The ROSSMAN & Street Fightin'
Louis Gossett Jr.
By all accounts I should loathe Scott Pilgrim and all his friends: I hate slackers (even more than Principal Strickland); I want to beat the shit out of "hipsters" whenever I see them; I envy the hell out of the rock & roll lifestyle; and I can't stand losers who score tail that is so beyond their means. Scott Pilgrim is all those things... And yet, I still can't get enough of his so-called life and all his douchey, hipster friends. I can't explain it.
It all started about 2 years ago; Marksy told me about this new Canadian comic book (that looked like a manga), written by some guy named Bryan Lee O'Malley, that rocked his balls off, that I had to read. "Dude, it's called 'Scott Pilgrim,' and it's all about this guy named Scott Pilgrim, and he like fights guys like in Street Fighter, and the whole thing is like an RPG. But everyone — ESPECIALLY the gay roommate — is really cool! Seriously, just read the first volume and tell me what you think."
Well, I trust Marksy, so I went out and shoplifted all 4 volumes of the Scott Pilgrim comic book that were already released, and it blew my mind. The art took a while for me to get into (it's extremely simplistic, yet also very expressive... You'll understand if you read any of it), but once I did, and once I understood just how Scott's universe worked, I found that Scott Pilgrim was on a level of awesome far surpassing that of your normal, average superhero comics. Even Batman. Especially Kevin Smith's Batman... But that last one's no big feat; even "the Goddamn Batman" series is better than Kevin Smith's version, but I digress.
There are so many weird — yet fun as hell in execution — occurrences/happenings/objects that are thrown at you matter of factly during the course of the Pilgrim story (like "save points" in strategic locations before confrontations with exes, enemies that turn to coins when defeated just like a blue slime from Dragon Warrior, and people who can use subspace highways through people's minds without an eyebrow raised by anyone who's told about it. Oh, and like vegans who have special psychic powers, aerial fist fights, and people who glow when they get very angry or emotional), but once you understand these rules (and by this I mean there ARE no rules) and the universe as a whole, and just accept them, then dammit will you love the shit out of Scott Pilgrim and his precious little life too. The only painful thing about starting to read the Pilgrim plight all those years ago was the wait for the final two volumes. Which were so worth it, but two years coming. But anyway, ONWARD to the plot!
The Scott Pilgrim comic and movie both have the same characters, situations, and general story, only they're told slightly differently, though the manic insanity of the comic is actually right up there on the big screen in all its improbable glory. Director Edgar Wright did what I thought was the impossible with his production: he made a real comic book movie! No, not a movie simply based on a comic book, but a living, breathing comic book movie, complete with floating "POW's" and "BAM's" appearing behind characters as they're face-punched, impossible and antigravital brawls, and visuals that one would have thought would look ludicrous if shown in any medium other than the printed page. But that was a divergent paragraph, and I just promised you the plot, so ignore all of that and let me tell you about Scott.
Scott Pilgrim is one of the laziest losers on the planet. The rose-tinted glasses in which he sees his life though are filled with peril, awesome music (that he performs while in the band Sex Bob-Omb [which is just as cool as The Electric Mayhem]), and NO responsibilities whatsoever, except that of getting some poontang with cute underage Asian chicks or gothy rollerblading girls who regularly skate through his dreams.
Scott coasts through life while all his friends put forth the least minimal effort to sustain their shallow existences too. He lives with the awesome Wallace Wells in a one-room basement/apartment (even sharing a mattress on the floor with the extremely homosexual main man), practices with his rock band friends Kim Pine and Stephen Stills, and hangs out in dives with his extended entourage every night. No responsibilities, and no future at all. Seriously, FUCK slackers...
Well, as I stated above, soon Scott finds himself in a lil' pickle when he starts dating the uber-cute Asian teenager Knives Chau, but then falls hopelessly in love with the older and much more snarky, almost gothy, Ramona Flowers. As soon as he starts to put the moves on Miss Flowers though he finds himself under attack by a group of people who call themselves The League of Evil Exes. This League is all pissy about the fact that they all got dumped by Ramona in the past, and so they don't want to let any other sorry sack go out with the pink/blue/green-haired vixen either, because they might possibly make her happy or something. Anyway, lots of battles, secret histories, insecurities, and dreamscapes then ensue, and it all leads to Scott growing up a little (just a little), and an epic ending with lots of death, destruction, and dismay. And it is good.
