SCOTT PILGRIM vs. Your Free Time: Blu-ray Review

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD hits Blu-ray and DVD with the punch of a Kung Fu chopfest on November 9th. I’ve spent the last couple of days devouring every last one of the features on the Blu-ray.  Read on for Badass Digest’s comprehensive review of the disc worth blind-buying in utter defiance of box office grosses.  Yet another giveaway contest is buried somewhere in there too…

If you’re familiar with the special edition Blu-rays of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the features on Universal’s Scott Pilgrim disc are in the same ballpark.  Four commentaries and over five hours of other extras are in store for you here, ready to devour your free time whole.

The Movie

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is boy-meets-girl and boy-fights-her-exes-to-the-death story adapted directly out of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 6-volume series of “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels.  Scott meets and falls for Ramona Flowers while he’s dating a 17-year-old (he’s in his twenties, by the way).  Scott negotiates the thin ice of dealing with Ramona’s past lovers the way that anyone would:  with his fists…and super powers fueled by anger and insecurity.  Scott has his own trail of lovers behind him, a few of whom show up in the film too.

I hadn’t read any of the comics going in, and that didn’t present any issues for me, unlike various comic book movies that I could mention (and I’m a comic book kinda guy). Scott Pilgrim is one of the more engaging coming-of-adulthood movies I’ve seen of late.  On top of that, I’m having trouble coming up with a comic book movie that adapts the nature of its source material better.

The film moves at a remarkably fast pace, which I gather put off people in the theoretical world of various critics’ reviews more than it did in actuality.  It encourages “re-readings” the way that a good book (comic or no) does.  Scott Pilgrim is the amalgamation of a John Hughes movie, a manga-style comic book, and the referential touchstones of the pre-1995 videogame industry.  In short: it’s irresistible, provided that spins your gears.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Box Office

Director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) found a killer cast, worked directly with the original author/artist, and pulled off a hyperkinetic live-action comic adaptation that fans (male and female alike) were salivating for in advance.  So, why didn’t it explode at the box office like other comic book properties?

The marketing really felt squarely targeted at the geek set, but with a property this geek-tastic, I don’t see how that could really be avoided.  I don’t think it was helped by the off-the-charts hyperbole of various geek-centric blogs that covered it coming out of Comic-Con, which all but labeled it the second coming of filmmaking.  Believe it or not, that can put people off.  It did very firmly became the “geek” movie of that weekend.  Were the more mainstream audiences that embraced Fuzz and Shaun put off?

I have a feeling that the movie-going world’s equivalent to undecided voters weren’t so much put off by this, but they had much more mainstream, targeted options and chose to see The Expendables, Eat Pray Love, The Other Guys, or caught up to Inception in week five.  You had the “old school action dude movie”, the “lady gets laid movie”, “the dumb-as-bricks guy comedy”, and the “event of the summer” movie stacked on top of each other before people even got to poor little Scott in their stack of options.

If you ask me, Pilgrim opened on one of the most crowded, competitive, and impossible weekends of the year thus far.  The fact that it made $1o million bucks is pretty impressive in context, but in the world of “must be number one”, that doesn’t mean anything, and it became a “box office disappointment”.  It never had a chance to build an audience, and once you open in 5th place, there’s no turning back.  I feel confidently that the story would have been radically different had it opened back in May or June, just after school let out for the summer.  Hey, what do I know, right?

The Look and Sound

The video and audio hold up really nicely, considering the insane amount of supplemental material on the disc.  Most people didn’t pick up on the fact that the aspect ratio changes radically from moment to moment in the film, from the stated 1.85:1 to what looks like full-on 2.35:1, and all sorts of others, including VistaVision.  Contrast is good throughout, and detail is very crisp.  The audio track is DTS-HD Master Audio, and like the video track, it reproduces the theatrical experience nicely.

The Supplements [TRT 5:29:07 not including Commentaries]

Most of the extra material is exclusive to the Blu-ray, but they crammed quite a bit onto the single-disc DVD as well.  I’m noting what’s Blu-ray only so that you’ll be further guilted into getting a badass new big screen set and a Blu player.  And yes, I did go through every last one of the extras listed below.  Badass Digest thinks you go all the way or you go home.

Deleted scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Edgar Wright [TRT 27:12]
Knives meets Scott
Knives says Goodbye
Alternate Stacey Phone Call
Scott Asks Ramona Out Extended
Scott and Ramona in the Park 1st version
Scott and Ramona in the Park 2nd version
The Morning After the Night Before
Crash and the Boys Extra Song
My Name is Matthew Patel
Scott and Ramona Extra Bedroom Scene
Ramona’s Hair Extended
NegaScott the First
Bass Battle Original Ending
Pizza Pizza Extended
NegaScott the 2nd
Roxy Fight Original Cut
Second Bus Montage
This Fight is Over
First Hipster Fight Extended
Dream Desert and Extra Life Original
The Alternate Ending

Boy is that a ton of deleted material, isn’t it?  After watching all of it both ways, I’d recommend watching it with the commentary first, which is not something I ever recommend with full-on features.  That context really brings it all together.  Many of these bits are extended or would have created slightly different versions of scenes.  The last one, The Alternate Ending, features Scott making a different decision right at the end.  Unlike Pretty in Pink, I prefer the one they went with here.

