John P.'s blog
I hope you enjoy this blog, which I've dedicated to everything I love, and occasionally updates about my own life. All original material is © John Francis Pannozzi. All other material is ™ & © Their respective owners. Blogger is ™ & © Google, Inc.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
Thursday, October 03, 2019
I could go on and on about the Duffer Brothers' pride and joy, but I think I'll save it for a book or something once the series eventually ends. I do have a few things to say:
First of all, Eleven (or "El" as both myself and the show's characters more commonly call her, or Jane Hopper/Ives to give her real name) is IMHO the best fictional female character introduced in this decade.
And I want to share the log-line from Entertainment Earth's page for Stranger Things merchandise (not a plug, I swear. Friends don't lie):
Does Stranger Things Keep You Up at Night? Try This Merch!
Evil never ends - it evolves - and friendship is always stronger than fear. You should keep these points in mind as you watch the next season of this nail-biting sci-fi horror web-TV drama on Netflix. Arguably the most popular character in the series, Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown) is back along with other unforgettable characters, both on the screen and in the form of action figures, vinyl figures, plush, costumes, ornaments and other holiday décor, games, and more. So, if you're in the mood for a Stranger Things Funko Pop! or any other such themed toy or collectible inspired by the denizens of Hawkins, Indiana, your timing is excellent! Plus, you don't need special psychokinetic abilities or an intimate familiarity with the parallel dimension called the Upside Down to move any or all of the above or the other cool items below into your cart. And who knows, with a little luck, that creepy predatory humanoid known as the demogorgon (named after but not particularly similar to the powerful demon prince you may know from the Dungeons and Dragons game) might leave well enough alone as well and let you place your order… although that Stranger Things monster isn't exactly known to be forgiving. But give it a try!
The sentence I bolded above really resonates with me. I definitely feel at least the second part is true. Friendship, along with family and forgiveness, ARE always stronger than fear. And that in a nutshell perfectly sums up why I love Stranger Things so damn much. The show isn't horror with coming-of-age-dramedy overtones like, say, Stephen King's It. Stranger Things, to me, is a coming-of-age dramedy/mystery/suspense show with horror, sci-fi and action elements. It perfectly blends almost everything that made the best mainstream American films of the 1980s so memorable, while balancing light and dark tones.
In fact, the recent third season resembling the works of John Hughes more so than those of John Carpenter leads to one of Stranger Things's few notable weak points. So much of season 3 feels like a comedy that whenever the horror/sci-fi/action elements come in focus, its almost intrusive. The show has so many great characters that Stranger Things 3 has trouble giving them all satisfying arcs and development. It is still highly entertaining, flaws and all, and sets up a potentially even better fourth season.
Right now, it's somewhat unclear how much longer Stranger Things will last, although a fourth season was just officially announced. Hollywood insider John Campea has said that friends of his connected to Netflix are saying that season 4 will "definitely" be the last. However, he has heard conflicting reports that there may be a post-series movie that wrap up the series, and it will apparently have a limited theatrical run. I would like to note that David Harbour (who plays Hopper in the show) said a few months ago that he doesn't know how many seasons the show will run for, but he knows how the show will end and doesn't think four seasons will be enough to conclude it. So, I'm very much inclined to believe that the post-series movie is happening, but either way, I really hope we get an official word on when the story will end soon.
But more importantly, Harbour says that he thinks the ending of Stranger Things is "beautiful". So, our next and possibly final trip to Hawkins, Indiana should be a pleasant one.
Tuesday, May 09, 2017
Last summer, the Japanese clothing producer/retailer GU produced a commercial based off Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump to promote a new pleated skirt. It features Ayami Nakajō as Arale, Yuki Uchida as Akane, and Kengo Kora as Peasuke.
Here's the commercial, followed by some behind the scenes goodness. I hope you enjoy it, even if you don't know Japanese.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
What's interesting to note is that this issue was localized for Japanese readers, even though Larsen's own titles never were.
