Scott Pilgrim vs The World – DVD review

The ex factor

2010 * 12 * 107 mins * £19.99 * 27 December 2010
Also available on Blu-ray (£24.99)
Distributor: Universal Home Entertainment
Director:
Edgar Wright
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elisabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh

In retrospect, it’s depressingly obvious why Scott Pilgrim barely managed to make a dent at the box office. To the uninitiated, it’s a schizophrenic mish-mash of rom-com, sit-com and chop-socky fantasy. A musical where instead of breaking out the high notes, characters break out flaming swords. A Google-generation pop-culture melting pot that fuses videogames and manga to Seinfeld and Beck. Its staunch refusal to stick to the pigeonholes of Hollywood’s marketing megalith and utterly indulgent, freewheeling lack of restraint might have bewildered audiences, but also prove the film’s greatest strength, and the reason why Edgar Wright’s first Stateside project is one of the best films of 2010.

It would be easy to mistake Scott Pilgrim’s startlingly audacious visuals for the superficial sheen on an emotionally vacuous whirlwind romance, but the film’s take on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s genre-defying series of graphic novels straddles the line between reverence and revision with grace. It’s easily the best videogame movie and arguably the best-judged comic book adaptation to date, going beyond nuts-and-bolts narrative (youthful couch surfer Scott Pilgrim must fight, and defeat, his girlfriend’s seven evil exes) to impeccably bottle the surreal texture and tone of Pilgrim’s hyper-real fantasy innerspace.

There couldn’t have been a better man for the job than Wright. The film is a natural evolution of Spaced’s lucid magical realism, with purposefully frenzied editing and carefully crafted beats lending it pitch-perfect comedy timing. Add to that half a dozen synapse-sizzling scraps that embrace the spirit of Street Fighter (not the look, as many seem to think) and enough in-jokes to leave gamers giddy with delight, and remarkably it manages to feel daringly original despite the story having already been told through another medium.

The cast also deserve a heap of praise, as they almost achieve a flawless victory – Kieran Culkin and Brandon Routh in particular steal every frame they’re in as Scott’s deadpan gay roommate and super-powered vegan ex number three. Michael Cera is perhaps the only weak link; his lovable-loser shtick wore thin the moment the credits rolled on Superbad, making it tough to buy Ramona’s devotion to him. Here, however, it’s less problematic because of the heightened headspace Scott inhabits and, credit to his kung-fu, Cera handles the ludicrously demanding battles like a veteran.

For audiences who aren’t onboard with the film’s superb hipster soundtrack, Zelda references and psychedelic soundwave Yetis, Scott Pilgrim will no doubt be a relentlessly baffling experience. There are problems: the concept of the sub-space highway (like a lot of concepts in the film) is barely explained and bafflingly inconsequential, while the meticulously choreographed feel can occasionally give an overly busy film a clinical artifice. But it’s easy to forgive such things when the finished product is so uncompromising, carefree and, crucially, fun.

Extras:

Fit to bursting – appropriately for a film which is sure to find its home on DVD. The first disc houses a whopping four audio commentaries – the first of which, featuring Wright and comic creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, is essential listening for fans of the comics. You also get 10 minutes of fun out-takes, a trivia track, a photo gallery with hundreds of stills and 27 minutes of deleted scenes (with commentary by Wright), which are, for a change, actually worth watching – especially the alternate ending.

And all that’s before you’ve even popped disc two out of the case. The highlights here are a fascinating 49-minute Making Of which chronicles the shoot, 86 minutes of pre-production footage (animatics, fight tests, casting tapes, band practice sessions, a “Mecha-Gideon” alternate ending storyboard and more) and 19 minutes of alternative edits, which give a fascinating insight into how even subtle changes can drastically change the rhythm of a scene. There’s also a music featurette (16 mins), that’s perhaps a tad short; VFX before-and-after shots (14 mins); four extended music videos; an amusing daytime TV-safe version; the adult swim short Scott Pilgrim vs The Animation, trailers; TV spots; Easter Egg cheat codes for the videogame… and breath.

If you’re watching the gorgeous Blu-ray you also get further cool additional features, including 45-minutes-worth of Wright’s director diary blogs, picture-in-picture storyboards and the usual BD-Live gubbins.

Jordan Farley