Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
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Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A young blond man emphatically plays bass guitar over a red background, with the film title logo in white above, and slogan in white text followed by credits below
Official poster
Directed byEdgar Wright
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onScott Pilgrim
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Starring
Music byNigel Godrich
CinematographyBill Pope
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 27, 2010 (2010-07-27) (Fantasia Festival)
  • August 13, 2010 (2010-08-13) (United States)
  • August 25, 2010 (2010-08-25) (United Kingdom)
  • April 29, 2011 (2011-04-29) (Japan)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
Country
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
LanguageEnglish
Budget$60 million[2]
Box office$48 million[3]

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a 2010 action comedy film co-written, produced and directed by Edgar Wright, based on the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. It stars Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, a slacker musician who must win a competition to get a record deal and battle the seven evil exes of his newest girlfriend Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It also stars Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Mae Whitman as some of the evil exes, Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin and Alison Pill as some of Scott's friends, and Brie Larson as Scott's own evil ex. Jason Schwartzman plays Gideon, Ramona's most recent ex and the competition's record producer.

A film adaptation of the comics was proposed following the release of the first volume. Wright became attached to the project early on, with filming beginning several years later in March 2009 in Toronto. The film premiered after a panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con International on July 22, 2010, and received a wide release in North America on August 13, 2010.

It notably uses famous features of its Toronto setting, as well as video game and comic book imagery and a matching style. Using a battle of the bands plot, it also uses different real bands as a basis for each fictional group, including Beck and Metric, with the actors in the film performing themselves. It contains extensive visual effects, using a combination of digital and physical methods to create the image, with the title sequence and some of the fight scenes incorporating music into the graphics.

The film was a box-office bomb but received positive reviews from critics, who particularly noted the film's visual style and humor; it eventually garnered a cult following. It has made several Top Ten lists and received over 70 awards and nominations. It was shortlisted for the Best Visual Effects category at the 83rd Academy Awards. In scholarly analysis, it has been widely discussed as a transmedia narrative.

Plot

In Toronto, 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim is a bassist in Sex Bob-Omb, a floundering garage band. He is dating Knives Chau, a 17-year-old high-school student, to the disapproval of his friends in the band, his roommate Wallace Wells, and his younger sister Stacey Pilgrim. Scott meets an American Amazon delivery girl, Ramona Flowers, after having first seen her in a dream. He loses interest in Knives, but doesn't break up with her before pursuing Ramona. When Sex Bob-Omb plays in a battle of the bands sponsored by record executive Gideon Graves, Scott is attacked by Ramona's ex-boyfriend Matthew Patel. Scott defeats Patel and learns that, in order to date Ramona, he must defeat her remaining six evil exes.

Scott finally breaks up with Knives, who blames Ramona and swears to win him back. Meanwhile, Scott proceeds to get attacked by, and defeats, the next three of Ramona's exes: Hollywood actor and skateboarder Lucas Lee, super-powered vegan Todd Ingram, and lesbian ninja Roxy Richter. However, Scott grows frustrated during the process, and after an outburst regarding Ramona's dating history, she breaks up with him.

At the next battle of the bands, Sex Bob-Omb defeats Ramona's fifth and sixth evil exes, twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, earning Scott an extra life. Despite this, Ramona appears to get back with her seventh evil ex, Gideon. Sex Bob-Omb accepts Gideon's record deal, except for Scott, who quits the band in protest. Gideon invites Scott to his venue, the Chaos Theater, where Sex Bob-Omb is playing. Resolving to win Ramona back, Scott challenges Gideon to a fight for her affections, earning the "Power of Love" sword. Knives interrupts the battle, attacking Ramona, and Scott is forced to reveal that he cheated on both of them. Gideon kills Scott and Ramona visits him in limbo to reveal that Gideon has implanted her with a mind control device.

Scott uses his 1-up and re-enters the Chaos Theater. He makes peace with his friends and challenges Gideon again, this time for himself, gaining the "Power of Self-Respect" sword. After apologizing to Ramona and Knives for cheating on them, and accepting his own faults, Scott and Knives join forces to defeat Gideon.

Free from Gideon's control, Ramona prepares to leave. Knives accepts that her relationship with Scott is over and, at her encouragement, he leaves with Ramona to "try again."

Cast

Production

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was produced by several international companies: Marc Platt Productions (United States), Big Talk Films (United Kingdom), Closed On Mondays Entertainment (United States), and Dentsu (Japan).[4]

Development

Edgar Wright by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Bryan Lee O'Malley by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Edgar Wright and Bryan Lee O'Malley at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International

After artist Bryan Lee O'Malley completed the first volume of Scott Pilgrim, his publisher Oni Press contacted producer Marc Platt to propose a film adaptation.[5] O'Malley originally had mixed feelings about a film adaptation, stating that he "expected them to turn it into a full-on action comedy with some actor that I hated" but ultimately "didn't even care": "I was a starving artist, and I was like, 'Please, just give me some money.'"[6]

Universal Studios contracted director Edgar Wright, who had just finished the 2004-released Shaun of the Dead and agreed to adapt the Scott Pilgrim comics.[5][7] In May 2005, the studio signed Michael Bacall to co-write the screenplay.[7] Wright cited Mario Bava's 1968 film Danger: Diabolik as an influence on his approach to Scott Pilgrim, describing it by saying that he took an "Italian influence, a sense of completely unbridled imagination. They don't make any attempt to make it look realistic. Mario Bava's composition and staging has a real try-anything attitude."[8] Bacall said that he wanted to write the Scott Pilgrim film because he felt strongly about its story and empathized with its characters.[9] Wright said that O'Malley was "very involved" with the script of the film from the start, contributing lines and adding polish. Due to the long development, several lines from various scripts written by Wright and Bacall were used in later Scott Pilgrim comics.[10] No material from Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, the sixth Scott Pilgrim volume, appeared in the film, as the comic was not complete at the time of the film's production; O'Malley contributed suggestions for the film's ending and gave the producers his notes for the sixth volume,[11] but stated that the film's ending was "their ending".[12] Some ideas for the film's ending were cut before production, including that Scott would turn out to be a serial killer who fantasized the gaming aspects[13] and that Gideon would turn into a Transformers-style robot.[14]