The sixth collection of WildC.A.T.s comics translated into Japanese was released by Dengeki Comics on August 15, 1998. It not only included Larsen's issue #14, but also issue #13 (the concluding installment of a story arc by Jim Lee and Chris Claremont, which guest-starred Claremont's Huntsman characters) and #15 (the first of a short-lived run by James Robinson and Travis Charest).
Here are some excerpts:
Monday, January 25, 2016
By 1991, seven artists best known for their work on Marvel titles were becoming enormously popular. Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen were getting noticed for their work on Spider-Man. Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, and Marc Silvestri all did eye-catching artwork for X-Men. Rob Liefeld retooled the X-Men spin-off New Mutants into X-Force, introducing the mysterious cyborg hero Cable and the wisecracking assassin Deadpool along the way. And Jim Valentino (previously known for autobiographical comics and the superhero satire normalman) guided Guardians of the Galaxy to be the most successful non-Spider-Man or X-Men-related book from Marvel at the time. So, the question was, was the name recognition and fanbase of the artists driving the books' success, or was it the popularity of the characters? While these artists were mostly happy with the people they worked with at Marvel, there was some unease. Trading cards, t-shirts, and video game covers reused their artwork, without any sort of compensation whatsoever. And characters created by them (like Jim Lee's X-Man Gambit) were being made into action figures, and an X-Men cartoon based visually on their work was right around the corner.
Around this time, the publisher Malibu Comics courted Liefeld, Larsen, and Valentino, saying they would publish anything created by them. In mid-1991, Liefeld took out an ad in Comic Buyer's Guide for The Executioners. It was meant to be a mutant superhero team book published by Malibu in association with an imprint devised by Liefeld called Image. Liefeld got the name from a TV commercial for a camera with the tagline "Image is everything". Marvel threatened legal action, and said they would fire Liefeld from X-Force, so the book was scrapped. But Liefeld in association with his friend Hank Kanalz reworked the book to feature a team they developed in the late 80s, the government-sponsored Youngblood. But Liefeld didn't want to launch Image on his own, so he got McFarlane (then taking a hiatus from comics due to the birth of his first child), Valentino, and Larsen on board. During a comic book art auction in New York City, they talked Lee, Portacio, and Silvestri into joining them, and promptly went to Marvel's offices to tell them off. They then went to DC's offices (where Lee had never been before), only to say that they wouldn't work for them either.
In early 1992, the formation of Image Comics was officially announced, leading to a drop in Marvel stock. Malibu would help distribute Image's books for the first year, but the Image partners still called the shots. Youngblood was finally released that spring to massive success. Many of the Image partners dusted off characters that they created in their youth, now that they would retain all rights. McFarlane introduced Spawn (the first issue of which is the bestselling non-Marvel or DC comic), a government assassin whose deal with the devil brings him back to Earth as a powerful undead being. Larsen revamped his character as the Savage Dragon, a more character-driven superhero book with a green, fin-headed guy at the center.
Lee and Silvestri both came out with series that had a similar aesthetic to the Marvel series they had cut their teeth on, Uncanny X-Men. Lee and longtime friend Brandon Choi unleashed WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams, a team made up largely of members and descendants of the Kherubim, a benevolent alien race that crash-landed on Earth eons ago along with the sinister Daemonites. Silvestri's Cyber Force told the tale of a ragtag band of mutants rebelling against the wicked corporation that turned them into cyborgs. Both titles were based on characters that their respective creators had created in the past but never used. WildC.A.T.s and Cyber Force also both lead to multiple titles set in the same universe. Lee used WildC.A.T.s as a springboard for other "WildStorm Universe" titles such as Gen 13, StormWatch, and Deathblow. The "Top Cow Universe" that rose from Silvestri's Cyber Force would include such popular titles as Witchblade and The Darkness.
Valentino had planned to put out a series called The Pact at the start of Image, but shelved it after seeing a glut of team books in the company's initial lineup. So, he instead unveiled ShadowHawk, a vigilante not unlike Batman, but with brutal methods and an unrevealed (at first) identity. Eventually, Paul Johnstone, the first ShadowHawk introduced to readers, died from AIDS, and a little later, the young Eddie Collins took up the mantle.
