So this summer – now, as we lay it sadly down to rest, the past summer – was nominally The Summer of Scott. Or, if you’re fancying a really over-stretched pun on a rubbish song, The Summer of Scott-n-Knives*. The idea of Scott Pilgrim spread, with various success, into every medium I care about – or, at least, every medium I can write passably about – and every medium that was important to the source material. Comic book, film, videogame… It might seem a slight cheat to include music in that. It’s just a soundtrack. But, as I chatted up my review of the film, the music is key. It is, after all, a musical with punches in. The soundtrack has a weird Moebius-loop quality to it. Songs that inspired the Scott Pilgrim comics in the first place nonchalantly rub shoulders with songs from its fictional bands. There’s music you might recognise from those little playlists at the back of the books. There are songs that named characters. There are songs by those characters. The whole thing makes a perfect soundtrack to reading the comics all over again. Comics which are both the reason it exists. and which exist because some of these songs… Thinking too hard about it is like staring at the sun. So, in the grand tradition of Scott himself, let’s not think too hard and just have fun. Which is very, very easy. This is an album which features, after all, Plumtree’s Scott Pilgrim, a song which I spent all summer lusting over. Existing only as an easy way to get hold of that song, at party-friendly quality, would be enough. I’ve spent at least as much time listening to every other song as I have playing that on constant loop, however. The soundtrack comes off as an easy, assured mixtape. You couldn’t necessarily tell the fake songs from the real songs: possibly because they are drawn from the exact same musical lineage, and share at least one boundary-blurring talent (Miss Emily Haines, providing vocals on both on The Clash at Demonhead’s Black Sheep and Broken Social Scene’s Anthems for A Seventeen Year-Old Girl). There are songs I have absolutely no memory of being in the film, but feel right. They fit right into the film as it exists in my memory, a perfect flickering ideal playing in my head. More importantly, they fit perfectly into the album. As do the fictional songs. Having proved themselves in the film, here they get to be comfortable in their own habitat. The elevation of Scott’s being-rubbish-is-the-whole-point Ramona, into not only a catchy acoustic number but also a full-blown heartwrenching Beck song, is triumphant. Placing them one after the other on the soundtrack is just showing off. You could hand this to someone with no prior knowledge and, if you didn’t tell them it was a soundtrack, they probably wouldn’t know. There’s the odd talky bit (see: Crash & The Boys’ 0:13 opus I Am So Sad, So Very Very Sad) but, hey, Surfer Rosa had those too. It just gives a sense of inclusivity, and helps it all come off as a very comfortable mixtape. I’ve tried to avoid using the word ‘compilation’ throughout. That’s because of how heartfelt this feels, a million miles from being a Now That’s What I Call… collection of songs. It transcends being a soundtrack, even. But listening to this, partying to it in a living room with a huge Scott Pilgrim poster dominating one wall, makes me like the film more. *Yeah. I know. Sorry.