The film takes on elements of style from the graphic novels, including the use of comic book text-as-graphic (e.g. sound effect onomatopoeia), which is described by Wright and O'Malley as "merely the internal perspective of how Scott understands himself and the world".[15] It has been described as both a video game and a comic book film.[16]

Casting of the principal characters began in June 2008.[17] By 2010, casting had been completed and the film was titled Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.[18] The cast spent two months in fight training together before filming, with Brad Allan and Peng Zhang of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team.[19]Principal photography began in March 2009 in Toronto[20][21] and wrapped as scheduled in August.[17][22] In the film's original ending, written before the release of the final Scott Pilgrim book, Scott gets back together with Knives. After the final book in the series, in which Scott and Ramona get back together, was released, and with divided audience reaction to the film's original ending, a new ending was filmed to match the books, with Scott and Ramona getting back together.[23] This was shot three months before the film was released;[15] Wright says that it is his "preferred ending".[14] The film was given a production budget of $85-90 million, an amount offset by tax rebates that resulted in a final cost of around $60 million.[2] Universal fronted $60 million of the pre-rebate budget.[24] O'Malley's commentary track was recorded on August 14, 2010, one day after the film's theatrical release.[25]

Setting

The intersection at Bathurst Street, with the Bloor Street West Pizza Pizza, used in the film[26]
The Artscape Wychwood Barns venue is used as the nightclub for the after party where Scott fights Roxy[26]
Lee's Palace entrance mural pre-2010

One of the producers, Miles Dale, said that the film is "the biggest movie ever identifiably set in Toronto."[27] The film features notable Toronto locations Casa Loma, St. Michael's College School, Sonic Boom, the Toronto Public Library Wychwood Library, a Goodwill location on St. Clair West, a Second Cup, a Pizza Pizza, Lee's Palace, and Artscape Wychwood Barns.[26][27][28] The production planned to set the series in Toronto because, in Dale's words, "the books are super-specific in their local details" and director Wright wanted to use the imagery from the books, so Universal Studios had no plans to alter the setting.[27] Dale stated that "Bathurst Street is practically the cerebral cortex of Scott Pilgrim".[27] David Fleischer of Torontoist wrote that though films set in New York City show off all the major landmarks, "Scott Pilgrim revels in the simplicity" of everyday locations that are still identifiably Toronto, like the Bathurst/Bloor intersection and a single Pizza Pizza restaurant.[28]

Director Wright, who lived in the city for a year before making the film, said that "as a British filmmaker making [his] first film outside the UK, [he] wouldn't want anyone to give [him] demerits for getting the location wrong", sticking to the real Toronto and "shooting even the most banal of locations" in the comic.[28] Wright said that the first thing he did when he arrived in Toronto was to tour all of the locations with O'Malley, saying that this gave him a "kind of touch down at the real locations [that] just made everything feel right", though O'Malley could not remember the exact spots of some and so they drove around using his comic reference photos to find them.[28] The production was allowed to film in Second Cup and Pizza Pizza locations, with Wright saying that using them instead of Starbucks "just felt right" because "it means something to Canadian audiences and people in international audiences just think [they] made [Pizza Pizza] up [them]selves. It sounds like a cute movie brand".[28]

Wright said that he took pride in having been able to record the original Lee's Palace mural before it was taken down; he also had the old bar reconstructed on a set for interior scenes, which was positively received when the bands consulting for the film visited. Wright suggested that "they wanted it preserved as a museum piece".[28] Another reconstruction was the Rock It club, which no longer existed, with the interior built on a sound stage.[28] The Sonic Boom store had been changed from how it appeared in the comics, but allowed its interior to be restored to the previous look for filming.[26][28] The backgrounds were also changed for the film: many landscapes were simplified in post-production to emulate the drawing style in the comics, including removing a lot of trees from the scenes shot at Hillcrest Park and Turner Road.[28]

The Casa Loma has served as a movie set for many different productions, and so appearing in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as itself being a movie set was described as "very trippy".[28] The scene of the Casa Loma also shows the CN Tower and Baldwin Steps, with Don McKellar (who played the director in the scene) reporting that "people were going crazy" at opening night in Toronto when it played.[28] The Casa Loma fight is in the original comic book, but the moment when Lucas Lee is pushed through a matte painting generic cityscape to reveal the CN Tower was only added for the film. In his chapter, '"Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together": The Cultural Crossovers of Bryan Lee O'Malley', Mark Berninger calls this reveal "an ironic reference to the specific filmic location" and says that it is "entirely in line with O'Malley's use of metafictional commentary to stress transnational hybridity precisely by highlighting Canadian identity".[29]

Casting

Some members of the film's cast in 2010: (L-R) Michael Bacall (writer), Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Edgar Wright (director), Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh, and Anna Kendrick

Casting took place between 2008 and 2010.[17][18] Cera was cast in March 2008[30] and Winstead in May that year.[31] By the end of 2008, Whitman, Wong and Kendrick were cast; in January 2009, Routh, Evans, and Larson were announced together with Webber, Pill, Simmons, and Bhabha.[32] Extras casting in Toronto began in February 2009.[33]

