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‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ – Everything ‘Kick-Ass’ Should Have Been

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Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim
Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” opened this week. The film lives up to its promotional efforts (they called it ‘epic’) and shows the true potential of lighthearted comic book movies. While “Pilgrim” shares many successful stylistic advances and achievements with predecessor “Kick-Ass,” it pulled off the comic-to-movie transition with more style.

I might have enjoyed “Kick-Ass” more had it been advertised differently. In the movie trailer seen on the film’s website, superhero Kick-Ass has a very altruistic motive—inspired by comic books, he wishes to help people by fighting crime. While the trailer highlights some of the crucial action scenes in the movie, it also includes a fair amount of humor and good-natured fun. That said, the film turned out to be much darker in nature than initially advertised. I felt duped by the trailer and because of it, the movie did not live up to my expectations.

When I went to see “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” I had the same fear. The trailer looked awesome, but I was worried that a storyline tackling centrally-serious subjects such as love and self-confidence might also come off as grim. It didn’t. Instead, “Pilgrim” retained an innocent charm while still searching for truth in the meaning of life in a “Juno” meets “Napoleon Dynamite” setting. While characters utilized modern technology such as cell phones, the overall vintage atmosphere allowed me to enjoy the movie and its old school video game references.

Where “Kick-Ass” used action footage filming techniques seen in more mainstream comic book movies like “Iron Man 2,” “Pilgrim” actually incorporates vintage video gaming perspectives to supplement more typical action shots. “Pilgrim” also contains copious graphics, video games and genre references—without using them too often. A supporting character known as Knives actually fits a manga or anime stereotype—but instead of making her an obsessed anime fan, she has legitimate logical and psychological reasons for wearing a school uniform and changing her appearance.

Recalling the days of “Dick Tracy” and “Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman,” I’m glad to see that the incorporation of comic book style evolves in such interesting ways. While I prefer the “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” style to that of “Kick-Ass” and the more mainstream movies like “Spider-Man,” each method has earned a permanent place among movie fans as geek culture becomes more mainstream itself. Each movie-goer has a preference in style and I definitely respect each effort.

I admit to worrying about what happens to the future of comic book adaptations. As a fan of Stan Lee, I realize that the greats who created and influenced comics are rapidly aging. It’s refreshing to see comic book creators, screenwriters and film directors provide fresh but respectful outlooks to comic-style movies and epic adaptations.