LIVES: ONE So. They got this ‘Scott Pilgrim’ in cinemas now, huh? First, the pull-quote: Edgar Wright crafts a lavishly faithful adaptation and tribute to O’Malley’s seminal comics series, with a beautifully original graphic style. Okay. Stick that on your poster and smoke it. The thing is, what I think Wright actually made was a tribute to his Scott Pilgrim. Which is not necessarily your Scott Pilgrim and, relevantly, isn’t my Scott Pilgrim. What’s so great about Scott Pilgrim, the six-piece comic, is that it’s a multi-faceted work, with different hooks and points of entry for pretty much everyone. It’s a comedy, it’s a heartwrenching romance, it’s a study of the modern hipster-slacker lifestyle, it’s a formal experiment. It’s all about Scott & Ramona. It’s all about Young Neil. It’s all about Kim Pine. (Oh, it’s definitely all about Kim Pine.) Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim is certainly not all about Kim Pine. In the necessary shuffling around and condensation, she gets pushed aside and barely features. None of which hurts the story, and it’s just the entitled fanboy in me expecting a carbon copy of everything I love. Except it changes the point. By pushing out Kim and Envy, the reflection of Scott’s exes with Ramona’s (and the question of who exactly is the evil ex in a relationship) is lost. The story as a meditation on dealing with your past and with your partner’s doesn’t exist. Instead, the film draws a thematic line between the the Knives/Scott/Ramona/Gideon relationships. It focuses instead on the idea of power structures in relationships, and hierarchies of who gets to treat who like crap. Maybe because it suits a single, under-two-hours version of the story better; maybe because that’s what the story is about about for Edgar Wright. Whatever. I’m honestly not sure if, ignore my own baggage of expectations and bias, if it stands alone better. It’s a valid version of the story, definitely, but I’d argue it renders the other six evil exes more or less pointless, except as flashy misdirection. And the film kind of seems to agree, speeding through everything between the two relationships. That’s at the cost of the lethargic, organic pace of the comics, where their serialised nature allows for the weird stuff to just wash over you and happen. Scenes chop into one another, mid-conversation And suddenly you’re in a desert but that doesn’t really make much sense except because it has to happen Because that’s what happens. There are chapter breaks which look lovely (as does pretty much the entire film – if nothing else, SPvTW is a stylistic triumph) but don’t really serve any purpose. Stuff gets thrown in as a tribute, or because it’s funny, but without explanation within the film itself. I have to admit that I couldn’t help but watch this film as an adaptation, though, and thus fall into a trap. A pit filled with deadly spikes. LIVES: ZERO … CONTINUE? …And like any good boss fight, the second time round, you know what’s coming. Seeing it again in almost identical conditions*, with all the expectations out of the way, it was easier to see the truth of the film. Around 80% of it is spot-on in every single detail; 10% is stuff with a weird relationship to the comic – dropping, altering or inexplicably including something – and 10% is, honestly, just a bit off. The complaints stand: it’s still not funny enough, really, to pull off the extremities of style and dialogue it attempts. The jokes that worked last time, though, are still funny, which I hadn’t expected; the jokes from the comics, mostly, still don’t. The pacing is a bit jumpy, and wasn’t just me thinking oh, this bit’s missing. The smooth fades of comic vocabulary don’t translate into cinema. There’s not really enough time to buy into the relationships: I couldn’t help but warm more to Scott/Knives than Scott/Ramona. The hits that it lands are truly triumphant, though. The thing that struck me most second time was the music. It’s brilliant, and brilliantly used, and Edgar Wright’s description of the film as a musical with punches rings really true. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a film that work bests – often, works perfectly – when it forgets it is a film about the Scott Pilgrim comics. With slightly reworked relationships, new ideas and a different message, it takes flight. There’s a whole new focus on what it means to be the ‘nice’ one in a relationship means, and whether wanting something ‘simple’ is actually healthy in the film which I’ve never seen anywhere else, which is a fascinating intepretation of both Scott Pilgrim and an original use of the rom-com form. It’s like – to borrow the Scott Pilgrim worldview – one of Punch-Out!!‘s opponent boxers: a strong fighter, with an unmistakably exaggerated character. Unfortunately, it also comes with a large, flashing weakpoint. Attack for massive damage… GAME OVER. *Same cinema, similar time of day, rushing out of the cinema to catch a train South to the girlfriend, for those of you keeping count at home.
