There are some movies that, no matter their subject matter, just give you a new sort of energy after walking out. With its hilariously gimmicky comic book inspired universe, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” did just this.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” felt so fresh and inviting because it simply did its best in trying to achieve so many things. It made use of action and comedy quite effectively because it comes from a director who can mash both genres like few others working today.
To like “Scott Pilgrim” and Scott Pilgrim, it is your task to throw away all of your hatreds you may have toward the film’s star. The titular hero is portrayed by Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim is a timid bassist playing for a struggling Toronto band. Pilgrim doesn’t have as much trouble getting girls, as he does keeping them.
Pilgrim can’t get over the horrible way his last relationship ended. His relationship with a girl (Ellen Wong), who’s quite a bit younger is a bit troubling. But then, Scott sees Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and knows he has found the one.
Ms. Flowers doesn’t come easy though. The girl with the constantly changing hair color has also had quite a number of bad breakups in the past. In order to win her over, Scott must battle her seven evil ex-boyfriends. With such competition as skateboarder Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), tough lesbian Roxy (Mae Whitman), and powerful record producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), the task will prove to be just as hard as it sounds.
I wouldn’t call “Scott Pilgrim” flawless (some scenes ran on slightly longer than they needed to), but I still found so few things I could complain about. Everyone involved, whether writer, director, or actor, fulfilled their roles to the highest of their abilities. When this happens, a strange sort of tangible magic occurs. It is one that can’t easily be broken.
Cera made a name for himself early on as the teenager who’s too awkward for words. From “Arrested Development” until “Juno,” this image worked in his favor. Then of course, the backlash formed. Anyone who won’t give “Scott Pilgrim” a chance because they think it’s just another awkward performance will miss the point entirely. Cera has been developing a new character since “Youth in Revolt.” It’s basically a slightly deeper extension of his old one. It is awkward with a mix of pretentiousness and a lack of respect for both himself and others. Cera is no longer just playing himself. He knows how to be a comedic actor.
While the film is all about Scott Pilgrim, it is not just centered on him. “Scott Pilgrim” does an excellent job developing its entire ensemble. All of the characters have very well established backgrounds and traits. Each band member and everyone else in Scott’s life have at least one certain odd defining characteristic.
Aside from Cera, some of the cast highlights include Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay and gossipy roommate Wallace. He manages to steal every scene he’s in. Then there’s Anna Kendrick, who manages to prove herself a better actress with every role. Aubrey Plaza, as the always present Julie Powers, continues to find a perfect dry humor in her monotone voice and even more monotone attitude toward life.
“Scott Pilgrim” is following a new series of graphic novel adaptations that are almost jokes on the whole comic book genre itself. In addition, its the first comic book movie I’ve seen that truly felt like a comic come to life.
This story is complete with onomatopoeic sounds bursting out in word form. Just like a comic book, the audience sees every Boom! and every Bam! The characters can see every one of these effects as well, giving the film a much more self aware element.
The film also ties in elements from video games. Every evil ex is like a level from a video game. “Scott Pilgrim” could best be described as “Mortal Kombat” meets “Kick-Ass.”
I hope to credit as much of this as possible to the film’s co-writer and director, Edgar Wright. Wright has garnered a great reputation over the years for tongue-in-cheek satire of various entertainment genres. Perhaps he’s so good at it because he truly seems to know his stuff. Within all of the jokes about video games and comic books, Wright infuses a dose of satire of everything from the typical action film to the tired rom-com.
Like his past efforts, Wright shows great talent for getting big laughs out of such small details. To really laugh at an Edgar Wright film, one must have a very keen eye for detail. Take for instance one moment in “Shaun of the Dead,” where if you look close enough in the background, you might spot a homeless man about to eat a live pigeon.
Wright also constantly challenges what the human brain can laugh at. Wright can hurt his characters without being mean and tell jokes about gay people without seeing homophobic in the slightest bit.
The action in “Scott Pilgrim” is directed in a way that is both silly and serious. As hilarious as it can be, it is also a feast for the eyes. So much effort was put into every little shot. Much of the action feels like a hybrid between a video game and a comic book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In this way, the action can be seen as a comment on our current fast-paced, video game obsessed culture. It’s better though to ignore this fact and just see the film as the hilarious product of entertainment that it truly is.
For a film that is so unique and inventive, “Scott Pilgrim” ends almost exactly the way anyone could have predicted. Yet, how it gets to that moment is a bit surprising, and extremely mature for a film like this. “Scott Pilgrim” is a film that truly cares about its characters. Think of it as the most thoughtful video game movie ever made.
To all of you die hard “Arrested Development” fans out there, watch out for a few very good references.