Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (UK - BD)
Our Chris has seen the BD and brings you an epic review of epic epicness...
Twenty-two year old Canadian slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives in a tiny apartment with his gay room-mate Wallace Welles (Kieran Culken) and plays bass for the garage band Sex Bob-omb. Although currently dating a seventeen year old Chinese highschooler called Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), Scott becomes infatuated with a mysterious American delivery girl who has a habit of using the hyperspace portal that runs through his head to save a bit of time during her busy schedule.
Upon learning the identity of the mysterious girl—one Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)—Scott immediately sets out to make her his girlfriend, although he sort of forgets to tell Knives about the change in their relationship status. Two-timing a teenager is the least of Scott's worries though, because Ramona comes with some serious baggage of her own. If he wants to be with her Scott will need to defeat her seven evil exes, a rouge’s gallery including an Indian pirate with mystical powers, a skateboarding action hero, a vegan rock star and a sexy half-ninja. It is only then that Scott can hope to win the girl of his (literal) dreams.
Okay, so does all of that sound flipping mental? That's probably because it is. Summarising Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not an easy thing to do, because so much relies on the viewer's knowledge of various facets of popular culture. I'm sure a great many people reading my (or any other) synopsis would simply dismiss the film out of hand, but they'd be missing out on one of the year's most visually striking and downright entertaining features. Having had a bit of time to let the dust settle since most of the 'big hitters' ( Inception etc) made their case for the top spot, I can safely say that this is my favourite film of 2010.
So why exactly is Scott Pilgrim my favourite film of the year? Well, there are a variety of reasons. Although I’ve seen it described as a slacker comedy it’s much more than that; it’s a throwback to many of the things I loved when growing up. Along with the cool modern stuff that the ‘hipsters’ (whatever they are) will appreciate, the filmmakers have slipped in numerous references to iconic games and films, even above and beyond those found in source material. Things like the name of Scott's band (Sex Bob-omb is a reference to Mario games) and the way in which the enemies explode into coins should be obvious to anyone, but the constant use of music from the Zelda games, the many nods to the Street Fighter franchise, the Seinfeld homage and the Flash Gordon sound effect are all great additions. It’s these little touches that really make the film for me. (I'm also convinced one of the characters is named after a member of the superhero team Power Pack).
Of course I’m also a fan of dry humour and sarcasm and Scott Pilgrim has both in spades, usually coming from Wallace Welles. He’s not the only exponent of biting remarks and witticisms though, as there are plenty of chances for the other characters to get in on the act. There are some brilliant one-liners, although many of them are fairly subtle so you have to be on the ball. However, perhaps the film's greatest strength is its striking imagery. Those of you who remember the classic videogame segments from Edgar Wright's sitcom Spaced will have some idea of what to expect, but try ramping it up a hundredfold. There's just so much colour on the screen; so many effects. It's a quite beautiful film to look at, albeit in a completely untraditional and unconventional way. The audio is equally important as the visuals though, be it the aforementioned snippets of video games, film and television music, or the fantastic sound effects. Then of course there's the utterly superb music, created by Beck and performed by the cast themselves.
Given my love for the film I've found it hard to digest some of the negative reviews. I'm not talking about reviews from established critics, as those have generally been very positive, but rather the reviews from average movie-goers. Browsing the Scott Pilgrim forum on IMDb is almost impossible given the campaign of hate waged by a number of users determined to tell the world that this is the 'worst movie ever'. (I'm sure the irony is lost on them). I find it quite disheartening when fun, experimental movies like this fail to find and audience and earn the ire of people who lap up conventional movies like the horrifically bad Piranha and the utterly pedestrian The Expendables
I can understand why the film didn't succeed theatrically though. For one thing it wasn't marketed particularly well, at least here in the UK. As someone who'd never read the graphic novels it wasn't even on my radar until I saw the trailer at the cinema. Even after that I really only knew that it had some cool visuals. If an ad campaign can't get the target audience excited a film is never going to do well. It's sad though, because it was up against some fairly uninspired stuff like The A-Team, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Knight and Day... It just goes to show, faced with a choice between tried and tested and new and exciting people will usually stick with what they know. However, I urge anyone reading this review to try something new and give Scott Pilgrim a chance, because the film really deserves to find a wider audience.