I'll be honest here, I wish this whole story really revolved around either Kim Pine, Wallace Wells, or Knives Chau. Yeah, Scott's perspective on everything going on around him is pretty goddamn hilarious most of the time, but really, he's kind of a dick and a total loser. Scott is also really dumb, easily confused, and a bit annoying whenever he's doing something he doesn't like. And although he's somehow still very likeable (I truly can't explain it), his friends (that I just mentioned like two sentences ago) are so much funnier and simply more awesome than even he. Kim is the queen of sarcasm, and I love her for it. She hates everything, and so reminds me of my future wife that I made up in my mind years ago. Knives is so honest and open and just so cute, and she's willing to fight for whatever she truly wants. And then there's Wallace, who is quick-witted, smart, and able to turn any man gay while that guy's girlfriend is looking away for a second. Each of those people would have been so much better as protagonists than Scott. Here's hoping for a sequel about their lives after this story. Hell, or their perspectives on THIS story. That could be pretty interesting. You listening, author Bryan Lee O'Malley? Pay attention, fool! I'm giving you GOLD here! So much gold you can SHOWER in it!
Okay, now, like I said before, the comic and movie are slightly different from each other in some ways. Yes, both hold the humor and feel of the same world, and they both have the same plot, but the movie is told at a rapid-fire momentum — cramming all six volumes of the comic (over a thousand pages of character development and storytelling that take place over a year's time) into one 2-hour movie — scrunching the story into the confines of a week, leaving out a few subplots here and there, and ultimately leading up to an ending all its own (they started production on the movie before O'Malley had even written the last volume of his comic). While the first 5 volumes of the comic ultimately out pace their theatrical counterpart's tale, it's actually the flick's final act that puts the comic to shame. It's very strange that.
What I mean is that the first 5 volumes of O'Malley's book are told at a brilliant pace; the way we find out about certain characters' histories, all the natural dialogues between Scott and his friends about life, the universe, and everything, and the rate at which we learn about about each of Ramona's evil exes, and the ways they attack Scott... The comic does a much better job than the movie. This is to be expected (when you have close to 1,000 pages to spread things out in). What isn't to being expected is how Edgar Wright surpassed the original author's intent with the characters and made his movie ending even more fun and fulfilling than O'Malley's finale. I'll be honest with you, O'Malley's ending for Scott is a bit of a let down. Yeah, he finally relinquishes his strange vision of his own existence by the last pages of the tale, and he battles his own dark id in the form of the NegaScott, and realizes that he's been kind of a douche to his old girlfriend Envy Adams (amongst others), and comes to terms with most of it... But there's hardly any real meat to the entire last printed volume. There's hardly any Wallace or Stephen Stills (who I also loved), and the final battle between Scott and the last of Ramona's evil exes was kind of, well, meh.
The movie though just revs up for its finale, gets HUGE, and then turns out to be one helluva balls-out ride. Scott's confrontation with Gideon Graves (the last evil ex) is awesome, and Graves turns out to be an interesting rival for Scott, and not just a one-note character (like in the comic). And the action between Scott and Gideon's goons, Knives and Ramona, Scott and Gideon and everyone left standing, well, it's pretty epic. I laughed, I cheered, and I applauded everything when the credits began to roll. The only thing it was missing was some Envy Adams closure for Scott, but I'll forgive it for that.
I'm telling you, Edgar Wright truly understood Scott Pilgrim, possibly even better than Bryan Lee O'Malley himself. Hear me out now. The music and talent he gathered for this movie was spot-on perfect. EVERYBODY in the entire cast was the absolute perfect person for each of their roles (especially Knives Chau's actress, whose name I'm too lazy to look up now)......... Except for the guy who played Scott himself, Michael Cera. Yeah, Michael Cera was great on Arrested Development as George Michael. I even laughed at him in Super Bad, even though he just played his Arrested Development character all over again. But then he played the same part again in Nick & Nora, and then Juno, and that other movie, and then that other movie again. That same part being the soft-spoken, goofy, warm-hearted loser. With no chin. And with a white-boy 'fro. I've grown tired of Michael Cera playing Michael Cera. And let me tell you something, Scott Pilgrim is NO Michael Cera.
Scott Pilgrim is an outgoing hipster douchebag who loves to smile and mack on the ladies. And he has a chin. Michael Cera is... Well, I can't remember him EVER smiling in any of his movies. And he never smiles a "Scott Pilgrim smile" in Scott Pilgrim Versus the World either. It's my guess that this was the only compromise that Universal Studios imposed on Edgar Wright when they wrote him that $60million check to make his work of art movie: "At LEAST get some actor who we've heard of for the title role!" And all in all, Cera's Scott Pilgrim really isn't that bad, it's just another take on the character. And he really does make you warm up to him in the end. So although I prefer comic Scott, Michael Cera Scott was acceptable.
Oh, but a warning now: if you've NEVER played a video game in your life (especially Street Fighter II, or the Final Fantasy series), or never read a comic book, or never listened to a Beck song... Or if you HAVE done any of those things and HATED them, then this movie is NOT for you. You will not "get it." You will not comprehend its logic. You will be like the girl with her date in front of me last Saturday who, when Scott defeated Ramona's first evil ex and the guy burst into coins upon hitting the ground, blurted out, "...The HELL?!" My advice? Get stoned, go see the movie (or read the comics), then eat a giant burrito. You will thank me for it.