Portacio had planned to collaborate with veteran X-Men writer Chris Claremont on Claremont's character The Huntsman, though that book failed to materialize (Claremont did get use Huntsman and company in story-arcs of WildC.A.T.s and Cyber Force he guest-wrote, however). Portacio's own series, WetWorks, was delayed for over two years due to Portacio dealing with his sister's illness and eventual death. WetWorks, which ended up being part of the WildStorm Universe, focused on a military team enhanced by golden symbiotes.
Soon, other creators joined Image. Some notable books including Sam Kieth's surreal urban-bum-hero-in-Wonderland saga The Maxx, Dale Keown's Hulk-like Pitt, and 1963, a dead-on homage to early 60s Marvel comics, written by Watchman's Alan Moore, with art by his erstwhile Swamp Thing collaborators Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch, among others. There was some controversy. While anyone who creates a book published by Image Central owns their work outright, it was a different story for those who worked for the Image partners' respective studios. WildStorm, Top Cow, McFarlane Productions, and Liefeld's Extreme Studios all partook in work-for-hire practices not much better than those at the Big Two. This was seen by Bissette and the comics journal world as unbelievably hypocritical.
Lee did use his Homage imprint to showcase other people's creator-owned works, such as Kurt Busiek's Astro City, Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, and James Robinson's Leave It to Chance. Other popular indie titles like Groo, Bone, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all found a home at Image during this period. The work from Liefeld's studio was given a big boost when Alan Moore took over Liefeld's Superman analogue Supreme. Unfortunately, when Liefeld was accused of trying to steal artist Michael Turner away from Silvestri's studio, he ultimately left Image in a huff.
Only 2 years later, in 1998, it was announced that Lee was selling his studio and family of characters to DC Comics. With only four partners left and a changing, unstable market, Image was hurting for material to publish, and ended up releasing just about every kind of comic under the sun. From 1999 to 2004, Valentino was named the company's publisher (Larsen replaced him in 2004, and would in turn be replaced by former Liefeld assistant Eric Stephenson a few years later).
In 2003, Robert Kirkman (who had become involved with Image due to collaborating with Larsen on the latter's character SuperPatriot) pitched a zombie apocalypse comic that supposedly involved an alien invasion. When the comic, now called The Walking Dead, was released that fall, Kirkman revealed to Image that the claim about alien invasion in the series was a red herring.
Kirkman even managed to get Liefeld involved with Image once again. While Liefeld is still no longer a partner in the company, he currently publishes several books through Image, several which have gained cult following. Kirkman became the first new Image partner since the company's launch, and vowed to never work for Marvel or DC again.
Image's publications have grown even more popular over the last decade. Many creators (like Grant Morrison and Bryan K. Vaughn) known for their more mainstream work, come to Image in order to create stories and characters that they own whole-cloth. And Image's deals with creators prevents the publisher from having any involvement with movie or non-comic merchandise rights. Thus, ensuring the creators benefit the most from their creations, not the publisher.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Back in the 1960s, Kaufman and Herz attended Yale University, and both shared a love for filmmaking. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Kaufman and Herz produced several different film projects, sometimes working with a pre-fame Oliver Stone. Even though the two formed Troma in 1974, it would be a few more years before they would officially produce a film under the studio's name.
"Squeeze Play" was a sex comedy (one of the first), echoing the Woman's Rights Movement by pitting a team of women against their husbands and boyfriends in a game of softball. At first, no theater was interested in showing the movie, but when one theater took a chance on it, it became a surprising success.
"Squeeze Play" was followed by three more "sexy comedies", "Waitress!", "Stuck on You", and "The First Turn-On". Eventually, Kaufman and Herz decided to move away from this genre, as the major studios were copying the formula in films like the "Porky's" series. Around this time, Troma also produced two films directed by Kaufman's brother Charles, the slasher movie "Mother's Day", and the "Kentucky Fried Movie"-esque comedy anthology "When Nature Calls".
