I think Michael Cera is trapped in the realm of indie rock.
You see, the first movie I saw him in, Juno, he was playing indie music with Ellen Page (who also starred in one of my favorite movies this year, Inception). Next, he plays a bassist in a terrible garage band until he meets this girl, in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Finally, Cera plays a bassist in a terrible garage band until he meets this girl, in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Comparisons to Nick and Norah are unfair, though; the similarities end there. Based on the Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels, the story follows Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a bassist in a terrible garage band, Sex Bob-Omb, and is dating a seventeen-year old, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He lives with his gay roommate, Wallace Wells (Keiran Culkin) in a one-bed, one-room (and a bathroom) apartment.
One night, this mysterious girl skates though Scott’s dreams. She’s actually real, a delivery girl working for Amazon.ca (there’s a Subspace highway going through Scott’s subconscious). Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is an American Ninja Delivery Girl, and they actually start a relationship.But all is not well. You see, Ramona has seven evil exes. Scott has to defeat them all. There’s a league. It’s a thing.
Such begins a fantastical journey, a time capsule to a time that hasn’t passed yet, an explosion of the pop culture of those who grew up in the video game era. The action is fast, and colorful, and the characters constantly reference games.The actors really show that they truly love the source material and what the source material represents.
Edgar Wright really amped up the amount of game logic in the movie compared to the books. I can’t say it would make much sense how things work if you’ve never played a video game, what with extra lives and people bursting into money and boss battles and chiptunes, but that’s part of the fun. It’s amazing when you hear the level complete sound effect from Sonic the Hedgehog or the loading screen tune from The Legend of Zelda explode into a full orchestration.
Comics get their due, with frames ripped from the panels, and signature comic onomatopoeia punctuating important things, and cuts that only a comic could make. Wright does make these jarring cuts, but they don’t fall flat as long as you can keep up. The film, however, isn’t too cool; it’s sorry you can’t keep up. It won’t slow down, but it never feels like it’s taunting the audience by being SO HIP. Scott Pilgrim is a movie about becoming a real person, someone more than a two-dimensional comic book character with no flaws or emotional development.
The acting is really excellent in Scott Pilgrim, and as great of a job as Cera does, it’s really his supporting cast that shines. Wallace Wells is pitch-perfect, and Mark Webber as Stephen Stills is amazingly funny. Not to mention, the casting for the evil exes is amazing, with top-notch actors like Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman lending a hand, but don’t expect them to have a lot of screen time. They pop in, have their fight, and then explode. Unlike the Scott Pilgrim books, wherein there was usually a long ramp-up to the inevitable showdown, the movie has to race through six books in two hours. The beginning follows the books fairly closely, but the longer the movie goes on, the more it deviates from the original plot. Basically, the plots of volumes 4 and 5 are omitted from the film, and it only loosely follows the plot in the climax.
It had to be this way, but it doesn’t really hurt the film. Each medium has its strengths, and the movie is fine with not being the books. It follows the basic plot, but deviates greatly from there. A lot had to be changed to make everything fit. Hey, it’s like Tetris! Scott Pilgrim vs. The World probably couldn’t have been made better. It has the spirit of the books, with the explosion of color and sound that a movie brings. It has the best cast you could find, with a director perfectly suited to the cast. The music is great, the visuals are juicy and beautiful, and what dialogue isn’t directly ripped from the pages captures the spirit of the original.
And a bonus for you, fans of the books! The ending is different this time around. Is it a better ending? You can’t say one is better than the other. They’re like split timelines in science fiction: a similar stem, but something changed somewhere, split off, and events unfolded completely differently. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is definitely an achievement. Check it out.