Director Wright felt confident with his casting in the film, saying that "like with Hot Fuzz [when they] had great people in every single tiny part, it's the same with this. What's great with this is that there's people [like] Michael [Cera] and Jason [Schwartzman], and [...] people who are up and coming, like Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza and Brie Larson, and then there's complete unknowns as well".[34]Collider noted that the less-known actors fit their roles well, with Wright confirming that they did not have as much pressure to find lots of big names, adding that "Universal never really gave [him] any problems about casting bigger people, because in a way Michael [Cera] has starred in two $100 million-plus movies, and also a lot of the other people, though they're not the biggest names, people certainly know who they are."[34]

Wright ran all his casting decisions by O'Malley during a casting session.[11] Wright said that he planned on casting Cera while he was writing Hot Fuzz, after watching episodes of Arrested Development,[34] also saying that he needed an actor that "audiences will still follow even when the character is being a bit of an ass."[35] Wright says that though Cera is a talented musician, they were not particularly looking for people who could already play instruments, with the cast members who could not subsequently learning for the film.[34] Like Cera, Wright already had in mind Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his choice for Ramona Flowers, thinking of her for the part two years before filming had started because "she has a very sunny disposition as a person, so it was interesting to get her to play a version of herself that was broken inside. She's great in the film because she causes a lot of chaos but remains supernaturally grounded."[36]

Ellen Wong, a little-known Toronto actress,[17] auditioned for the part of Knives Chau three times. On her second audition, Wright learned that Wong has a green belt in taekwondo, and says he found himself intrigued by this "sweet-faced young lady being a secret badass".[36] The actors playing Lucas Lee's stunt doubles are the actual stunt doubles for Evans.[37] Aubrey Plaza, who has a supporting role as Julie Powers, said that "there's a lot of weird, perfectly casted people", citing Michael Cera and Alison Pill as particularly matching their characters.[38]

Wright says that one thing he is particularly happy with is that the film, unlike lots of comedies, including his own, has "a lot of funny women in it", recalling a particular scene he dubbed "the funny lady relay race," because it "starts with Anna Kendrick, then switches to Aubrey Plaza, then switches to Mary [Elizabeth Winstead], then switches to Brie Larson, and it's just Michael being attacked from all sides from all the different women in the film."[34]

Music

The soundtrack features contributions by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Beck, Metric, Broken Social Scene, Cornelius, Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, and David Campbell.[39][40][41][42][43] O'Malley had written up playlists for each of the comics in the back of the books, introducing Wright to other Canadian bands during development. Building on this, Wright said that the production "tried to [...] find a real band for each of the fictional bands, because usually in music films you have one composer who does everything".[34]

Webber, Pill, and Simmons as the members of Sex Bob-omb all had to learn to play their respective instruments, and spent time rehearsing as a band with Cera (who already played bass) before filming began.[44]Chris Murphy of the band Sloan was the guitar coach for the actors in the film.[34] The actors also sing on the film's soundtrack.[45] Beck wrote and composed the music played by Sex Bob-omb in the film.[46] The songs took two days to write and record, with Beck saying that "it needed to be underthought, [...] they had to be funny, but [he] also wanted them to sound raw, like demos."[47]Brian LeBarton plays drums and bass for the band on the film's score and soundtrack. Two unreleased songs can also be heard in the teaser trailer.[46]

Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene wrote all the songs for Crash and the Boys. The tracks were sung by Erik Knudsen, who plays Crash in the film. Drew stated that the reason behind this was that "[he] knew that [Knudsen] didn't need to be a singer to pull [it] off" because the songs were "so quick and punk and fast" and "it needed to be the character's voice."[48]

Emily Haines performing (left and right), and Brie Larson as Envy Adams (center)

Metric is the inspiration for the film's band The Clash at Demonhead, and contributed the song "Black Sheep" to the film,[49] by request of Godrich.[50] They had been performing the song at their concerts since 2007, but had not released it before the film.[51] The clothing, performance and style of Metric's lead singer, Emily Haines, is also the basis for the lead singer of The Clash at Demonhead, Envy Adams.[49][52] Larson as Envy Adams provides the vocals for "Black Sheep" in the film, while the soundtrack features a version of the song with Haines as lead singer[53] per the band's request;[54] Larson was a professional singer and has performed in some of her other films.[55] On her stage performance of the song, Larson said at the UK premiere that she "had no idea [her] body could move that way".[56]

Wright said that the film's tonal changes in line with representing the different book parts, and for its fight scenes, were treated like a Musical film, saying:[34]

We thought it should play out like a musical in a way in terms of the fights are not dissimilar to the songs. I always thought there were a lot of martial arts films that were like musicals, so we wanted to take that further. Ya know, in a Gene Kelly film when he performs an amazing routine, at the end of the scene no one goes, 'Oh my god, that was fucking amazing!' The song is about something, and then there might be some dialogue at the end that is also about that theme. And that's kind of how this works where people have these huge fights - and it's kind of like how it is in the books - where everything goes back to normal, and there's a little reaction to what just happened, but there's no sort of mourn the dead.

He also said that some music videos were made of song performances, including some of Sex Bob-omb and the sole The Clash at Demonhead performance, shooting the entire song even though they would not be used in complete form in the film; he said that they were so good he wanted to get them all recorded so that they had it.[34] The Blu-ray home release includes special features, with music videos of the complete performances of Sex Bob-omb's "Garbage Truck", "Threshold", and "Summertime", and The Clash at Demonhead's "Black Sheep".[57] The music video of "Black Sheep" had also been included as a bonus feature with the soundtrack pre-order on iTunes.[58]

Music from the Legend of Zelda video game series is used to open the film, in sound effects,[59] and in a dream sequence. To get permission to use the music, Edgar Wright sent a clip of the film and wrote a letter to Nintendo of America that described the music as "like nursery rhymes to a generation."[35] There are other sound effects and clips from other video games used in the film.[59][60] Zeitlin Wu writes that the film pushes the graphic novel's video game elements to the limit by being able to include such sound effects.[16]

Visual effects

Whenever the image flashes in the finished shots - every punch, sword clash or something - those were actually flashes that we had on-set with photo flashbulbs. We got through over 7,000 bulbs - you can only use them once - and then we add our own flash with CG. When someone dies and bursts into coins, we'd empty buckets of silver Mylar so the actors had something to react to.