During the 1970s, Kaufman also worked on films like "Rocky", "Saturday Night Fever", and "My Dinner with Andre", scouting locations and sometimes playing bit roles. But he had to be part of the Directors Guild in order to do so. So many of the Troma-produced films were attributed to the pseudonymous "Samuel Weil", to prevent Kaufman from violating the Guild's strict rules.
It was during the production of "Rocky" that Kaufman hit upon the idea for making a film set in a health club. Some years later, Kaufman and Herz read an article declaring that horror films were dead. Thus, Troma began development on a project tentatively called "Health Club Horror".
But Kaufman was struggling to make the concept work. The film, as written at the time, would have featured a villainous monster killing equally villainous people. It was only when Kaufman thought up the conceit of making the film a comedy with a heroic monster that things started to click. "Health Club Horror" was eventually retitled "The Toxic Avenger".
The first major screening of "The Toxic Avenger" was a disaster, as even the Troma fans in attendance were turned off by the film's abundance of sex and outlandish blood and gore. It wasn't until the Bleecker Street Cinemas in New York started showing the film in 1986 that "Toxie" became an icon to horror fans over the globe.
Troma followed up "The Toxic Avenger" with a similar film called "Class of Nuke 'Em High". "Nuke 'Em High" was also a violent comedy satirizing the nuclear industry and the Power Elite (or as they're better known today, the 1%). It was also successful, but Troma's next project wound being surprisingly controversial.
"Troma's War", the most expensive film in the company's history, was meant to be a commentary on the Reagan era's jingoistic films such as "Rambo". But trouble started early when the Directors Guild found out Kaufman was the real Samuel Weil, and forced him to leave their union. Likewise the MPAA made Troma trim out some of the best scenes in order to achieve an "R" rating. This especially infuriated Kaufman and Herz, as their director's cut of the film was calculated to be no more extreme than the mainstream action films of the day.
With "Troma's War" bombing at the box office, Troma went back to the well with a Toxic Avenger sequel. With backing from the Japanese firm Gaga Communications, Toxie, and the Troma Team, were given the chance to go to Tokyo. But when the first cut of the film was around four hours long, Kaufman panicked. He then decided to split the film in two. Thus, "The Toxic Avenger Part II" and "The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie" were released. But the more cartoonish violence and toned-down nature of these sequels left fans very disappointed.
But the Toxie sequels helped open doors for Troma in the mainstream entertainment world. Fred Wolf Films, the producer of the 1980s and 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon expressed interest in adapting Toxie to animation. And Gaga Communications, along with Pac-Man producer Namco wanted to make a film with Troma for the Japanese market.
Troma, along with Gaga and Namco, produced the film "Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD", a superhero comedy. Kaufman wanted to make a more extreme film, but almost everyone else, including the Japanese studios, Herz, and then-Troma bigshot Jeff Sass, were dead set on creating a more family-friendly movie. In the end, the PG-13 and unrated (equivalent to a soft "R") cuts of "Kabukiman" pleased neither parties. DiC Entertainment head Andy Heyward, however, developed a pitch for a Kabukiman cartoon with Troma, since his kids liked the film. But due to Anti-Japanese sentiment in the States (this was when Sony bought Columbia Pictures, for example), the Kabukiman cartoon was never made, and the "Kabukiman" film wouldn't be released in America for about half-a-decade.
Fred Wolf and Troma had considerably more success with the "Toxic Crusaders" cartoon. That show spawned a line of action figures (from TMNT toy makers Playmates), several video games and comics, and assorted merchandise. In 1991, Troma made a deal with New Line (a then-independent studio that had distributed the Ninja Turtles movies) to produce a live-action Toxic Crusaders movie. It looked like every was set in place. Kaufman even assigned directing duties on the second and third Nuke 'Em High films to another filmmaker, since the contract allowed him the chance to direct New Line's picture. But New Line's mid-1993 deadline came and went, and the film wasn't produced.
The mid-1990s could be seen as a dark point in Lloyd Kaufman's life. Not only did Troma sue New Line, and win an untold amount in damages, but Lloyd's father Stanley passed away, and his wife Pat suffered a near-fatal case of breast cancer. Around this time, Kaufman was planning a Tromatic take on Shakespeare's classic, "Romeo & Juliet".