If I had to use one word to sum up Scott Pilgrim’s visuals is would be ‘colourful’. Luckily I’m not restricted to one word, so I can tell you all about the transfer in detail. The majority of the film is presented at 1.85:1 (1080/24p AVC), but portions of the film switch to 2.35:1 for dramatic effect. These variable ratio sections usually occur during the fight sequences to give them a more epic feel (if that’s possible). I saw the film twice theatrically, and while I don’t pretend to be one of these cinemagoers seemingly possessed of an eidetic memory the Blu-ray presentation does seem to be very close the theatrical experience. The image is softer than some, but it’s not at the expense of detail and it is in keeping with the intended look of the piece. As mentioned earlier the film has an extremely varied palette, what with Ramona’s ever-changing hair colour and the vast array of outfits worn by the evil exes, although the saturation has been dialled down from the norm somewhat. Thankfully there’s not really anything negative to report, which is always a relief when dealing with a Universal title. Grain is perfectly natural and unobtrusive, blacks are handled extremely well (there’s some great shadow delineation), and there aren’t any obvious film or digital artefacts either. It’s fair to say that I’m very, very happy with the visual presentation of the film.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s impressive visuals are ably supported by an even more impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. There’s always something going on in this one, from the most subtle of incidental effects to full-on, in your face action. All five channels are utilised for the majority of the runtime to one degree or another, with plenty of seamless pans around the soundstage (often accompanied by diegetic effects) and spot effects that often show up in the rears. As you might expect the bulk of the surround action occurs during the fight sequences, during which there are plenty of whooshing punches and kicks, accompanied by more specific effects like Roxy’s whip, the clatter of coins (whenever an evil ex is defeated) and so on. Bass is also pretty rampant during the fights (check out the bass battle), with every punch hitting home with a solid thud. Thankfully dialogue remains perfectly clear throughout the entirety of the feature, traversing the speakers as required, often adding an extra dimension to scenes in the process. I was so impressed by the dense layering of the film’s effects I wouldn’t be surprised to see it getting an Oscar nod in the technical department.
I mentioned the fantastic soundtrack earlier in the review, but I think it deserves another shout out here. Beck's contribution to the film cannot be overestimated, such is the importance of his music to its overall success. Sex Bob-omb wouldn't have a voice without tracks like 'We Are Sex Bob-omb', 'Threshold' and 'Garbage Truck', all of which I'd happily listen to in favour of most of the stuff that's played on the radio these days. Even the cover of Metric's 'Black Sheep' sounds fantastic and I think I actually prefer Brie Larson's vocal to the original... The music itself is also very well represented in the mix as a whole, basically underpinning the whole movie in addition to occasionally taking centre stage. I don’t think I need to gush any more than I already have, as it should be obvious to anyone reading that the audio is nothing short of first-rate.
One thing’s for sure, this release certainly can’t be accused of short-changing the buyer when it comes to bonus material! As with the various releases of his previous film, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this Edgar Wright movie is accompanied by a stack of extras. The menu also has a cool retro theme, with blocky text designed to represent the old 8-bit computers. There’s a hell of a lot to get through, so I’m going to crack on.
Audio Commentary: Co-writer/director Edgar Wright, co-writer Michael Bacall and author Bryan Lee O' Malley are on-hand to talk us through the movie. This should probably be your first port of call if you want the lowdown on the film, because it’s packed full of interesting information. It’s still quite a jocular track and it takes a bit of time to get going, but once the participants hit their stride it ranks among the better tracks I’ve heard of late.
Audio Commentary: Edgar Wright is joined by director of photography Bill Pope ( The Matrix). This is the most technical of the four tracks on offer, and it does a pretty good job of covering all the bases. As usual Wright drives the track, prompting Pope to chime in with pertinent information from time to time. Among other things, we learn that this was Bill Pope’s first audio commentary.
