Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim relies heavily on video game style and super-hero fantasies built over an emotional story between a slacker Canadian and, quite literally, the girl of his dreams.

Eric and alphamonkey have a few words of their own to say on the subject of the new film from director Edgar Wright, so I thought I'd take things to another level putting the film to the test in the form of an old school video game review.

The Hero - You're Scott Pilgrim, a 23 year-old unemployed Canadian bass guitarist with awesome fighting skills (who looks remarkably like Michael Cera). Aside from his mastery of various video-game fighting styles he is seriously lacking in the skills department. He plays bass guitar (badly) for his band Sex Bob-omb (who also kinda stink). He has the emotional core of a 14 year-old, is incredibly lazy, self-centered to the point of being completely unaware of how his actions effect others, and will often choose the easiest path when presented with any obstacle. He's certainly not the easiest hero to root for, which is a problem for a story about him overcoming overwhelming odds.

Supporting Characters - Scott's world is populated by a large group who tolerate his presence, but whose affections vary greatly. This includes his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), his gossiping sister (Anna Kendrick), and the other members of his band Sex Bob-omb (Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons). Our hero is also dating a 17 year-old Asian Catholic school girl (Ellen Wong). On an emotional level Scott and Knives might be a good match, but Scott's real reason for dating her is the lack of effort he must put into the relationship.

The Story - Scott's lazy existence is turned upside down by the arrival of a cute American girl (who bares a striking resemblance to Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who skates through his dreams and then shows up at this door. In order to win the heart of Ramona, Scott must defeat all seven of her evil exes. He must also contend with the appearance of his own ex (Brie Larson), as well as the demands of the band and his teenage girlfriend.

Gameplay - The original comic series is spread over the course of six lengthy graphic novels. These events, and the battles with the exes, have been condensed into a more streamlined story - which turns out to be both good and bad. At times the comic would wander off into periphery storylines and flashbacks. Here many of those subplots are forgotten. This means the film moves much faster, with the help of Wright's quick-cut style, but it also means we don't get to know the other characters as well as we should - especially Ramona. It will be fun to play, but don't expect Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to take you more than a couple hours to beat the game.

The Bosses - Each of Ramona's evil exes present a different type of problem for our hero to solve.
  • Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) - The first boss is the weakest of the bunch, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a few tricks, and some demon hipster chicks, hidden up his sleeves.
  • Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) - The action star and former pro-skater may be too tough for Scott, but that doesn't mean he can't be outsmarted.
  • Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh) - Like Scott, only better. The former flame of Ramona and current love of Scott's ex has an almost super quality that comes from his vegan powers.
  • Roxanne "Roxie" Richter (Mae Whitman) - Can you hit a girl? You'd better! From Ramona's "sexy phase" this hard chick is ready to beat you down, but she does have a hidden weakness.
  • Katayanagi Twins (Shota Saito and Keita Saito) - You'll need the help of the band to take down the twins at their own game.
  • Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) - The final villain, and mastermind behind all of Scott's struggles. To beat him our hero will have to dig deep, make insights about about his character and hard decisions about his life.

Graphics - The graphics and special effects are a great mix of old school and new. The fights are epic (though the last few battles should have been spread out). Whether it's sound created creatures or the desert of Scott's mind, each level is packed with both big and small eye candy for the player. You will also be given graphic representations when you've earned major points or unlocked new abilities as well as info boxes to clue you into important characters and objects. (Don't forget to grab that extra life. It's sure to come in handy.)

Sound - The entire soundtrack was composed by Beck, with the exception of the songs by Broken Social Scene for Crash and the Boys. For a story about a rocker (even a lame one) the music isn't awful but it is remarkably forgettable - and that's the point. These bands aren't supposed to be great. They're average at best and they know it. During one level you will get to strut your stuff in a battle of the bands between Sex Bob-omb and Katayanagi Twins (Shota Saito, Keita Saito). And, in a rather nice touch, the film also includes several classic game sounds including the use of the Legend of Zelda theme during a dream sequence.

Final Verdict - In all Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fair adaptation of the source material. It might not have quite the emotional core I had hoped, Ramona's story takes an unfortunate backseat to that of the less interesting Scott, and the film's final level, last battle, and epilogue is less satisfying than I'd like. It's not all I hoped, but it is worthy of playing more than once - even after beating the game.

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