So, it’s the Summer of Scott. The comic’s final chapter dropped a few weeks ago, the movie hype machine crushes all in its path, and I’m addicted to the Plumtree song that gave Mr Pilgrim his name. So, I’ve reacted in that particularly Alex Spencer way, which is to think of four or five things I can write on the topic as the SoS (as absolutely no-one is calling it) unfolds. First, a simple review of Vol. 6, the final chapter. Or it would be, had I not decided two heads – two sexy, messy-haired heads – would be better than one and asked LookiMakeMusic‘s very own Miles ‘Davis’ Bradley. A perfect segue about me fighting through the last level of Mario Galaxy 2 is interrupted and wasted. The conversation is peppered with synchronicities, then talking over each other, then silence. But, hey, you’ve used IM before, you know the ropes. Spoilers of pretty much all of Scott Pilgrim follow. Also: some salty language, due to Miles being a very naughty man, and Scott Pilgrim being a bit of, no other word for it, a dick. A quick trim of the fat, a few bits added to make more sense/make me look better, and I present the results… Miles: Do you want to do some scene setting before we get going? Because I want the world to know that I am eating some really pretty bad “Hairy Bikers” brand lemon-flavoured crisps. And that directly to my right is a copy of Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and the new Stars record.Alex: I am on a family dining room table. I have just made some pretty frickin’ gourmet orange/pineapple squash.…So, Miles, which Scott Pilgrim character do you fancy most?Miles: I don’t know any more. Probably Ramona. But Knives has “come of age” in book six and is finally dressing like a human being, so that helps.Which Scott Pilgrim character do you fancy most post book six, Alex?Alex: Kim Pine. Obv. She is my grumpy freckled Dreamgirl.Miles: Ah, this was the first book where I liked Kim. And I’m not sure if that’s me. Or if it’s Kim getting nicer with age. But up until now I have hated, HATED, the fans who wanted Kim and Scott to end up together. After this one, I can certainly see where they were coming from.Alex: Interestingly, this was the first book I liked Knives (that much). Relevantly: “no longer a child in the eyes of the law”, right? That was the moment I started diggin’ on this bookMiles: I think mine: “J’Accuse – French”.Alex: Oh, that was brilliant, actually. Did you think this was a particularly funny book, as Scott Pilgrims go?Miles: Relevant: I had the longest and most serious relationship of my life break up a little while before the book came out and in the time between that and me reading it for the first time, I behaved somewhat poorly for a bit, so it’d be fair to say that the whole thing kind of emotionally beat the shit out of me. But in between the crying and “oh God, me too” moments, I laughed and giggled a LOT.I’d say it’s one of the funniest, if not the funniest.Alex: It’s definitely funnier than Vol. 5, aka ‘The One Where Everything Goes A Bit Wrong’.Miles: It’s important to be a dick sometimes so you can relate to popular works of narrative art.Alex: I think that was my only issue with Finest Hour, actually: I don’t have much relatable experience (5 being a lot closer to certain bones).Miles: See, your problem is you’ve never been a dick.Alex:I think Phonogram did all the ‘I have a cock/have been a cock’ lessons for me and made me, annoyingly, a better person before I got to notch up any experience in it.Miles: Whereas for me with the first series of Phonogram I was busy being virginal, yearny and theoretical and for the second series of Phonogram was I being happily monogamous and pleasant.[a moment of spooky synchronicity follows]Miles: So it turns out the entire series was a moralist lesson in being nice.Alex: So… Scott Pilgrim: is the pivotal message Don’t Be A Dick?Miles: Well, maybe. Or perhaps it’s more like: When you have been a dick, it is important to recognise you have been a dick and not run from it. Or, as the Dali Lama says, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”.Alex: Which is what makes Scott the good guy, and Gideon the baddie?Miles: In the end, yes. There’s been a fair bit of talk about the sympathetic/unsympatheticness of Scott in the build up to the film’s release. And it’s interesting to me how people react to him differently. And the running joke with the MemoryCam in book six adresses the matter in a manner that is laugh-out-loud funny but always followed by that moment of “Oh, yeah…” And you wonder if you should have cheering for this guy in those moments.Alex: (Memory Cam is the most perfect part of the book. Probably the series.) Miles: Although you know what I think the best gut-punch is? The end of the Scott/Envy exchange that very, very quickly cuts to the heart of the matter of the way that relationships end and the… I don’t know, the many different ways they are interpretted from the inside and out – “I remember you breaking my heart.” The feeling is somewhat mutual.” Having read everything leading up to that with Scott painting it as straightforward ‘Envy became terrible!’ that bit’s absolutely mind blowing in a quiet, sad wayAlex: You say different people react differently, right? So, for you, how is Scott?Miles: I think he means well, I think he’s perhaps a bit too… in thrall to pretty girls. He is a dick to Knives at the start, and The Lisa Miller Incident is… he does not look good. But I’d say that makes him human rather than actively a dick. A little oblivious, a […]