Audio Commentary: The first cast commentary features Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong and Brandon Routh (who arrives late to the recording session). It's a pretty entertaining track for the most part, with plenty of banter and the like, although there are still a few pauses along the way. Obviously it’s not as technically informative as the other tracks, but there’s still much to learn and it’s all done with good humour.
Audio Commentary: The final audio commentary is another cast affair, this time featuring Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin and Mark Webber. This track is also full of banter, although like the characters they portray in the film the majority of the comments are far more acerbic than the first cast commentary (Aubrey Plaza could be Julie Powers). There are quite a few pauses and self-deprecating comments, but there are some amusing moments that make it worth a listen.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Edgar Wright (27:12 HD): There are twenty one deleted scenes available, ranging from short scene extensions to a full-on alternate ending. It’s pretty interesting to watch all of the bits that were excised, although it’s easy to see why much of it was removed (apart from the additional Crash and the Boys track, which was so short it should have stayed in). I was particularly interested in the alternate ending, which actually provides a more satisfying conclusion to the picture in my eyes.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Outtakes (09:42 SD): This is just the usual collection of flubbed lines and people goofing around. If you’ve seen one of these things you’ve pretty much seen them all. Things I learned: it took Michael Cera thirty-three attempts to throw the package over his shoulder into the bin.
Documentaries: This section includes a two-part making of documentary (49:33 HD), a music featurette (16:27 SD) and a ‘You Too Can Be Sex –Bob-omb’ featurette (02:42 SD). The making of documentary is about as exhaustive as you could possibly wish for, covering as it does virtually every facet of production. The music featurette is also pretty cool, as it discusses the various real-life acts that provided music for the fictional bands in the film, and shows the cast rehearsing for their performances as Sex Bob-omb. The final featurette is sort of a virtual guitar lesson with Mark Webber playing ‘Garbage Truck’.
Alternate Footage: This section includes two sub-sections, entitled ‘Alternate Edits’ (12:21 SD) and ‘Bits and Pieces’. As the names imply, both consist of some slightly different edits to existing scenes, mainly in the form of different intros and outros. There are also several scenes that border on gag reel material in the second featurette.
Pre-Production (01:27:32 SD): Next we have yet another large collection of material divided into a number of sub-categories. We have ‘Pre-Production Footage’, ‘Animatics’, ‘Rehearsal Videos, ‘Props, Rigs and Sets Montage’, ‘Casting Tapes’ and ‘Hair and Make-up Footage’, some of which drill down to their own sub-menus. There’s really huge amount of stuff included in this section; more than the entirety of the extras found on most Blu-ray releases. The rehearsal videos are quite cool (especially the one where the cast perform a scene with English dialects), and the casting tapes were really cool (and yes Ellen Wong had much to do with my appreciation).
Music Promos: This section includes a ‘Music Videos’ section (09:47 SD), which includes videos for ‘Garbage Truck’, ‘Black Sheep’, ‘Threshold’ and ‘Summertime. There’s also a collection of OSYMYSO remixes (09:28 SD), including ‘Prepare’, ‘Hey’, ‘Love’, ‘Ramona’, ‘Fight!’, ‘Yeah’ and ‘What?’. As previously mentioned I love the film’s music, so it was great to watch the actors performing the full versions of the tracks (especially Black Sheep and Threshold). I was less enchanted by the remixes, but they’re still pretty cool.
Visual Effects: This section is divided into ‘VFX Before & After’ (14:37 SD), ‘Roxy Fight/Ribbon Version’ (01:11 SD), ‘Phantom Montage: Hi Speed Footage’ (03:47 SD). The VFX comparisons are probably the most interesting part, offering as they do some insight into how the effects shots came together, but the high speed footage is also pretty cool as it allows you to see a lot of the action in slow motion.