- Frazer Churchill[61]

The film is described as having an "inimitable look" of manga and video game (particularly 16-bit) iconography with bright colors and graphics mixed into the live action; visual effects supervisor Frazer Churchill described the look as "tricky" to achieve, calling the film's style and appeal "very high-tech images with a very low-fi feel".[61] Churchill was interviewed by MTV in August 2010 about the effects in the film. He noted that some of the work was more complex because of a shooting ethic of Wright's: that there should be a physical representation of any post-production effects.[61]

Churchill described the first fight (Scott vs. Matthew Patel) as "the most challenging".[61] He says this was because of the technical elements involved, like the computer-generated Bollywood dance and requiring blue screen work, matte painting and a lot of stunts. The scene also incorporates the video game scrolling background effect, which was filmed by a second unit over a full day. Churchill added that one moment in particular took a lot of work: "When Scott jumps off the stage into that manga-esque vortex, that's made up of motion picture photography done on-set, digital still photography, and graphics and speed lines drawn by hand from what [Oscar Wright] gave us".[61]Storyboard artist Oscar Wright (also brother of director Edgar Wright) noted that the introduction of Patel was used "to convey the kind of energy [they] wanted, and explore how [they] would introduce the 2D graphic elements".[62]

The third fight (Scott vs. Todd Ingram) had to be adapted from the comic material more creatively, as Todd's superpowers are shown in print by rings, which was handled by the VFX team. Churchill explains that they took inspiration from the old RKO Pictures logo of a transmitting tower. To imitate this they "made the rings feel uneven and have these optical aberrations with color bursts".[61] In this fight, Scott also gets punched through several walls, which was achieved with camera set-ups. The movement away from Todd is shown from tight and wide camera shots, with Cera as Scott being pulled on a rig in the room. The image of Cera was then merged with a digital Scott and a stunt double, who do go through walls.[61]

The disappearing superpower used by Roxy in the film was achieved by a blue screen, with actress Whitman being digitally erased, but there was white smoke and flashbulbs used on the set to mark the appearances. Black smoke was added in digitally, while lens flares were done manually by "just flashing different lights at the camera" for a day to create material.[61] Roxy appears in the fourth fight, where she uses a bladed weapon. Churchill says that Whitman learned how to ribbon dance and used a pink ribbon in the choreography, which was digitally replaced with the weapon.[61]

Some of the storyboard for the Scott vs. the Katayanagi Twins fight

A new piece of software was written to produce elements of the fifth fight (Scott vs. the Katayanagi Twins); Andrew Whitehurst developed what Churchill called the "Wave Form Generator", and the visual effects team worked with music producer Godrich so they could transform different elements of the music into animations and create visual music.[61] Churchill explained that "the software would convert these sound stems into animation data, so when the band is playing, the graphics and the dragons are moving in time with the music."[61] This fight was storyboarded by Oscar Wright without any comic reference as the film overtook the publication of the books.[62] The 'audio demons', fighting monsters powered by the music in the film, were then created on-set by Churchill using weather balloons.[61]

For the climax fight against Gideon, a pyramid tower resembling one from Super Mario Bros. was filmed on for a week, with Churchill saying it often got hot due to the light effects being used, including the flashbulbs and red lights to represent fire on Scott's sword. The scene also used blue screen and lots of stunt performers. Oscar Wright storyboarded the entire sequence except for Gideon's glitching at the end, which Edgar Wright thought of during editing and was created entirely in post-production.[61]

Title sequence

Frames from the title sequence

The opening title sequence was designed by Richard Kenworthy of Shynola, and was inspired by drawn-on-film animation. The sequence also begins with an 8-bit version of the Universal title slate and music, which Art of the Title calls the film's "amuse-bouche" and which was designed by Oscar Wright.[16][62]

Oscar Wright says the 8-bit Universal logo idea was an early decision in production, and that he treated it "like some crappy low-res, low frame-rate FMV you might find at the start of some of those games" from the start.[62] Creating the title slate involved separating the letters of 'Universal' and making them appear pixelated, using a matching spinning globe graphic by film animators VooDooDog, and reducing the frame rate to four seconds (rather than one) so that it appeared "steppy"; an 8-bit version of the accompanying music was also added, which Oscar Wright said "really seals the deal".[62]

Edgar Wright got the idea to have the sequence from Quentin Tarantino after screening an early cut of the film for him. Tarantino told him that the film "needed a title sequence at the start to let people settle in and hint more about what we were about to see".[63] The original opening sequence had the film's title shown over the long living room band shot that comes before the title sequence, which Edgar Wright said was one of the first scenes to be storyboarded, with the cast credits at the end of the film.[62] After an early mockup of the title sequence on AVID, they approached Shynola to create it,[63] as the film's graphic artists (Oscar Wright and Double Negative) were too occupied with the other effects in the film at this point in production and Edgar Wright was familiar with their work.[62]

The AVID animatic, a black-and-white sketch animation with waveform graphics, was described by Edgar Wright as already "giving the film more of a sense of occasion and a very distinct break between the prologue and the first scene that moves the story forward".[62] At this stage, they had also chosen Beck's "loudest soundtrack song" to play over the title sequence.[62]

Kenworthy spoke of his references for the design:[62]

You can't study animation and not be well-versed in Len Lye, Oskar Fischinger, Stan Brakhage, and Norman McLaren. We went back and re-watched those films and they were still full of life. We got excited about projecting such vivid imagery on the big screen, in front of an audience who most likely hadn't experienced that work.

