The Panel – The Pilgrimage Begins
For those of you that did not read “The Panel” last week, I announced that part of the column each week would dedicated to an analysis of various adaptations of various characters. It seems only appropriate to start this pilgrimage into the world of transitions with the comic-to-film, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.
The world of Scott Pilgrim is one not much unlike our own. The story takes place in Toronto and revolves around an average Joe and his group of friends. One night, he sees a girl in his dreams. Later the following day, he sees her in the library in real life. He then proceeds to fall in love with said girl, and things are going quite well. The catch to this fairytale romance is that, in order to date her, he must defeat her “Seven Evil Exes.” This leads to a long series of video-game inspired fight scenes and thousands of flying coins.
Okay. So maybe it is a highly-fantasized story, but take a closer look and you’ll find that, behind all of the coinplosions and super-powers, the core of this tale is a meditation on how people deal with loss and learn to move beyond it.
The Scott Pilgrim Movie focuses mainly on special effects and cinematography. The level of depth that is present in the story of the graphic novels is completely lost in the translation from comic to film. The latter’s primary interest is creating a deluge of colors, and it does this quite well. The special effects here are fantastic and a joy to behold. Colors lance and flash across the screen constantly, but they remain entertaining, never really losing their value.
Most movies that go a predominantly visual route have some problems from too many pretty colors and explosions. G.I.Joe, for instance, gets a little old after a while simply due to everything everywhere blowing up all the time. Not so with Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. All of the effects form a cohesive whole and are in no way repetitive. Each fight has its own stylization and theme, which is really cool.
Another of the film’s achievements is the surreal smoothness of the scene transitions. Each scene blends into the next, sometimes going so far as to make it nearly impossible to tell the two apart. Creating a series of images that flow this well is not an easy task, but it was executed here with the utmost finesse.
The last thing I would like to address about the film before plunging into the comic world is the casting. This is a wonderfully cast movie. Each character fits not only the basic look of their ink-and-paper counterpart, but also their personality. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s casting as Ramona Flowers is probably the best example of this.
The one problem with Scott Pilgrim Vs the World‘s cast was Michael Cera. He just did not fit the role as Scott. It just didn’t work.
But, the movie was an overall enjoyable experience, even if it could have been better. Maybe if they had stretched it over a trilogy instead of just one film it would have improved automatically and the the sacrifice of the main theme of the comics would not have been necessary. There just didn’t seem to have been enough time for the film to cover all of the ground it needed to. This makes sense, given that the graphic novel series includes six volumes, the last of which is quite long. But eh. Still a cool movie.
The graphic novels, however, are awesome. There is simply no other way to describe them.
The first volume really seemed to be the problem child in terms of flow. The little snippets of dialogue that rang so amazingly in the film were, to my surprise, from the film. Their absence from the book was sorely felt. Many scenes in the first volume appear choppy and grating. This problem is adressed, however, in later volumes.
In fact, it is addressed in the very next volume. In Volume two of the series, also named Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, the issues with the flow are eradicated, leaving only a comic made with skill such that I have rarely been witness to. The best example is the silent scenes. Silent scenes in a comic are difficult things to accomplish, since they rely entirely on the expressiveness of the artwork. Scott Pilgrim definitely is one of those rare occasions. These scenes, thanks to the expressiveness of the art, flow without end and elicit a much more emotional response from the reader.
The art’s expression is the next item on the discussion list, funnily enough.
The art style used in Scott Pilgrim is very basic. It consists almost entirely of rather plain characters who, at the start of things, are sort of difficult to tell apart. What such a style allows for, though, is an entirely new level of expression. The character’s emotions are made plain through their mannerisms in such a way that you feel as if you are actually speaking to them, watching their body language in an attempt to derive extra meaning from their words and being rewarded for the effort.
This expressiveness really humanizes the characters and makes them quite believable, even if they do inhabit a strange, video-game inspired world. The believability of the characters also lends itself to the relevance of the story. The main point of Scott Pilgrim is that everyone has baggage and that sometimes in life you must simply move on. It is a fantastic study of the dynamic complexity of human relationships.
Another thing that the art does is perfectly nail the sarcastic tone of the work by adding in small details such as guitar tabs and biographical information boxes.
These little flourishes make the series something truly unique, only compounded by the gravity of the overall theme in order to allow the series to reach a height of magnificence that is rarely ever attained.