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November 16, 2010

DVD of the Week – Review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

by NIR SHALEV

Writer/director Edgar Wright made a big splash with his romantic comedy/zombie movie satire Shaun of the Dead (2004) and had managed to follow it up with the even better, funnier cop movie parody Hot Fuzz (2007); then he followed up with the fake trailer “Don’t” for the Rodriguez/Tarantino double bill Grindhouse (2007). His latest project Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is almost entirely faithfully adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s cult classic, Toronto-set graphic novel series. It greatly manages to not only capture the look and feel of Toronto, but also the genuine look, feel, and sound of a graphic novel.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22 year old hipster and bass guitar player, rebounding from a devastating breakup by dating a 17 year old high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He eventually crosses paths with an American girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls head over heels in love with her. As they begin to date and a relationship blooms, Scott’s relationship with Knives grows dimmer by the day and Ramona notifies Scott, a tad too late, that if he is serious about dating her then he must defeat her seven evil exes.

Scott’s first encounter with Matthew Patel, the first evil ex, looks and sounds like a crossover between any expertly made Chinese martial arts film and a couple of rounds of Street Fighter 2 (the arcade game or the 1990s animated film, take your pick). It’s very colorful, remarkably beautifully choreographed, always feels like a comic book that’s come to life, and sports cool music. The second battle is against Lucas Lee (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four, Sunshine), the third battle is against Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh, Superman Returns), and the rest I won’t spoil.

Each and every fight sequence uniquely showcases the fighting style of Scott’s enemies. Lucas Lee is a Hollywood actor and the battle features his entire stunt double team battling Scott, so it’s seven against one, and the Todd Ingram battle features him as a bass guitar genius and a vegan, which provides him with telekinetic powers. The special effects in the fight sequences and throughout the entire film complement the graphic novel look and feel: day becomes night in the blink of an eye and vice versa; onomatopoeia are plastered on the screen almost all of the time, whether a light switch is flicked on or off or whether someone gets punched in the face; the editing is tight and it provides the audience with the feeling of confinement, like being trapped within the panels of a graphic novel; and the music is suitably grungy and hip.

This is the most pop culturally aware film that I’d seen since Pulp Fiction (1994) and it’s nice to see a movie that isn’t based on video games reference them for its personal style. And I don’t see a video game being as successful in reproducing the graphic novel look and feel as this film does. This is, easily, one of the year’s best films, a film where Michael Cera isn’t annoying or superfluous, and a very fun ride from beginning to end.

The DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack come equipped with a couple of commentary tracks, one featuring writer/director Edgar Wright and some cast members and the other featuring Edgar Wright and director of photography Bill Pope (the Matrix trilogy and Spider-Man 2 and 3). There are also a ton of bonus features on the Blu-ray disc, so many in fact that I’d been watching them for over three hours and managed to only get half way through them, so if you love Scott Pilgrim the Blu-ray is the way to go.

Original Commentary Track review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Helen Geib.

New releases this week: Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, The Kids Are All Right, The Last Airbender, Lottery Ticket


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