It wasn't until he teamed up with a younger writer named James Gunn that "Tromeo & Juliet" began to really take shape. More extreme than the Troma films before, "Tromeo" was a major critical success. Kaufman and Gunn collaborated on the best-selling book "All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger", which would lead to more books from him (including a novelization of the first Toxie movie).
Troma's further projects have included "Terror Firmer" (a satire of Kaufman's career and filmmaking style), a fourth Toxie film, "Tales from the Crapper" (salvaging footage from an aborted webseries), "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead" (a vicious takedown of the fast food industry), and "Return to Nuke 'Em High" (a two-part film ala "Kill Bill").
Troma has also distributed films from up and coming filmmakers. Before Trey Parker and Matt Stone hit it big with "South Park", their first feature "Cannibal! The Musical" was released by Troma. Parker and Stone have made cameos in later Troma productions, alongside comic book icons Stan Lee and Kevin Eastman, notorious porn actor Ron Jeremy, and the late Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead.
Toxie continues to be a cultural icon, even starring in a popular stage musical. Both a big-budget remake film and fifth entry in the original series have been mulled for years, with Arnold Schwarzenegger attached to the former.
But one thing's for sure. Troma's endurance in a constantly changing industry is due to its irreverent sense of humor and the personality that Kaufman brings to the company as its public face. And the Troma brand has a created a loyal fanbase that will keep the spirit of Troma alive for many years to come.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
According to "Jonathan101",
"Kyle blocked a bunch of people and Larry was one of many; his reason was along the lines of "I'm sorry to everyone I just blocked; I just think you are all horrible people with horrible views" (paraphrasing).
Led to a lot of aggressive second-hand name calling from both parties. I won't go into details (not that I know much else), but that's the gist of what happened."
If anyone else can shed more light on this controversy, please do so.
Friday, June 05, 2015
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Cartooning with the Simpsons and the Simpsons Handbook.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Friday, January 06, 2012
"The kids of the early '90s liked humor and bright graphics and appealing characters to latch onto. The Simpsons and Nickelodeon proved that. And despite all the talk of 'postliterate' culture, they liked narrative. The astounding success of R.L. Stine's Fear Street and Goosebumps series of juvenile horror stories proved that. These kids had grown from toddlerhood to school age loving the Ninja Turtles and the Muppets. They'd been raised in a commercialized, competitive time, but generally by parents more serious about their duties than parents of the late '60s and '70s. Most kids of the middle class, at least, had been given a relatively optimistic and structured world. What could the superhero subculture, with its bizarre combination of vicious violence, hard-boiled posing, whiny melodrama, and geeky pretension, say to them?"
From The Comic Book Heroes by Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs (2nd edition)
I feel this quote captures me and my generation to a tee, and in a way shows our place in the comic book industry of the 1990s.
"When I first saw Godzilla at the studio screening, I couldn't help crying when I watched Godzilla become a skeleton. I thought, 'Why did mankind have to punish Godzilla like that?'...Mankind seemed like a bigger villain than Godzilla, and I felt sorry for him. I think sympathy for him still exists today. If Godzilla were truly evil, people wouldn't have loved him so much. We were responsible for triggering Godzilla's violence."
Film star Akira Takarada, originally from an interview in Toho SF Special Effects Movie Series Vol. 7: Godzilla vs. Mothra, later quoted in Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G" by Steve Ryfle.
This quote needs no explanation.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
The catalyst for this trend was James Rolfe, a big fan of movies and a budding filmmaker in his own right. Way back in 2004, Rolfe did two video game reviews, and decided to humorously subvert the more professional style of traditional video reviews of games by being overly negative and tossing in some profanity for good measure. Two years later in 2006, Rolfe's friend and collaborator Mike Matei encouraged him to post his game reviews on Youtube. Soon, Rolfe, in association with Matei and musician Kyle Justin, began producing more game reviews as part of the "Angry Video Game Nerd" series. The Nerd soon took Youtube and the internet in general by storm, and many were influenced by the Nerd's foul-mouthed and quick-witted reviewing style.
