Last night, Edgar Wright screened Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to eager fans at Comic Con. We saw Bryan Lee O'Malley's epic epic brought to life with flaming swords, knife-wielding girlfriends, and tributes to all things video games.
Scott Pilgrim director Edgar Wright moderated last night's panel. Michael Cera came out dressed as Captain America ("Are you afraid of being typecast?" one fan asked. "So much," he replied), and both Wright fired off questions to the cast members as they appeared on stage (To the evil exes: "One word — How much did you enjoy bashing Scott Pilgrim's head in?" Jason Schwartzman: "Comic-Connishly."). There were revelations aplenty; Kieran Culkin revealed that, to get Culkin over his nerves about making out with another guy on-screen, one day Wright ambushed Culkin with a surprise kiss. Frequent Wright collaborators Nick Frost and Simon Pegg made a surprise guest appearance, then left in mock dejection when Wright reminded them they weren't in this particular movie. And fans cheered as Wright showed a clip of Scott Pilgrim fighting Gideon Graves' minions in the Chaos Theater.
Finally, Wright asked if anyone wanted to see the full movie and there were a few hopeful gasps in the crowd. Audience members who received special 1-Up buttons before the show would be able to see a special screening of the entire movie immediately after the panel. There may have been fainting in the aisles.
There was, at first, a bit of a snafu; Wright invited the fans to actually follow him to the theater, but after he left the panel, he made a quick stop at his hotel room. A huge group of fans made it all the way to the Hilton before realizing the screening wasn't there. But eventually most folks figured out where the theater was and made it to the screening with time to spare. A few folks even got to have their picture taken with the director
The film was met (unsurprisingly) with many laughs and much applause. Here are our first impressions, with spoilers (possibly for the book as well) below.
It's a genuine comic book movie. Edgar Wright doesn't just bring the Scott Pilgrim story to the screen, he gives it a lot of the feel of Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic. We get those trademark black labels ("Scott Pilgrim, Age: 22, Rating: Awesome") and lots of cartoony special effects. But even beyond that, there are the rapid scene changes — which recreate the experience of paging through the books — and plenty of snarky bits of floating text. This can all be dizzying at times, but Wright matches it perfectly with the movie's magical realism.
Michael Cera really works as Scott Pilgrim. Like many fans of the books, I was fearful that Michael Cera would play Scott Pilgrim as an older, broker version of George Michael Bluth. But it turns out Cera is perfectly suited to the rapid-fire dialogue in Scott Pilgrim. Without any time to linger and sigh, Cera's delivery is tighter and more precise than what we're used to seeing from him. From the first scene, it was easy not to think of him as Michael Cera and to think of him as Scott Pilgrim, best fighter in Ontario.
Kieran Culkin steals the show. I doubt this will come as a surprise to anyone, but Kieran Culkin is amazing as Scott's roommate Wallace Wells, whose ability to meddle in Scott's affairs borders on the mystical. Plus, his rapport with Scott's sister Stacey is a thing of beauty.
Wright makes the movie his own. Edgar Wright didn't forget that this is a movie, and while he shows obvious love for the books, he didn't fall into the trap of slavish adaptation. He plays with O'Malley's words and jokes — and adds plenty of his own. To streamline the story while staying true to the books' themes, Wright structured the movie as a video game with six progressively more difficult boss fights. This means some big changes, but they're changes that work far better on screen than a straight-up translation of the books would. Be especially on the lookout for Wright's clever use of that precious extra life.
An awesome (and huge) supporting cast. Don't expect to see characters like Lynette Guycott or Mr. Chau, but Wright manages to juggle more than his fair share of folks from the Scott Pilgrim universe. Stacey Pilgrim, Tamara Chen, and Julie Powers get plenty of screen time, and we even see minor characters like Other Scott, Sandra, and Monique.
Plenty of references to the comic. With six books to adapt, some things had to be cut, but there are still references to story arcs and funny moments that didn't quite make it onto film. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Easter eggs. The bigger treat, though, is that we see some of O'Malley's artwork onscreen, both in still images and some very subtle animation.
The soundtrack. Wright invited Canadian synth-rock band Metric, which stands in as the Clash at Demonhead in the movie, to perform after the movie. Music plays such a key role in both the books and the movie, and Wright and O'Malley collaborated to find music that's a perfect fit. It's the first time in a long time that I've thought about buying a movie's soundtrack.
It's just plain funny. Scott Pilgrim is packed to the gills with laugh-out-loud moments, whether it's the delivery of a familiar line, a sight gag, or an artfully deployed middle finger. Matthew Patel's Bollywood-style musical fight? The Vegan Police? Every line out of Kieran Culkin's mouth? It's definitely a movie I plan on rewatching whenever I find myself in a bad mood.
Ramona is too passive. In the books, Ramona has her own journey, albeit one that takes place largely off-panel. She has her own lessons to learn and her own choices to make. Wright obviously wanted to maintain Ramona's mysterious persona without including the whole business of her glowing head and escapes into subspace. But his movie Ramona never really chooses Scott in the same way Scott chooses her, and it leads to a few moments that don't quite work.
The attempt to match up the endings feels forced. O'Malley and Wright have mentioned that while the ending of the Scott Pilgrim books and the movie are different, they were informed by each other. The movie doesn't really touch on the mystical subspace/headspace that is so important to the book's climax, and when movie Ramona reveals that movie Gideon has a different sort of path into her brain, the revelation feels forced and underwhelming. And the appearance of a certain character at the very end of the movie struck me as a well-intentioned attempt to include a significant idea from the book that ultimately left the final scenes slightly overstuffed.
Not enough Kim Pine. I understand that all those backstories and subplots couldn't possibly make it into the movie, but couldn't Wright have found a way to better highlight Scott's friend Kim Pine? Sure, she gets some awesome one-liners, but she never looms particularly large in Scott Pilgrim's precious movie life. If there's anything that will leave fans feeling cold, it's the lack of Kim.
While it has a few flaws, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is sure to have folks leaving the theater happy. Fans of the books will find it a near-perfect companion piece that brings much of the books to full-colored life. Non-fans ready to keep up with its rapid pacing will find it's the perfect action movie for people raised on Nintendo — and may even find themselves wishing that real life were more like Scott Pilgrim.