Scott Pilgrim vs the Bloopers [9:42]
There are tons of line flubs to be found here, along with all 33 attempts Michael Cera made at getting that package in the trash can behind him.

Documentaries (Blu-ray only) [TRT 1:08:41]
Making of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [49:32]
Music featurette [16:27]
You Too Can Be Sex Bob-Omb [2:42]
The Making-of crams a lot of info into less than an hour, and it never gets dull.  The Music piece spends a healthy amount of time with the people from Metric and Broken Social Scene, who heavily contributed to the movie’s soundtrack.  Beck is nowhere to be found, unfortunately.  Regardless, it’s a solid look at the role of these über-talented musicians’ contribution to a movie so heavily driven by their music.  The “You Too” thing is just a snippet of Mark Webber being shown how to jam on the guitar.

Alternative Footage (Blu-ray only) [TRT 19:12]
Alternative Edits [12:21]
Bits and Pieces [6:51]
The Alternative Edits piece includes drastically re-edited sequences, rather than the slightly extended bits found in the Deleted Scenes.  Bits and Pieces strings together a bunch of alternate line readings to hilarious effect, including Brandon Routh’s Todd Ingram telling Scott Pilgrim exactly how he’s going to “go down”.

Pre-production (Blu-ray only) [TRT 1:27:32]
Pre-production footage
Rehearsal videos
Props, rigs, and sets montage
Casting tapes
Hair and make-up footage

Apologies for not getting exact runtimes on the individual parts of this section, but I had to just keep trucking through all this stuff.  This hour and a half nuts and bolts string of animatics, tests, and videos is mostly free of any narration or frankly, much of any talking.  This is the kind of “how it was done” stuff that we’re seeing more of on some Blu-ray releases, but not nearly in this depth.

Music Promos (Blu-ray only) [TRT 19:10]
Music Videos (Garbage Truck, Black Sheep, Threshold, Summertime) [9:45]
OSYMYSO Remixes [9:25]
The music videos are clipped out from their placement in the film itself, but are expanded.  This is the most direct way to hear Brie Larson’s version of “Black Sheep”, which I’ve been trying to get a single of since the movie came out.  “Summertime” was originally just over the end credits, so it’s accompanied by video here for the first time.  The Remixes are done by Osymyso, aka this guy.

Visual Effects (Blu-ray only) [TRT 19:24]
VFX Before and After [14:37]
Roxy Fight/Ribbon Version [1:11]
Phantom Montage: Hi Speed Footage [3:47]
VFX Before and After is where they really and fully pull back the curtain on the various composite digital effects, from Chris Evans throwing Michael Cera at a building to the various fights and explosions of coins.  Mae Whitman, who plays Roxy, used a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon during parts of the fight where she was using a razor blade tipped whip.  They dropped in the razors later, and in the minute-long clip, they drop the narration and just show a portion of it all in one go.  The Hi Speed bit is great for aficionados of  the layers upon layers of ultra-high framerate footage that gets shot for use in multiple layers of a finished shot.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Pilgrim could be up for a visual effects Oscar.

Soundworks Collection: Sound for Film Profile (Blu-ray only) [5:43]
The sound editing and sound effects editing categories always confuse people come Oscar time, and they’ve never done a particularly good job explaining that difference at the awards themselves.  This piece manages to at least emphasize the importance of a very precise approach to sound design and effects choices.  Ditto the above Oscar speculation re: sound editing and sound effects editing.

Trailers [TRT 18:43]
TV Spots
Video Game Trailers

They include all the Theatrical spots (which were great) and the TV spots (which put my wife off wanting to see the movie).  They even included the trailers from the game.  The TV Spots may be an interesting case study for Advertising or Communications majors looking for a project.  Could the focus of those spots have been altered to more effectively produce results?  I think it’s an open question.

Adult Swim: Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation (Blu-ray only) [3:48]
This super-short animated story really makes you wish that Adult Swim would greenlight a beginning to end animated adaptation of O’Malley’s books.  It takes place years before the movie, but it bridges the gap as well as you can in four minutes.  Available online, but good to have with everything else all in one place.

