Director: Edgar Wright Writers: Edgar Write, Michael Bacall Cinematography: Bill Pope
Music: Nigel Godrich Cast: Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong,
Kieren Culkin, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Satya Bhabha,
Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Keita Saito, Shota Saito, Jason Schwartzman
Disc company: Universal Video: 1080p 1.85:1 Audio: DTS-HD Master 5.1 English,
DTS 5.1 Surround French, DTS 5.1 Surround Spanish Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc: Dual Layer BD50 Release Date: 11/09/2010 Product link: Amazon.com
That’s it. I’m convinced. So long as Edgar Wright is in the director’s chair the man can do no possible wrong. From his inimitably bizarre BBC series Spaced to his ode to the old-school exploitation trailer Don’t and everywhere in between and beyond, the writer / director / producer continues to impress with his innate sense of comic timing and his genuinely innovative approach to the basics of film construction. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is undeniably his most ambitious work to date, an audacious blend of disparate genres and motifs that simply refuses to be categorized. Those looking for an unbiased appraisal be warned, as where this film is concerned I am an impossible fan.
The story follows the eponymous Scott Pilgrim, the self-absorbed and insecure twenty-something bassist of indie rock outfit Sex Bob-Omb, as he hunts for self-worth in the mythical land of Toronto, Canada. Still angsty over a tumultuous break-up with the headliner of a rival musical sensation, Scott flings himself into a superficial relationship with a 17-year-old Chinese school girl only to find a more mysterious personality rocketing about his subconscious on roller blades. Things take a turn for the bizarre when Scott discovers that the girl of his dreams is not only more corporeal than he imagined, but seemingly available to boot. Unfortunately she comes with some serious baggage – a league of seven evil exes whom our unlikely hero will have to defeat in mortal combat if he and his would-be girlfriend are to have a future.
Though almost indescribable as a total experience, the elements that make up Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are easy enough to discern. The underlying romance is more or less typical of many that have come before, augmented with a healthy dose of old-school fantasy – Scott’s knight-in-ringer-tees set upon by all manner of hipster horrors in a quest to save his blue-haired and be-stockinged damsel in distress. The potentially tiresome drama at Scott Pilgrim‘s center is instead a solid emotional heart thanks to the taught scripting of Wright and co-writer Michael Bacall, and our hero’s journey towards self-realization and romantic fulfillment plays out in surprisingly personal terms in spite of the rampant bad-assery.
The world in which the drama unfolds is equal parts bland normality (Goodwill stores, coffee shops, bus rides…) and unrestrained insanity, full of band battles, snark and comic book onomatopoeia. Punches Thwak! and explosions Poom! and years of arcade gaming experience pays off in unexpected outbursts of Tekken-style combat. The silliness is presented in stark contrast with the very real Toronto, here in a rare film role as itself, with a number of actual locations or staged reproductions of the same (Casa Loma, Lee’s Palace, Pizza Pizza and more) serving as ground zero for the outbursts of manic Gen-Y imagination. The illusion is of an everyday universe invaded by comic book sensibilities and arcade game hysteria, an exciting check-your-disbelief-at-the-door wonderland whose enthusiasm for itself is infectious.
With old-school video games serving as a primary jumping-off point, it’s not surprising that the frequent violence is so brazenly artificial. The skirmishes are wildly kinetic and manically inventive, inspired at least in part by the ballistic intensity of early ’90s Hong Kong actioners. Bloodshed is kept to an absolute minimum, with opponents hemorrhaging loose change instead. Battles are punctuated with point tickers and ridiculous implements of destruction (fireballs, pixel swords and mallets of massive proportions) and heralded by arcade blurbs – Get Ready!!, VS and the climactic K.O.!! (courtesy of Bill Hader, credited as The Voice).
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a relentlessly stylized experience even beyond its frequent fight scenes and, with at least one toe planted firmly in tangible reality, succeeds where comparable misfires like Speed Racer failed to do so. Especially of note is Wright and co.’s approach to the score, be it the ‘live’ shows put on by Sex Bob’Omb or the cheeky auditory gags (an 8-bit Universal theme, for one). With regards to the former, this is one of the first mainstream films I’ve seen that honestly captures the impact of live performance, punch-grunge acoustics, pre-show jitters and all. Music more often than not exists solely in support of the image, but Scott Pilgrim goes the opposite route, the sound often augmented with flash frames of descriptive animation.
