Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Trailer Wins, But Can the Movie K.O.?

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Christine Lim is a Pilgrim enthusiast and works with us behind the scenes at Techland and Time. We thought it appropriate to have her say a few words about the Scott Pilgrim trailer. –ed.

In Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, titular character Scott Pilgrim, 23, has a lot of things not going for him. He’s unemployed and shares a bed with his gay roommate. He owes the local video store $504.28 for returning Land Before Time IV 36 weeks late. He wants to date roller-skating delivery girl Ramona V. Flowers, but in order to do so, he must fight and defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Also, Scott lives in Canada.

The trailer for the series’ film adaptation, directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), was released last Friday to the great anticipation of fans. The film takes on the title of the second volume of the series, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, though it absorbs bad guys, plotlines and onomatopoeias from the series’ five released volumes. The trailer feels fresh, fun, KPOW!, and, hey, I recognize that girl from OMG Twilight Up in the Air. The 83-second teaser does a good job of introducing the genres and themes—romance, comedy, action, manga, music, video game and indie-snark—that span the series’ 960 predominantly black-and-white pages.

As evidenced by the trailer, the film includes some familiar faces. Let the name-drop sequence begin! Scott Pilgrim is played by usual suspect, boy-child Michael Cera. Love him or hate him, the guy owns the timid hero archetype. The lovely, talented Jason Schwartzman takes on the role of the evilest of Ramona’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) evil ex-boyfriends, Gideon Gordon Graves. He’s the Shredder to Scott’s Michelangelo. There’s also Kieran Culkin (Wallace Wells, Scott’s gay roommate), Anna Kendrick (Stacey, Scott’s younger sister), Chris Evans (Lucas Lee, evil ex #2) and Brandon Routh (Todd Ingram, evil ex #3). I personally can’t wait to see Parks and Recreation’s snark master of doom, Aubrey Plaza, though her role as party-throwing Julie Powers is smallish.

Despite a strong indie celebrity presence, if history is to repeat itself, this film may inevitably fall short of its paperback counterpart. In volume three, Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness, as two characters kiss unexpectedly, the panel beside them reads, “DRAMATIC MUSIC IS PLAYING RIGHT NOW.” To read this note in the book is divine. To watch the film and actually hear dramatic music playing? Err…shrug. (The scene, if it makes it to the movie, can perhaps do justice to the book by taking a cue from this.)

On the next page, when Scott asks Ramona if her hair color is natural, she replies, “What? No. Maybe. I guess it could be.” An inset reads, “NOTE: this book is in black & white.” This blunt irony, irreverence for the genre and smashing of the fourth wall are precious characteristics of the novels. While these devices aren’t groundbreaking, in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s hands, they K.O. Will this magic come through in the movie? Probably not, but if we’re lucky, a new kind of magic, possible only through cinema, will rise from the books’ ashes.

A pivotal difference between the movie and the novels will lie in the endings. Filming began before the sixth and final volume—Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (out July 20, 2010)—was completed. In the series, Scott and Gideon have yet to face each other by the end of the fifth volume, though in the trailer, they have already begun trading punches. Bad things can happen when a book falls into the hands of a filmmaker, but Father O’Malley has given the cinematic effort his blessing, saying, “Their ending is their ending.” That’s good enough for me.

You should really read the books. After a thousand pages of Scott Pilgrim, you’ll be asking for thousands more. Then watch the movie (out August 13, 2010). It might not be able to capture the series’ finest moments, but it’s still a good story, dammit. And who doesn’t want to see Michael Cera getting punched in the face?

The League of Ramona’s Evil Ex-Boyfriends:
Scott Pilgrim: Ramona Flowers' Evil Ex-Boyfriends