Scott Pilgrim vs. Censors: TV Safe Version (Blu-ray only) [4:09]
There are few things more enjoyable in the universe than the absurd over-dubs used to replace “offensive” dialogue in movies so that they can play on cable during prime time.  I won’t spoil what bits of dialogue every last one of these replaces, but among my favorite phrases dubbed over the theatrical dialogue are: “Oh my bod”, “All guilty and smurf”, “With how I—poooop!”, “That’s it you Oscar Grouch! You’ll pay for your crimes against humanity!” (that one kinda gives it away), “I’ve dabbled in being a witch”, “but I’m part owl”, “He’s a creep, you’re a snarf…”, and “Totally bad owls”.  You’ll re-watch this one multiple times.

Blogs (Blu-ray only) [TRT 45:46]
They posted a bunch of video blogs throughout production, all of which are archived here, with no buffering required.

Galleries (Blu-ray only)
Production Photos
Edgar’s Photo a Day Blog
Johnny Simmons’ Photos
Ellen Wong’s Photos
Mark Webber
Theatrical Posters
Fictional Posters
Bryan’s Flip Charts
Conceptual Art Gallery
Graphic Novel Comparison Gallery
Mecha-Gideon - The Original Boss Battle

Usually, the still galleries on a DVD are the biggest waste of time imaginable.  Not so here!  In particular, the Fictional Posters for Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) movies like Let’s Hope There’s a Heaven made me chuckle the most.  Mecha-Gideon includes the sketches for what was originally supposed to be the final “boss” of the movie: a giant robot.

Trivia Track
Not only does it pop up with the titles of every single song performed in the movie, but there’s a host of info that either confirms or clarifies things mentioned in the commentary tracks, or presents brand-new info.  It’s worth popping on whenever you’re listening to one of the yack tracks.

So, there are four commentaries on this release.  Mainlining them one after another like I did probably isn’t advisable, but they’re all worth listening to.  In both of the cast commentary tracks, there are multiple instances of “I never noticed that!” and little details that they clue one another into.  There’s quite a bit of goofing around, and none of them get stale.

Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Edgar Wright, Co-Writer Michael Bacall, and Author Bryan Lee O’Malley
One of the things I’ve liked about previous tracks that Wright has participated in is that he really gets what keeps people engaged and what inspires naps.  The first track here should be considered the “writers” track, and my favorite bits came from O’Malley as the creator of the universe. Wright and Bacall bounce off one another well.

Technical Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Edgar Wright and Director of Photography Bill Pope
People usually place directors more immediately than cinematographers, so to save you the IMDb time, Bill Pope shot Darkman, Army of Darkness, and both the Matrix and Spider-Man trilogies, among many other films.  Topics discussed include boys’ versus girls’ attention span in fights, drunk barflies having snowball fights, and the proper way to emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger on a commentary track.

Cast Commentary with Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, & Brandon Routh
Routh shows up a little late and at one point muses on his great nemesis:  the color green. Schwartzman shares thoughts on wearing women’s underwear, and Winstead reveals a pretty serious spinal injury she suffered while shooting, much to the surprise of her co-stars.

Cast Commentary with Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin, and Mark Webber
Even though the participants start out saying that this is the “no one will listen to it commentary” (and bring that back up throughout), it’s really quite good.  Plaza and Culkin discuss their woulda-been torrid affair, Culkin gets into his insatiable man-kissing spree, and everyone contributes the worst Schwartzman impersonations in recorded history (along with a couple semi-passable ones of Wright).

Final Thoughts

I’m immediately driven to echo the sentiments I put out in this space for my review of the Criterion release of House:  if you pirate a release like this instead of buying or renting, you’re only sending the message that you don’t want studios to fund content like this.  In addition to that, this is one of the most stacked new releases of the year thus far, and it compares admirably to Wright’s previous special editions, which similarly have hours of content, none of which anyone would dare accuse of being fluff or filler.

As a bonus for making it through this epic review of epic epicness (I remember that being similar to the tagline), I’ve got a contest.  In the comments, tell us about how you successfully won friends, relatives, and strangers over to the side of going to see Scott Pilgrim.  Also acceptable are stories about other movies that needed defenders.

The very best story wins the grand prize of a copy of the Blu-ray Combo Pack, an autographed vinyl soundtrack (signed by Johnny “Young Neil” Simmons, courtesy of the good folks at ABKCO Records, and purchasable from Amazon here), and a collectible Scott Pilgrim “Backstage Pass”.  Four runners up win a copy of the Blu-ray Combo Pack and a “Backstage Pass”.  The contest ends November 7th at midnight, so get those comments rolling in.  Comment as many times as you want, and don’t let the contest hold back comments you have on other topics.

The Scott Pilgrim Blu-ray hits the street on November 9th.  Pre-order it at Amazon here and a small portion of your purchase goes toward keeping things badass ‘round these parts.