Many comics fans lament the way that Comic-Con has become a massive hype machine for Hollywood, the way that movies or TV shows that don’t seem remotely relevant to the geek crowd get the big halls and impossibly long lines. I mean, sure, there are lots of people who will love “The Expendables” with old action stars like the Governator and Stallone (heck, I might even like that myself) but does it really belong at Comic-Con? Superhero movies makes sense, and even Harry Potter and TRON, although not comics-based, have a pretty good overlap with the expected audience.
But there’s one movie that everyone agrees was made for Comic-Con: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Based on the popular* comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the movie chronicles the life of 23-year-old, unemployed Scott Pilgrim. More specifically, it’s about the girl he fell in love with (Ramona Flowers), the girl he was dating when he fell in love (Knives Chau), and then Ramona’s seven evil exes who are now out to kill him. (Ok, I’ll admit that I actually haven’t read all the books, just some excerpts, but it’s on my list.) Just from the trailers, it seemed that this movie was final incontrovertible proof that the geeks have taken over Hollywood, because it certainly doesn’t look like the sort of movie that would have gotten made ten or even five years ago.
Although I never made it into Hall H for the Scott Pilgrim panel (and the subsequent sneak preview) on Thursday, I did learn that they were doing two more screenings of the movie on Friday and Saturday if you were willing to leave the convention center and stand in line. Saturday I found myself done with my last panel at 5:30 so I figured, hey, why not go check out how long the line is? I got to the Balboa Theater, a few blocks away, and the line coming out the door actually seemed fairly short. I got the requisite wristband and joined the queue.
We discovered that there were VIPs who were getting seats, people who had coveted flyers that allowed them to skip the line and enter the theater. By 6:25, five minutes before the screening was supposed to start, the line I was in hadn’t actually started to move. I began to wonder if I would actually get to go into the theater. Unconfirmed rumors filtered back through the line about what was actually going on … and then the line started moving. Apparently they were checking bags for recording equipment (though cell phones were allowed) before allowing us to enter. The non-VIPs got seats up in the balcony; I happened to get a pretty good center seat among the second-tier VIPs because it happened to be empty, and then sat and read my book while the pre-show silly games and prize giveaways were going on down below.
Once they got everyone seated, Director Edgar Wright came on-stage to welcome us, followed by a good chunk of the cast–several of the exes, Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Ellen Wong–throwing candy into the crowd. (Well, the ground-floor crowd. Again, the balcony folks didn’t get the extras.) Wright asked us not to record anything and warned us that the trained security was armed with sniper rifles to take out any glowing screens. Also, Brandon Routh (who plays Ex #3) would punch you in the face.
And with that … the movie started. As soon as the Universal logo came on the screen (in pixellated form, with an 8-bit soundtrack–maybe the Legend of Zelda theme?) everyone cheered.
The tagline on the poster calls it an “epic of epic epicness” and I have to agree. Wright & Co. did an amazing job of making a film that really felt like a comic book, and not in the way that the Hulk movie had frames every so often. Things were cartoony and outlandish; sound effects were visible; fight scenes were straight out of video games and defeated enemies burst into a rain of coins. A lot of the dialogue and even visuals were taken directly from the comic. O’Malley used sound effects from old Nintendo games, classic Mac sounds and more, which makes the soundtrack of the movie seem oddly familiar. It truly is a movie for people who grew up on comic books and video games, and the geeks loved it. Whether or not the wider world will like it remains to be seen, but I’d certainly see it again.
Afterward Wright came back out with the cast (with a few additions including Bill Hader who does a narrator voice) to thank everyone and he seemed genuinely pleased that the audience was so enthusiastic about it. We’ll save a Ten Things post for later (especially since I was just excited to see the film and hadn’t been thinking to take those notes), but if you’re a geek chances are you won’t want to miss this.
It was a fantastic — nay, epic — end to a pretty awesome day (which I’ll tell you about later).
*Book 6, the final installment just released this week, shot up the charts on Amazon, making it as high as #5 (and outranking the Twilight saga books, much to the delight of many comics fans).