A seemingly countless amount of AVGN copycats soon flooded Youtube, though many of them were of dubious quality at best. But none of them have been as controversial as Chris Bores, a.k.a. the Irate Gamer. Many of the earlier Irate Gamer episodes not only covered games previously reviewed by the Angry Nerd (like the Back to the Future and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the NES), but Bores also critiqued many of the same aspects of those games that Rolfe had. To add insult to injury, Bores has gone to great lengths to discredit or downplay Rolfe as an inspiration. These accusations of plagiarism, combined with many factual errors, extremely weak complaints, an abundance of flubs (in many scenes, Bores's systems are turned off or not set up properly, and he often mispronounces frustrating as "fustrating"), and an increasingly erratic release schedule have resulted in Bores appearing as a flat-out hack in the eyes of many. Despite these criticisms, Bores has had a fair amount of success as a Youtube partner, and has even been invited to the video game's premiere expo, E3.
On the other end of the popularity spectrum, as far as reviewers/internet personalities based on AVGN go, is Derek Alexander, whose web series, the Happy Video Game Nerd, is, as it title indicates, a blatant parody/homage to Rolfe's iconic character. While Rolfe's character focuses largely on tearing apart poorly-made and/or bizarre games, Alexander's Nerd sets his sights on informing viewers about the hidden gems of gaming history. Alexander's videos have become so popular, that even Rolfe has admitted to liking them.
Another notable video game reviewer is Noah Antwiler and his show the Spoony Experiment. Antwiler is one of the most popular internet comedians affiliated with Channel Awesome, the company behind the website That Guy With The Glasses, and it's video game-centric sister site Blistered Thumbs. Other notable Channel Awesome contributers include Doug Walker, whose beloved Nostalgia Critic once had a mock feud with Rolfe's AVGN, and Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug, whose comic book review show Atop the Fourth Wall has made frequent crossovers with the Spoony Experiment. There are many other video game reviewers at Blistered Thumbs worth mentioning. Among them are the French-based Benjamin Daniel, whose character Benzaie is known for his comedically broken English; "Angry Joe" Vargas, whose reviews are meant to help video game producers improve their creations; Justin "JewWario" Carmical, who focuses on games only released in Japan; and Bennett "the Sage" White, who has reviewed everything from video games to comic books to even poorly-written fanfiction. One former member of Channel Awesome who deserves mention is Jason "LordKaT" Pullara, whose series Until We Win took viewers through some of the most challenging video games ever made.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I am also an active member of gaming's metaculture, as I have joined many message boards over the years
Friday, February 18, 2011
Monday, February 07, 2011
Looking back at the video games from a entire millennium ago, it is fascinating to see how primitive yet still very ingenious interactive entertainment was back in the early twenty-first century. For instance, "Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo" a manga and anime-licensed action platformer for the Nintendo Wii, requires some quick reflexes in order to beat its tough bosses. The period of 2006-2011 was also notable for marking the start a surge in popularity for downloadable games sold through online services available directly on gaming consoles themselves (such as Xbox Live Arcade, the Playstation Network Store, and the Wii's Virtual Console). This would mark a major turning point for games, as it allowed for lower budgeted and priced but at times ambitious and experimental titles to see the light of day. One such game was Flower, on the Playstation 3. I have only ever played the demo version of this particular title, yet that was enough to realize what unique piece of art it is. The game allows to control the wind as flower petals flow by. This gentle, nature-themed gimmick is outfitted by soothing music, resulting in one of the most extraordinary experiences that the gaming world had ever since at the time. Looking back, it's funny that at the time, the debate over wether or not games could be considered caused a decent bit of controversy, as in my eyes, the mere existance of works like Flowers more solidified games as perhaps the most creative art-form of all.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Scott Pilgrim meets his strongest foe: Scott Pilgrim
By John Pannozzi
In the past few decades, many live-action films based off animated cartoons, comic books and video games have been released, and despite the occasional knock-out like "The Dark Knight," many of these adaptations have received dismal responses from both critics and the box-office, with the likes of "Howard the Duck" and "Double Dragon" often considered to be some of the biggest failures in Hollywood history. This past summer saw the release of cult favorite director Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," based on the increasingly popular six-volume series of independent graphic novels from Canadian-born cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley. Though the film's box-office returns proved rather mediocre, it received mostly glowing reviews from critics and those who did see it mostly adored it regardless of whether or not they were familiar with the source material.