Shynola was also given a selection of references from Edgar Wright, who described the brief as "2001 meets Sesame Street" and showed them the title sequence of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which used drawn-on optical tracks.[62] As with traditional drawn-on-film animation, Kenworthy traced and painted the images.[62] Wright provided musical references as well, saying that they "wanted to visualize the music and have every graphic, symbol, and subliminal image in time with the music -- a hypnotic barrage of colour, light, and music. The idea was to have it as if the animation is a manifestation of how cool the music is in Knives' head. That's why [they] end the sequence on her watching, the titles are like her brain is exploding with how cool the track is."[62]

The brief also requested that the opening sequence not use any of the comic artwork, to not spoil the film, so Kenworthy pitched "an 8-bit epileptic eye-fight" and created a mood film using geometric patterns and visual effects from manga; Edgar Wright requested that it should have less overt video game references.[62] Shynola then worked with the music concept, Kenworthy saying that they "hit on making a visual representation of [Sex Bob-omb's] slightly amateurish, raw, garage-y sound. Something that had the feel of a live performance. A lively, colourful, in-your-face scratch film seemed a perfect fit."[62] Working with Edgar Wright more, they chose to have a visual representation of each character, and to scratch the appropriate number of 'X' marks for those characters.[62]

Based on the film nearing completion, Shynola had a short time frame to finish the title sequence, so worked on syncing the sequence and the music digitally at first, visualizing final adjustments before scratching onto sheets of acetate film. From each sheet of acetate, one second of footage was produced.[62] Kenworthy said that after producing the images, they would "deliberately kick [each sheet] around the floor a bit to pick up a lot of dirt, scratches, and hairs".[62]

Printing the sequence involved putting each sheet into a high resolution negative scanner and cutting them down into individual frames before printing onto 35 mm movie film. There was also difficulty with the color printing, with most of the colors they wanted to use being "illegal".[62] During the printing process, Kenworthy added parts of a scratch film he had made at college, which had been used when scanning to check color accuracy.[62]

ComicsAlliance calls the title sequence "just the first in a memorable series of seamless mash-ups of graphics, film and animation that beautifully translate the spirit of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels to the screen".[64] Art of the Title describes the sequence as "visual napalm",[62] with Bleeding Cool saying it is "quite wonderful".[65] Jade Budowski of Decider writes that "with its rapid-fire introductory scene and the ensuing vibrant animated title sequence, [the film] wastes no time in sucking you into [its] world".[66]

Easter eggs

The Plumtree logo, which Scott wears on a t-shirt in the film

The film includes several easter eggs alluding to the comics or for foreshadowing. Fleischer noted that though the comic and film have Scott and Wallace's apartment at 65A Albert Avenue (filmed at 65 Alberta Avenue), there is a reference to O'Malley's own old apartment at 27 Alberta Avenue as the address on the Amazon delivery slip Scott signs.[28] Fleischer also points out the blinking 'L' on a Flight Centre Canada sign on Manning Avenue, which he writes is a warning that a fight is about to happen.[28] Wright said, before the film came out, that a t-shirt of Plumtree, the band that originated the name 'Scott Pilgrim', would feature in the film.[34] Other t-shirts Scott wears include one for The Smashing Pumpkins, a band sharing his initials;[60] one with the bass guitar logo from the Rock Band game series;[67] and one that references Fantastic Four, which he wears after defeating Lucas, played by Evans, who at the time was best known for his role as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies.[59] Scott's changing t-shirts often match Ramona's changing hair color through the film.[60]

There are also references to other media, particularly gaming and comics, with Den of Geek's James Hunt compiling a list of several, including Scott's X-Men patch seen as he rips it from his coat; the Legend of Zelda Triforce represented by Gideon's initials in the film and title sequence (shown above) and the Dark Link-inspired Nega-Scott; Envy's band being named after the 1990 game The Clash at Demonhead (as well as The Clash); Kim dressing in Japanese Gothic Lolita fashion for the final battle as a point of humor; the scene that was shot, performed, and edited entirely like a Seinfeld episode; and using the "this is a league game" line from The Big Lebowski.[59]/Film notes that slow-motion broken glass falling and reflecting Ramona and Roxy as they fight resembles the character selection screen of Street Fighter, and that the Chaos Theater and Sex Bob-omb's forced labor is a reference to EarthBound.[68]

Like The Clash at Demonhead, the other band names reference video games: Sex Bob-omb to the Bob-ombs in Mario franchise games, and Crash and the Boys to a game called Crash 'n' the Boys: Street Challenge. According to actress Larson, The Clash at Demonhead was the first game that comic author O'Malley ever had.[60]

Scott playing the bassline of what he calls "Final Fantasy 2" is also considered an easter egg; he plays the bassline from the game Final Fantasy IV, but this game was known as Final Fantasy 2 outside of Japan in the 1990s because the second and third installments had not been released internationally at the time.[60]

In her adaptation discussion, Zeitlin Wu notes that in the graphic novel, the fourth fight (Scott vs. Roxy Richter) was a frame-for-frame recreation of the introduction to Ninja Gaiden, and in the film this same frame-for-frame remake is used as the introduction of the final fight against Gideon.[16]

Release

Michael Cera dressed as Captain America at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con Scott Pilgrim panel, in reference to Chris Evans' absence due to commitments for Captain America: The First Avenger[69]

A Scott Pilgrim vs. the World panel was featured in Hall H[69] at the San Diego Comic-Con International on July 22, 2010; after the panel, Wright invited selected members of the audience for a screening of the film, which was followed by a performance of "Black Sheep" by Metric.[70][71] Three of the ensemble cast members, Evans, Simmons and Larson, were missing from the Comic-Con panel; Edgar Wright's frequent collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made brief appearances, with Wright joking about them not being in this film.[69] The film was then shown at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal on July 27, 2010,[72] and was also featured at Movie-Con III in London on August 15, 2010.[73]

