adaptation…Posted: August 22, 2010
I’m not entirely sure how to review Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I’ve been sitting on this review for over a week perplexed about what to write – just like I did with the fifth volume of the titular comic series. To say that I loved this movie is an understatement. I am in love with this film. The casting is perfect. Despite the doubts of the countless Michael Cera haters among Scott Pilgrim fans, Cera did a fantastic job with the character. His Scott is not exactly the Scott from the book – he is plays the character a bit mopier and less high energy than in the book but the tone of his performance fits the tone of Edgar Wright’s film perfect. Mary Winstead as Ramona is, in some ways, even better than Cera as Scott. She takes what this film gives her (exactly what that means will be discussed below) and runs with it. She just nails the character – some of that may be credited to the costume department which lovingly recreated Ramona’s outfits but still, Winstead was great. I was actually more worried about her performance (I’ve seen Live Free or Die Hard) than another actor in the film. However, she left me wowed.
As good as Cera and Winestead are, in many ways, the supporting characters are even better. Stephen Stills, Julie, Kim, and, especially, Wallace are given great performances that embody the characters with as little (or as much) time given to them by Wright. It is actually very impressive how many of the supporting characters Wright was able to squeeze into the movie. And despite all of that the movie never feels bloated.
Edgar Wright really has captured how to make a great adaptation with Scott Pilgrim v. the World. He sticks lovingly close to spirt of his source material without being pornographically loyal to it. He does away with things that don’t make sense in the context of the film. And you never miss them. Wright condenses much (unsurprising considering that he is turning 6 books into 1 movie) but it never feels like you are really losing anything.
In some ways, aspects of the story are better executed by Wright than they were by O’Malley in the books. The twins and, especially, Gideon were put to much better use in the film. Though the latter may just be because of Jason Schwartzman’s hilariously jerky performance.
Did I mention the soundtrack? Its great.
All that said…
This is a deeply flawed movie in two major aspects – one of which is nearly fatal.
Wright blotches the 4th evil ex – Roxie – in away that ends up being confusing, homophobic, kind of misogynistic, and confusing – all at the same time. I mean, defeating her with an orgasm? Really? Really? I was left so confused and kind of offended that I don’t remember the next 10 or so minutes of the film.
But really, the big problem is with the ending.
It has been no secret on the internets that the original ending to the film was that Scott and Knives got together in the end and not Scott and Ramona. As I understand it, Wright played it as Scott’s relationship with Ramona was just an infatuation and his real connection was with Knives. This would have been wrong on so many levels – not mention that the character of Knives is seventeen and that ending would go against the entire arc of book series – so I am glad that they changed it.
However, fixing the ending did nearly irreparable damage to film.
Wright successfully culled all hints of the film’s original ending from – say – the first 3/4 of the film. However, the last fourth presented a challenge that Wright could not overcome. The way that Wright designed the final confrontation with Gideon makes sense, really, only if Knives and Scott are supposed to be together in the end. Why else would Knives (and not Ramona) aid Scott in the final battle with Gideon? After the final boss was defeated I was convinced that Wright had stuck with his original ending but then the film makes a sharp left turn and, nope, Scott and Ramona are made for each other in the end.
The final scene in the film, I must say, contains the sweetness and hopefulness that marked the end of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour but the viewer is left so confused by the events leading up to that moment that they can’t appreciate it. The final feeling left to me by Scott Pilgrim v. the World is not one of sweetness or awesomeness but of pure confusion.
What Wright’s blotched ending does is strip the character of Ramona of her agency. Instead of the strong willed character of the book we get a passive princess in the film. Winstead makes great, nearly perfect, use of what Wright gives her. But a masterful performance can not save a character that is fundamentally damaged on the directorial and script level.
This whole thing turns a great film into to a bit of tragedy. The film’s second lead is really much of a lead character; which goes against the spirt of the books in way that one can’t help but be terribly disappointed.
This is still a great film, a masterful action-comedy, and even a great adaptation. I will be snapping this movie up on DVD as soon as I can. But has a truly hard core Scott Pilgrim fan, a part of me will always be disappointed by the film and wondering what could have been. Perhaps that is too much ‘Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking’ but Wright’s adaptation is otherwise so perfect that such a huge flaw cannot help but stick with you.