Soundworks Collection: Sound for Film Profile (05:43 SD): The sound designers are on hand to talk about the film’s unusual audio, including the inventive use of video game effects (the aforementioned diegetic sounds) for punches, pans and the like, and the relationship between soundtrack and sound effects. It’s a little on the short side to offer an in-depth exploration, but it’s always nice to hear how this often-overlooked element of a film is put together.
Trailers (18:43 SD): This section includes sub-sections for ‘Theatrical Trailers’, ‘TV Spots’ and ‘Video Game Trailers’, with numerous entries for all three types. The theatrical trailer was the first exposure I had to the film, and it still makes me smile. The game trailers also look pretty cool, and having played the demo I can confirm that it captures the vibe of an old 16-bit (it’s too shiny for 8-bit) beat ‘em up. I might have bought it if I didn’t hate the way Sony forces you to put a bulk amount of cash on the PS Store, rather than pay the exact amount.
Adult Swim: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation (03:48 SD): This animated short is a sort of prequel to the events depicted in the film. It shows how Scott meets Lisa, forms the band Sonic and Knuckles, starts dating Kim Pine, and has to rescue her from the evil dudes at Benvie Tech (before breaking her heart). It’s a pretty cool little piece that leaves you wanting more.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Censors: TV Safe Version (04:11 SD): This is basically just all of the ‘swear’ words in the film replaced with comedy alternatives like ‘peach’ for ‘bitch’. It’s similar to the ‘Funky Pete’ bit on the home releases of Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. My personal favourite was the changing of the line ‘you cocky cock’ to ‘you Oscar Grouch’!
Blogs: Twelve blogs are included, covering everything from the first day of principal photography to the fighting, music and the cast relaxing by hula hooping… I believe these were available on the web during the film’s production, but it’s nice to have them on the disc for the candid footage of the actors goofing around.
Galleries: There are twelve extensive galleries in total, ranging from cast photo blogs from Edgar Wright, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong and Mark Webber, to production photos, storyboards, conceptual artwork, theatrical posters, fictional posters (for Lucas Lee’s films), Bryan Lee O'Malley’s flip charts, comparisons with the graphic novel, and the original Mecha-Gideon ending (which would have been cool).
Trivia Track: Want to watch the film with tons of pop-up trivia? Here’s your chance!
U-Control: Universal’s implementation of BonusView offers up storyboards that play over the top of the video, offering a comparative view between the early designs and the finished product.
What’s New! Powered by BD-Live: If you have an Internet enabled machine, this option takes you to Universal’s BD portal and offers up trailers for many of their new releases, along with community options and an advert for pocket Blu. The disc also takes advantage of an Internet connection to load new trailers before the disc menu appears, but I can't say I'm a big fan of studios stealing my bandwidth without my consent.
DVD Copy: A DVD copy of the film is included in the package in case you don’t have an easily portable BD player or an HDTV in your bedroom etc.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World appears to divide people into two camps: those who think it’s a pretentious load of cobblers, and those who think it’s a misunderstood masterpiece. I fall firmly into the second camp, and take every opportunity to sing the film’s praises to anyone who’ll listen. If you really can’t stand Michael Cera I doubt this film will do anything to change your opinion, but I happen to think he is very well suited to the film version of Scott, if not the comic book incarnation. The rest of the cast pretty much deliver pitch-perfect performances, especially Alison Pill, Brandon Routh and Ellen Wong, who portrayed the most memorable characters for my money.
Technically the set is very impressive, both visually and aurally, but it is the astounding array of bonus material that really sets it apart. The biggest surprise is that nearly all of the supplements are worthwhile, which isn’t something I find myself saying very often. I know that it’s very easy to get carried away at this time of year and label the more recent releases as ‘one of the best of the year’, but in Scott Pilgrim’s case it’s the truth. If you haven’t already picked it up I urge you to treat yourself to a late Christmas present—I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!*
* Not a guarantee. The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 27th December 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Descriptive Video Service English
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, Documentaries, Featurettes, Trailers,Blogs, Galleries, Storyboards, BD-Live, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Jason Schwartzman
Genre: Comedy and Fantasy
Length: 112 minutes
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