The film premiered in Japan during the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival on February 26, 2011 as an official selection. It was released to the rest of the country on April 29, 2011.[74][75]

The film was widely released in North America on August 13, 2010, opening in 2,818 theaters.[2][76] The film finished fifth on its first weekend of release with a total of $10.5 million ($12.3 million when adjusted for inflation),[2][77][24] and by its second weekend of release had dropped to the bottom of the top ten.[78]The Wall Street Journal described this as "disappointing",[77] and Ben Fritz of the Los Angeles Times said that the film appeared to be a "major financial disappointment".[79] Universal acknowledged their disappointment at the opening weekend, saying they had "been aware of the challenges of broadening this film to a mainstream audience"; regardless, the studio's spokesman said Universal was "proud of this film and our relationship with the visionary and creative filmmaker Edgar Wright [...] [Wright] has created a truly unique film that is both envelope pushing and genre bending and when examined down the road will be identified as an important piece of filmmaking."[24]

In the UK, the film premiered at Leicester Square on August 19, 2010, before it opened on August 25[56] in 408 cinemas, finishing second on its opening weekend with £1.6 million.[80]

In Italy, it saw evening plays in cinemas for a week before being shifted to the afternoon slots; one scholar has suggested that the "flawed marketing plan" that saw it framed as a children's film was the reason for its poor box office performance.[81]

Marketing

On March 25, 2010, the first teaser trailer was released.[82] A second trailer featuring music by The Ting Tings, LCD Soundsystem, Be Your Own Pet, Cornelius, Blood Red Shoes, and The Prodigy was released on May 31, 2010.[83] In August 2010, an interactive trailer was released, with viewers able to click at points in the video to see production facts.[84] The theatrical poster, noted in Liam Burke's book, "mirrored the opening image of the graphic novel", as a signal to its origins; Burke says that the film's marketing campaign was "typical of the strategy of engaging fans and building a core audience with promotional material that displays comic book continuity".[85]

Cera stated that he felt the film was "a tricky one to sell" and that he didn't "know how you convey that movie in a marketing campaign. [He could] see it being something that people are slow to discover."[86]

At the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, the first clip of the film was released, featuring Scott facing Lucas Lee in battle.[37] At this screening, Pill revealed that Kim and Scott's past relationship would be explored in other media, saying that there "will be a little something-something that will air on Adult Swim".[87] The animated short, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation, produced by Titmouse Inc., adapts the opening prologue of the second Scott Pilgrim book and was aired on Adult Swim on August 12, 2010, a day prior to the film's theatrical release, later being released on their website.[88]

Home media

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was released on DVD and Blu-ray in North America on November 9, 2010[89] and in the United Kingdom on December 27, 2010.[90]

The DVD features include four audio commentaries (from director Wright, co-writer Bacall, and author O'Malley; Wright and director of photography Pope; Cera, Schwartzman, Winstead, Wong, and Routh; and Kendrick, Plaza, Culkin, and Webber); 21 deleted, extended, and alternate scenes, including the original ending (where Scott ends up with Knives), with commentary; bloopers; photo galleries; and a trivia track.[57]

The Blu-ray release includes all DVD features, plus other special features, including alternate footage, six featurettes, production blogs, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation, trailers and TV spots, and storyboard picture-in-picture, as well as a DVD and a digital copy of the film.[57] The "Ultimate Japan Version" Blu-ray disc includes a commentary track that features Wright and Shinya Arino. It also includes footage of Wright and Cera's publicity tour through Japan and a round-table discussion with Japanese film critic Tomohiro Machiyama. It was released on September 2, 2011.[91]

In its first week of release in the US, the DVD sold 190,217 copies, earning $3,422,004 in revenue, and by 2011 earned $27,349,933 on the United States home media sales.[92] It had grossed over $29 million as of 2018.[93] It reached the top of the UK Blu-ray charts in its first week of release.[94]

Video game

A video game was produced based on the film and books. It was released for PlayStation Network on August 10, 2010 and on Xbox Live Arcade on August 25, being met with mostly positive reviews.[95][96] The game is published by Ubisoft and developed by Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Chengdu, featuring animation by Paul Robertson and original music by Anamanaguchi.[97][98]

Analysis

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has been widely discussed as invoking a transmedia narrative, using the graphic novel platform, and video game and comic book conventions, within the film.[16][99][100][101] John Bodner explains that "the film becomes an adaptation of a text that is, in many ways, itself a cultural adaptation calling attention to its own source material in its overt employment of many techniques derived from the aesthetic of comic books".[100] Zeitlin Wu writes how the film "[pays] homage to comics, video games, and the overlaps between the two", and notes that its process of adaptation is unique in how it has made a comic book movie that is not realistic, staying true to the original form.[16] In his chapter, "Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Texts: Adaptation, Form, and Transmedia Co-creation", Bodner notes several elements that create the film as transmedial, describing its references to the comic book and video game media.[15]

Bodner, Zeitlin Wu, and Burke also note that Wright, with the film, became one of the only directors since the 1960s to use, in Bodner's words, "the comment box, marks (action lines), and onomatopoeia text as sound effects" in a filmic work, using such techniques both conventionally (labeling time and place) and unconventionally for the medium.[15] Burke describes the use as "self-reflexive".[85] Zeitlin Wu says that "unlike the 1960s Batman, the use of visual onomatopoeia in Scott Pilgrim seamlessly merges reality and illusion, which seems apt for a storyline in which the two are indistinguishable", using the comic book words within the film as part of the story rather than alongside it.[16]

