10 years ago today, Edgar Wright’s film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was released in the US. The final volume of the comics, written by Canadian author and artist Bryan Lee O’Malley, had only just been released before the film came out. Although, when Wright was originally approached to make the film in 2004, which was just after the first book had been published. It took 6 years for the film to come together and, though didn’t do so well at the cinema, it has become a much-loved cult classic. As somebody who loves the source material and the film, I wanted to dedicate today’s TBT post to the film’s 10th anniversary. What I hadn’t remembered was that I’d already written a review of this film. So, now I don’t really know what to do. I haven’t got time to watch something else and I haven’t watched anything old recently. Or at least nothing memorable enough to review. Well, what’s the worst that can happen?
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has such a great reputation now that it’s hard to imagine it being a flop when it was released. Making just over half of its budget back, it seemed as though people just weren’t interested in a comic book adaptation of an action-comedy-romance with Michael Cera n the lead role. I can see why I guess. If you hadn’t been aware of the comic books series, this story wouldn’t necessarily make any sense. I guess it was a big ask though. As popular as Bryan Lee O’Malley’s books were with comic fans, it was a huge gamble to bring them to the wider audience. Especially after they clearly put so much into making it happen. It was a clever move putting director Edgar Wright at the helm. He was fresh off the breakthrough success of both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and had his own cult audience.
It also made use of plenty of talent. Whatever you think about this film in general, you have to admit that the casting was pretty perfect. Even Michael Cera, who is the least exciting member of the cast, feels like the only choice to play Pilgrim. I guess it doesn’t help when you have people like Kieran Culkin, Brie Larson, and Chris Evans being so domineering when they’re on screen. It also doesn’t really help that Scott is just the worst. He’s an irritating and awful person and it’s impossible to see why any woman would fall for him. Of course, he’s quite the fighter and it is always fun to see a weedy, nerdy man coming out on to in comic book showdowns.
What really makes Scott Pilgrim work, of course, is the way it has been made. Edgar Wright has managed to create a film that fully embraces the source material. 10 years on, we’re used to comic book movies being as well-made and critically acclaimed as every other genre. In 2010, this wasn’t exactly the case. There were great comic book films but they weren’t the norm. What Wright managed to do, was create a comic book movie that not only handled the adaptation with care and recreated the act of reading the comics. There has been plenty of in-depth analysis of how he managed this but it’s too late to go into all that now. Suffice it to say, the way the film is edited makes it feel as though you’re going through the panels of a comic book. It’s amazing.
It also has the standard attention to detail that Wright is so known for. You can clearly see all of the various influences that have inspired the film. With aspects of manga, music videos, video games, and movies, this is a film that creates an altered reality that is easy to accept. It’s a little disconcerting that the realism is so quickly pushed aside for comic book physics but you can’t fight it. It’s a film that draws you in and won’t let you go. My only real criticism comes from having read the books. It was always going to tricky boiling down 6 volumes into a single 2-hour film. There are some interesting ideas in the original story that I missed but you can’t have everything. When a film is this good as a whole, it almost doesn’t matter. I can’t say that one is better than the other because they’re both so good. It almost feels as though the adaptation has transcended the comics so they don’t need to be compared.