It's something of a rarity that such a wonderfully idiosyncratic and genre-defying comic book creation would receive a big-budget Hollywood film adaptation that not only preserves the delightfully weird tone of its source material, but also stands on its own as a wildly hilarious and a visually spectacular treat. Although there have been a good handful of well-received independent comic book-based films, including "Fritz the Cat", "Heavy Metal", the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie "The Crow," "Ghost World" and the "HellBoy" series. Scott Pilgrim's ambitious tone and fairly large budget more immediately calls to mind "Tank Girl", the cult-favorite underground British comic strip turned multimillion dollar box-office and critical dud. But history has shown that director Wright's works (which includes such fan favorites as "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" as well as the short-lived but well-loved TV series "Spaced"), have a special quality about them that may not result in immediate financial success, but often gain a dedicated and loyal fan base over time, as DVD sales have proven. While the visual spectacle and rapid-fire comic timing earn the Scott Pilgrim film an important place in film history, when seen as an adaptation of O'Malley's work, the film in some ways comes off as rather lackluster. This article will serve as an examination of some the ways in which the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim diverges significantly from the graphic novels.
It is worth noting that the screenplay to the Scott Pilgrim film was developed during the same time as the later volumes in the graphic novels. Indeed, watching the finished film, it‘s hard to shake the fact that the last two-thirds or so are largely based on rough outlines and concepts O'Malley had in mind for the last few books. O'Malley has said that he created outlines primarily to aid the filmmakers in conceiving a conclusion for the film well before he finalized his plans for the finale of the books. One wonders then if the differences between the film's last act and the last three volumes of the book series showcase how the ideas that O'Malley that initially conceived the end of the series were not good enough for his own work, but good enough for a Hollywood film.
In this reviewer's opinion, perhaps the most infuriating way in which the Scott Pilgrim film differs from its source material is that many of the secondary characters lack the depth and character development given over course of the six graphic novels. Kim Pine, the freckled and redheaded drummer of Sex Bob-omb and Scott's former high school fling is a wonderfully complex and thoroughly appealing character in books, but in the film she never receives any depth beyond a snarky and cynical comic relief role that almost seems like a parody of the way she was initially depicted in the earlier volumes. While in the movie, Scott apologizes to Kim for how he mistreated her in the past, we don't see exactly what happened between in the past (the promotional short "Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation" shown on Adult Swim sheds some light on Scott and Kim's high school days, but the sixth and final book adds even more depth to their history that is not captured at all on screen), nor do we see Kim gradually show a sweeter side as we do in the later books in the series, particularly volumes four through six.
The lead characters, Scott Pilgrim and his rather literal "dream girl" Ramona Flowers, also suffer from a lack of development. In the books, Scott eventually has to move out of his roommate Wallace's apartment and get a job, which results in him gaining the adult responsibility he sorely lacked at the start of the series, and thus "levels up" in a big way. Also, the fight scenes with the seven evil exes eventually overwhelm the film, while in the comics Scott only fights one ex per book (with the exception of volume five, in which he takes on both of the Katayanagi twins). As a result, we are given much less breathing room and less time for the characters and their relationships to develop, including Scott and Ramona's rocky romance.