In the unconventional use, Wright disrupts the realism and diegesis of the film with comic book markers. Bodner gives the examples of the "[graphic text] 'a b o u t t o e x p l o d e' appearing as an agitated Scott enters the after-party" that "[prefigures] a (nonphysical) fight with Ramona" as a form of label that "externalizes subjective perspectives"; the use of O'Malley's typical ironic authorial voice appearing when a commentary box "helpfully appears to inform [the audience]" that Todd, after seemingly rhetorically saying he doesn't know the meaning of incorrigible, "really doesn't" know the meaning; and the use of onomatopoeia text graphics as sound effects.[15] Zeitlin Wu notes that the film "is one of the only adaptations to incorporate text in such a way that conveys the hybrid text/image construction of comics in cinematic form, pushing their transmediality to the next level", and ultimately destabilizes formal boundaries.[16]

Regarding the onomatopoeia used, Bodner notes that only once does such text-as-graphic actually replace a sound effect (Todd's hair deflating, paired with the word "SAG"), with the approximately 40 other instances having both sound and the onomatopoeia representing it.[15] The function of the comic book technique in these cases is said to be an act of denaturalizing the film form and, per Robert S. Peterson, "to slow the reader down and create greater visual depth and texture to the scene".[15] Zeitlin Wu instead suggests that this was done to further incorporate the comic book nature into the film form, with sound and image perfectly synchronized, saying that "the result is an illusionistic synthesis of image, text, and sound in which words have their own materiality. Each font seems to have its own personality and substance; 'DING DONG' dissolves ephemerally, whereas the letters in 'BLAM!' rapidly fall out of the frame one by one, like a row of dominoes".[16] Bodner adds that marks used in the film illustrate both sound and eye-line, things that can be shown in film without marks, and so are also used to denaturalize the scenes they appear in.[15] Burke writes further on the use of written sound effects, saying that "there are areas in which comics' visualized sound trumps cinema's soundtrack", engaging with Robert C. Harvey to agree that "word and picture can be coupled to reveal the hero's cheery bravado even in the very midst of thundering action".[85]

An example of spatial remediation in the film to simulate comic book panels, with three simultaneous but not spatially-continuous images shown and framed with black "gutters" (as in [15][16][101])

Another technique that Bodner describes as giving the film its postmodern reading[100] is how Wright seems to alter the film form to reflect elements inherent to comic book sequences, specifically that "[Wright] consistently but judiciously [quotes] panel content throughout the film - generally [...] using the illusion of stasis in film to mirror the illusion of movement in comics".[15] In terms of form, Bodner writes that Wright transcodes the "construction of comic panels" into the film; Wright himself has said that "a lot of people have mentioned [...] how it feel[s] like reading a comic book",[15] a sentiment echoed by Zeitlin Wu.[16] Bodner suggests that this is created by transition techniques, and that the techniques that produce this are Wright's own, building from his work in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, adding that they work by "replicating [the panel's] companion - the 'gutter'."[15] Wright is said to recreate this element of outside space in comics in the film form by making "cuts that are exceedingly quick or that open into shots that displace conventional temporal logic (anticontinuity editing), or with cuts that utilize a purposefully barely visible wipe effect",[15] and by using "blackouts, which function as brief moments of dead space" between certain frames.[16]

Discussing the comic book translation in her writing on the process of the film's adaptation, Zeitlin Wu notes that "many storyboards [for the film] were taken directly from the comics", saying that one method of overcoming the temporal-spatial and illustrative-representative differences in graphic novel and film media is to combine the comic panel and storyboard grid.[16] Within Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, she writes that the comic panel-storyboarded sequences "convey a sense of fragmentation, rather than the usual illusion of cinematic continuity" and that "the most effective use of comics as storyboard is in Scott's dream sequences, which facilitate his encounters with Ramona as she travels through 'subspace'."[16] In the first of the dream sequences, "Wright maintains the fragmentation of the comics medium by retaining the divisions between the original panels: the screen fades to black after each frame, an attempt to mimic the simultaneously diachronic and synchronic experience of reading comics".[16] In another example of film panel use, Bodner notes that the static frame shows Scott at the computer ordering a package, the next shot is of Wallace, and the next of Scott sat in front of the door, waiting; Bodner explains that the temporality of these images on screen is not naturalistic, and that they better represent comic panels where temporality can be otherwise deduced by the reader. He adds that, as pastiche, this scene serves a dual function to foreshadow the magical realism that will appear.[15]

In a similar form-bending way, there are two scenes ("the first battle of the bands and Lucas Lee's 'grind' down the rail") where Wright uses high-volume noise to recreate the silent form of comic books, as in a film the loudness drowns out any other sound and requires the use of text in the same way that the purely visual comic book form does.[15] Burke also notes the benefit of visual text when sound would otherwise be "muted by ambient noise", and how (other) "film adaptations often render comics' most loquacious characters mute".[85]

In his chapter "Tell It Like a Game: Scott Pilgrim and Performative Media Rivalry", Jeff Thoss writes on the various transmedial cues, saying that "the film attempts to outdo the comic book series in its emulation of video game features both on the level of the storyworld and on the level of its representation. But as neither of these two works emerges victorious, their so-called rivalry appears less as a real competition than as a way to illuminate the specific narrative affordances and limitations of comics, films, and computer games".[99] Building on Thoss, Fehrle examines the remediation (Bolter and Grusin), or use of imitation, of video game signifiers. Looking particularly at the Scott vs. Matthew Patel fight, he writes that there is "not only [the] remediation of arcade fighting and beat 'em up video games, [...] but also a TV aesthetic [...] as well as a play with some iconic film genres [...] and finally a strong link to the theater as a fifth medium thrown into the mix when we see Ramona on a Shakespearean balcony placed at the center of an extremely conspicuous spotlight".[101] He continues technically analyzing the scene by noting the split screen; Fehrle first sees the technique as "more recently associated primarily with the MTV-aesthetics of 1990s TV", noting that it is "an 'unnatural' editing technique, foregrounding the mediality of film by making visible the impact of an editor, a role which in the dominant continuity editing system is regarded as one that should be kept hidden".[101] Fehrle describes the rest of the sequence featuring Matthew Patel as a parody of music videos, including the "tap dance, which is highlighted by the camera's framing of only his feet, as well as his willfully over-acted Saturday Night Fever-inspired pose", while also mentioning its Spaghetti Western-inspired "through-the-legs duel shot".[101]

