Posts Tagged ‘Edgar Wright’
When I first learned that Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) was slated to be a major motion picture distributed by Universal Studios, I was taken aback. I was always under the impression that SP was a moderately successful comic book franchise, but was sure to never escape the label of a cult classic series. After all, how many people around the world can be expected to identify with a skinny awkward bass player from Toronto, Canada, and his romantic, existential struggles?
It would seem that director Edgar Wright did. Known early on for British comedies such as Spaced (1999-2001) and later for feature films such as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), it may come as no surprise that O’Malley’s comics resonated with Wright. In short, he’s a geek with a geek’s palette for awkward humor anchored in video game and comic culture references, but how will writer’s Michael Becall and Edgar Wright’s humor translate to the masses, particularly those who won’t pick up on the film’s slew of Zelda references?
To be frank, I have no idea. I’m a geek myself. But I can say that for every joke that may fly over the heads of the less—ahem—“cultured” viewers, we find a slew of keenly paced moments of awkward dramatic humor driven by Michael Cera’s acting as Scott Pilgrim.
When I first learned that Cera was cast as Scott, I was somewhat annoyed. Scott Pilgrim is not Arrested Development’s George Michael, and though he may be awkward, he isn’t inept (not to say that George Michaels ineptness isn’t marvelous in its own way). Scott Pilgrim is awkward, yes, but Scott Pilgrim is also strong in an almost inexplicable way, even before he draws that flaming katana from his chest cavity. Fortunately, Cera taps into the multiple dimensions of his character within the film. Cera captures Scott Pilgrim’s awkwardness, his obliviousness, his selfishness, his charisma, and in the end, his strength and courage.
Likewise, the rest of the casting is stellar. Ellen Wong captures Knives Chau, from Knives’s trusting gaze to her psychotic stalker eye twitch. Mary Elizabeth Winstead imbues her Ramona Flowers with that same blunt, unforgiving, yet warm demeanor.
The only qualm I have with the casting comes from the person I least expected to take issue with: Jason Schwartzman. Playing the part of Gideon Gordon Graves, Schwartzman comes across less as a sinister, wormy, yet hip foil for Scott Pilgrim and more as someone a lot dorkier than Pilgrim himself. He is even laughable at moments during his fight scene with Scott, whereas at no moment did I find myself thinking Cera looked too skinny and nerdy to be doing back flips and hammering enemies with roundhouse kicks.
Another issue that non-nerd viewers may take with the film is the pacing. The dialogue is fast, quippy, and the scene changes are even faster. This is all a part of the films overall aesthetic, and I do feel that it works well in the visual arena; however, some of the more gentle or heartfelt moments are sacrificed for speed or a quick joke. The first bedroom scene with Ramona and Scott comes to mind. In the comics the scene is a moment of emotional fluidity in the chaotic humor of the rest of the comic, whereas the film glosses over the moment relatively fast. It doesn’t ruin the film’s relationship of Scott and Ramona by any means, but I do wish there was a little more time given to a few more key moments of the story, both for non-comic fans and comic fans alike.
Perhaps the best thing going for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is its visual aesthetic. Too often do comic book based films become polarized in their visual translation to the big screen. Either directors forsake almost all comic book influence for realism as seen in the X-Men films, or they literally attempt to make the screen a replica of a comic frame as seen in Sin City or 300. SP straddles the line nicely, retaining a plausible three-dimensional space for much of the film, but dropping it at need to shift into a more comic-centric aesthetic. Hopefully the film will open some doors in this realm and motivate directors to be a bit looser and adventurous in their mixture of comic and film aesthetics.