In the movie, Ramona leaves Scott because she goes back to Gideon (the last and most insidious of the Seven Evil Exes), due to having a chip implanted in her head that makes her unable to resist Gideon. And when Scott faces off against Gideon in the film's final fight, Ramona does little more than sit by the sidelines, essentially played the damsel in distress role as seen in many older video games like Super Mario Bros. This ultimately makes Ramona seem like a much weaker and more submissive person than she is in the books. In volume five, she does leave Scott due to Gideon manipulating her feelings via "Emotional Warfare" (which is a bit too complicated to explain in full detail here). But in the sixth and final volume, it is revealed that she did not return to Gideon (resulting in a wonderful subversion of video game tropes when Scott and Gideon first face each other and are both shocked to find that Ramona isn't with either of them at the time), but rather left to do some soul-searching and eventually return to say goodbye to Scott and break up on more formal and amicable terms. Following this, Ramona does retreat into her deepest darkest corner of her own personal SubSpace, in which she is basically submissive to Gideon (which Gideon claims to be her innermost desire). But this only for a brief moment, as Scott quite literally head butts this so-called "all-powerful" version of Gideon, allowing Ramona the chance to officially drop Gideon like the bad habit he is. And in the end, Scott and Ramona simultaneously deal the final blow to Gideon, which shows that in quite a few ways, Scott's quest to defeat Ramona's Seven Evil Exes was as much Ramona's fight as it was his own.
Another thing from the last book that adds a very important dimension to Scott's struggle against Gideon but is missing from the film is the way in which the two are not so different. Scott and Gideon both have a tendency to block out memories of being inconsiderate towards past girlfriends, and as a result, overlook their own character flaws. Scott's past mistakes eventually manifest themselves in the form of the NegaScott (who appears in the film with almost no setup or context). Scott tries to defeat NegaScott, but Kim tells him that if he forgets his past sins, he will only make the same mistakes all over again in the future, and after she yells at him to just accept the past, he merges with NegaScott and regains all his memories. Gideon, by contrast, has seemingly repressed his past failings and as a result mistakenly believes himself to be perfect.
Gideon also shows a more hilariously pathetic side in the last book when it is revealed that he formed the League of Ramona's Evil Exes by posting a drunken rant on Facebook after being dumped by Ramona (who left Gideon because he showed no real interest in her whatsoever when they were dating). We also get a taste of the more cruel and twisted side of Gideon when he reveals that he has already cryogenically frozen six of his ex-girlfriends in order to later unfreeze them and date them at his own leisure, and he intends to make Ramona his Seventh Ex.
Finally, one other theme prevalent in the Scott Pilgrim books that I didn't feel was carried as strongly in the film is the idea of moving on from your past. In the books, we get the feeling that Scott is only dating Knives because he wants to make up for his unsatisfying relationships with Kim in high school and Natalie "Envy" Adams in college. He claims that dating a high school student like Knives is "simple", which shows how he tries to shield himself from the painful heartbreak caused by his decidedly less than simple previous attempts at romance. And when he tries to get back with Knives and later Kim in the final book, things don't work out. Scott and Knives are quickly grossed out after briefly attempting to make out with each other again. Kim meanwhile refuses to embrace Scott, as even though Scott notes that Kim has been the one constant in his life, Kim reminds him that her high school days were anything but the typical sappy Hollywood "romance" (this leads to Scott having to face the NegaScott, as described above). Scott ultimately realizes that he needs to move forward in life by being with Ramona, who is more his equal in terms of age, maturity and romantic history than someone like Knives is. Though Knives clearly cares about Scott (this is clear in her last scene in volume six), her attraction to Scott's band Sex Bob-omb turns out to be fleeting (again, reference the sixth book), and she ends being quite needy (as evidenced by how crazy with jealously she is when she believes Ramona stole Scott). The film, by contrast, seemed to be setting up Scott and Knives as a couple (especially when one considers that the original scripted and even filmed ending to the film had Scott choosing Knives instead of Ramona in the end), and as a result, the ending with Scott pursuing Ramona seems tacked on. In the last book, one gets the feeling that regardless of how successful Scott and Ramona's renewed relationship will be, it will prove that the time they spent together and will spend together in the future will shape them and allow them to grow and change for the better. In the movie, however, it's much vaguer as to where Scott and Ramona's path will lead. Whereas the Scott Pilgrim books tell a very satisfying and complete story of a young slacker "leveling up" to become a more mature individual, the movie by comparison, though fun and flashy, ultimately feels somewhat rushed and half-hearted when it comes to the themes and characterization that O'Malley handled so well, yet Wright could not give full justice to on the silver screen.