Rocking into theaters with a level of anticipation second only to the legions of screaming girls for the Twilight saga, the comic-to-film adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series “Scott Pilgrim” is here. Following a whirlwind fan-courting press tour (including events here in Atlanta) and a successful visit to San Diegos’s Comic-Con comic and science fiction convention, the newest film by “Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright certainly feels big. Some fans may have read the entire series (I haven’t read past book one), but does the movie stand up to its tagline? Is “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” an “epic of epic epicness?”
For the uninitiated, our hero is Scott Pilgrim, a nebbish 22-year-old loser (played by none other than eternal nebbish loser Michael Cera) who is in a band and currently dates a 17-year-old girl, which he is teased about by everyone around him. He soon meets the swoon-worthy Ramona Flowers at a party, weasels her into a date and impresses her with his band. However, there is a catch. In order to go out with Ramona, Scott must face her seven evil exes and defeat them, in an entirely serious video-game-laden sense of the term, to win her heart.
As faithful to its source material as last year’s “Watchmen” adaptation, “Scott Pilgrim” goes to great lengths to preserve the look, feel and words of the graphic novels. A recent YouTube mash-up where a fan recreated the movie’s trailer from scans of the original comic pages is not far off from the movie’s final product. The film’s unique visual style is complete with on-screen onomatopoeia, split-screen panels and even some actual O’Malley artwork.
“Scott Pilgrim” is the first movie that is truly and unabashedly for the Millennial Generation — the 18 to 30-year-olds who grew up playing video games, consuming pop culture and surfing the Internet, all while putting off adulthood as long as possible. This is the film’s greatest strength as well as its weakness. From the minute the Universal Pictures logo and theme appears pixilated and scored to 8-bit music, the viewer is made aware that the entire movie is one giant paean to gaming and pop culture riffs. Each evil boyfriend is a “boss” in an elaborate video game, even exploding into coins upon defeat. Pixilated weaponry appears from nowhere. The clever and well-executed sound design is laced with gaming references, emoticons, on-screen indicators, even laugh tracks and sound bites from a certain 90s sitcom.
While the sheer amount of Generation Y ephemera makes watching “Scott Pilgrim” a joy for the college crowd, the film can also be brought down by that same crowd’s Internet-addled attention span. In an effort to squeeze six volumes of content into a two-hour movie, Wright must blaze through the plot at breakneck speed. This Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Direction makes any character attachment extremely difficult for the audience, much less introductory plot comprehension, unless you are a devotee to the comic book series. There are massive amounts of paper-thin characters to know and a ream of shallow plot lines to cover in order to make the fan boys happy. Yet, like a movie whose Adderall finally kicks in, the plot begins to focus during the latter half and becomes more comprehensive and enjoyable until the final battle with Jason Schwartzman’s Gideon in an epic four-person melee of fun.
If you have not guessed by now, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is not your typical movie. While entertaining and hilarious, the movie is very much for under-40 audience. Anyone who fits this description will probably eat up the movie as a love letter to the Nintendo generation. “Scott Pilgrim” probably won’t bring in the masses, forever consigned to cult-hit status, but will likely be a dorm room staple in the years to come. At the very least, it earns this movie an extra life.