However, he also joins Zeitlin Wu in describing it as a comic and video game element,[16][101] likewise noting the "strong spatiality of the comics medium through its panel layout" represented in the film, especially the "black gutter-like division between the three 'panels'" in the scene.[101] Fehrle adds further that its video game referent for the split screen is that of "console video games' multiplayer modes", with other video game elements informing the sequence including "an 8-bit arcade 'bling' sound playing when Patel lands[,] as well as the excessive echo and slight delay on Wallace's voice as he screams 'fight', [and] superimposed text [...] which dramatically juxtaposes the opponents, instructs the player what to do or explains the (health or energy) status of characters or helps players interpret what is happening".[101] He adds that a more obvious remediation of comic books is seen in the O'Malley-like graphic novel drawings that appear to illustrate Ramona and Matthew's backstory. From this multitude of referents, Fehrle describes the film and the Scott Pilgrim franchise as "hypermediated".[101]

The sequence following Scott breaking up with Knives is analyzed in different ways. Maria J. Ortiz looks at mise-en-scène and narrative meaning with the scene, writing that when Scott "tells [Knives] that he wants to break off the relationship, the next shot of her is against a dark background without a realistic reason" and so introduces metaphors that inform the story: "good is bright/bad is dark" and that "the change of background [is] a metaphor for the change produced in the state of the relationship", resulting in the idea that a bad change is a literal dark place here.[102] Bodner looks at the transmediality of the framing used when Scott walks away, matching the graphic novel, with a tree and streetcar bracketing the frame to introduce a solitude of Scott and Knives, particularly with a static camera that represents the panel. In the film, this is followed by characters passing in front of Scott to lead into a wipe, which Bodner says "is common in the film and acts as the inked line that makes the panel border".[15]

Reception

Critical reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film has a score of 81% based on 264 reviews and is certified fresh, with the site's consensus saying that "Its script may not be as dazzling as its eye-popping visuals, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fast, funny, and inventive".[103]Metacritic gave the film an average score of 69 out of 100, based on 38 reviews, indicating a "generally favorable" response.[104] In an editorial for Rotten Tomatoes, Nathan Rabin wrote that the film also has a cult following.[105]

After premiere screenings at the San Diego Comic-Con International, the film received positive reviews. Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a mixed review, referring to the film as "an example of attention-deficit filmmaking at both its finest and its most frustrating".[106] However, he did add negatively that "anyone over 25 is likely to find director Edgar Wright's adaptation of the cult graphic novel exhausting, like playing chaperone at a party full of oversexed college kids",[106] remarks echoed by Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter, who called the film "juvenile" and thought that "a wider audience among older or international viewers seems unlikely."[107]

Cindy White at IGN gave the film a positive rating of 8/10, calling the film "funny and offbeat" and noting that it is "best suited for the wired generation and those of us who grew up on Nintendo and MTV. Its kinetic nature and quirky sensibilities might be a turnoff for some."[108] Though David Edelstein of New York magazine found the biggest issue to be Micheal Cera's acting, saying that "a different lead might have kept you laughing and engaged. Cera doesn't come alive in the fight scenes the way Stephen Chow does in [...] surreal martial-arts comedies [like] Kung Fu Hustle."[109]

Slant Magazine's Nick Schager gave the film a positive review of 3.5 stars out of 4, calling Edgar Wright an "inspired mash-up artist, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may be his finest hybridization to date".[110]A. O. Scott made the film a New York Times "critics pick", writing that "there are some movies about youth that just make you feel old, even if you aren't [but] Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has the opposite effect. Its speedy, funny, happy-sad spirit is so infectious that the movie makes you feel at home in its world even if the landscape is, at first glance, unfamiliar."[111] According to Michael Phillips, "Edgar Wright understands the appeal of the original Bryan Lee O'Malley graphic novels [...] O'Malley's manga-inspired books combine utter banality with superhero hyperbole, [and] Wright, who is British, has taken it on and won. [The film] lives and breathes the style of the original books, with animated squiggles and hearts and stars filling out the frame in many individual shots."[112]

Popular response

After seeing the film at a test screening, the American director Kevin Smith said he was impressed by it, and that "it's spellbinding and nobody is going to understand what the fuck just hit them", and that Wright "is bringing a comic book to life."[113] Smith also said that fellow directors Quentin Tarantino and Jason Reitman were "really into it".[113] Carla Gillis, a writer for Now and former lead singer for the band Plumtree, also commented on the film, as her band's song "Scott Pilgrim" was the inspiration for O'Malley to create the series; Gillis felt the film carried the same positive yet bittersweet tone of the song.[114] Several notable video game, film, and anime industry personalities also praised the film after it premiered in Japan, among them Hironobu Sakaguchi, Goichi Suda, Miki Mizuno, Tomohiko It? and Takao Nakano.[115]

In June 2013, O'Malley, who is of Korean and white Canadian parentage, stated that he regretted the fact that the film's cast was predominantly white, and that there were not enough roles for minorities.[116]

Accolades

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has received many awards and nominations. It also made the final shortlist of seven films for nomination in the Best Visual Effects category at the 83rd Academy Awards, but did not receive a nomination.[117] It won the Audience Award at the 2010 Lund International Fantastic Film Festival.[118][119]

The film has been placed on several Top Ten Films of 2010 lists, including as number 1 by Harry Knowles,[120] and on several lists by Empire.[121][122][123][124]

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