This is the first film of the year that has fully, 100% worked for me, and it’s unexpectedly rewarding to see Scott (Michael Cera in a role as unlikely as it is fitting) go from potential jerk to emotionally responsible adult in the middle of some of the most ludicrous combat ever to grace the silver screen. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has real impact, visually, sonically and beyond, and while I’d disagree with Rolling Stone‘s pronouncement of it as ‘a game-changer’ (to quote the Blu-ray case) it is undeniably one of a kind. I doubt Wright will ever make another film quite like it or that anyone else will be capable of the same, and that’s just the way it should be.
Universal’s Blu-ray of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World more than lives up to the high expectations set for a major studio release, and the few gripes I have with it should be gotten out of the way as swiftly as possible. Firstly, I loathe the marketing ploy of lumping a DVD and Blu-ray together and charging a $10 premium for the privilege. Though the DVD edition has been made available separately the Blu-ray is, to date, only available as part of a combo pack. My only other issue resides with the menu, which prompts me to rate the disc via Social Blu anytime anything is selected. While easy enough to overlook when segueing into the film or a lengthy featurette, the prompt becomes quite distracting when trying to navigate through the shorter extras (deleted scenes, trailers, etc.).
Otherwise there’s not much to say against this Blu-ray edition. The 1080p 1.85:1 transfer is as crisp and clean as should rightfully be expected from a film so recent, and I’d go so far as to say that it exceeded my (admittedly shoddy) multiplex projection in terms of quality. Bill Pope’s dynamic photography, from more traditional location photography to the slick and stylish action diversions, is well preserved. The inclusion of the DVD in the package welcomes comparison, with the HD image besting the strong SD presentation in all the expected areas (color, contrast, depth, detail) and exporting an aesthetic that’s demonstrably film-like. There is a fine amount of grain tinkering about in the background throughout, and the image appears free of digital manipulations. The primary audio track, DTS-HD Master 5.1 English (3946 kbps), is exceptionally strong. Sex Bob’Omb’s performances are particularly robust, and the depth of the mix preserves the film’s often subtle sound gags (I dig the Emperor Ming twang). Two DTS 5.1 Surround dubs are also made available, in French and Spanish, as is a descriptive video service. Optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
Supplements are, if possible, too stacked. The fun begins with not one, but four feature commentary tracks. The first two – featuring director Edgar Wright, flanked by co-writer Michael Bacall and comic creator Bryan Lee O’Malley on the first and director of photography Bill Pope on the second – are both well worth a listen, with Wright proving especially adept at the art of keeping a commentary interesting. The latter two are cast commentaries, which were recorded shortly after the film’s premiere and are high on banter but low on acute observations. The first of the cast commentaries includes Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong and Brandon Routh, while the second features Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin and Mark Webber. Of these the first is most recommendable, with the shear mass of participants keeping things active.
As though the four commentaries weren’t enough, the rest of the disc is topped off with a variety of HD and SD featurettes, clips and galleries that push the content to the limit of the dual layer BD50′s capacity and are, frankly, too numerous to list here in their entirety. Highlights include Making of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (HD), a 50-minute documentary featurette exclusive to the Blu-ray edition, 27 minutes of deleted or differently cut scenes (HD), an hour and a half of pre-production tidbits (SD) including rehearsal videos, casting tapes, animatics, hair and make-up tests and more, four music videos for in-film songs (Garbage Truck, Black Sheep, Threshold and Summertime) and 12 production blogs (45 minutes, SD) by Edgar Wright. In addition to the on-disc extras you get a code for a downloadable digital copy of the film as well as access to a free streaming movie (either Tremors or Pitch Black) through UniversalHiDef.com.
I didn’t know what to expect from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World when I headed into the cinema to see it a few months back, but it certainly lived up to the expectations set by its poster tagline – ‘An Epic of Epic Epicness.’ I’m aware that it didn’t fare so well financially, earning back just 2/3rds of its production cost of $60 million, which makes it all the more interesting that Universal has put the time and energy into giving it such a loaded release. Those of you who have yet to see it are urged to give it a shot, while fans are heartily encouraged to indulge in Universal’s hefty presentation.
Film: Excellent + Video: Excellent Audio: Excellent + Supplements: Excellent +
Packaging: Standard Blu-ray case with cardboard slip cover.
Recommendation: While Universal’s marketing ploy is irksome, forcing HD customers to pay for a DVD whether they want it or not, the release itself is exceptional and faithfully replicates the theatrical experience.