes a good balance of well worn story told in an original and smart way, that’s stylish without drowning completely in special effects and mindless action for the sake of mindless action.

      It seems to me that most Hollywood movies are only able to get one thing right at the time. Amazing effects often mean a threadbare plot. High concept plots often mean low production values. It’s pretty rare that a movie strikes a balance between the two, and tells its story in an original way. I believe Scott Pilgrim vs. The World did this.

      Of course, it’s also Ok for people to have different opinions on these things.

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