Review - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I finally managed to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World over the weekend, becoming probably the last comic book fan to have done so. Life conspired against me to prevent my viewing before then, but in a way I'm sort of glad I saw it a week after it came out. I was given the opportunity to see it stripped of its opening day hype and built up fervor from the summer. And my immediate reaction? I freaking loved it.

I'll just start by saying that yes, I'm a huge Edgar Wright fan. Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are all great works. The fast and abrupt scene transitions, the witty dialogue and the general mood of his films are very stylistic and scream Wright. In a sense, he's really good when it comes to breathing a sense of incredulousness into seemingly mundane activities and events. When he was tapped to direct Scott Pilgrim I immediately thought he was the right (no pun intended) man for the job and he delivered as I expected. What also really helped the film though was the casting; more specifically that Scott Pilgrim seems to be a character that was modeled after Michael Cera (or vice versa). Minor spoilers ahead, but they're really nothing you probably haven't already surmised from the trailers by now.

By now you know what the movie's about. Scott Pilgrim (Cera) meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), falls in love with Ramona (he thinks) and has to contend with Ramona's seven evil exes if he wants to be with her. These exes include Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman), Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), Kyle and Ken Katayanagi (Keita Saitou and Shota Saito) and Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). As the movie progresses it bounces around between band battles, parties, awkward dates and a video game. While Ramona tells Scott that he must defeat the seven evil exes to be with her, it's really more about Scott Pilgrim beating them to find the confidence in himself to be with her.

And that's what the movie (and the six books it's adapted from) is really all about. It's about finding your identity in youth and being comfortable enough with it to make major life decisions. Ramona is clearly out of Scott's league, but you know it's ok because she more or less lays it out for him: if he can defeat her seven evil exes (brought together by Gideon in an effort to win Ramona back) he'll get the girl. In a sense, Wright has turned a movie about music into a video game, with Scott facing off with a different ex as a stage boss. Each one he defeats nets him a score (and a rain of quarters) and all add up to experience that allows Scott to level up and defeat Gideon, the final boss.

Speaking of video games, the film is rampant with the references. The opening Universal logo has been recreated in 8-bit and the movie starts with the same harp midi that opens Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. There's references to Pac-Man (did you know he was originally called Puc-Man?), Final Fantasy II and, of course, Super Mario Bros. with the band's name being Sex Bob-Omb. The actual fight scenes even boast combos, combat adjectives and the ever popular "KO" splashed on screen for some of the finishes. Most characters have a little blurb about them thrown onscreen upon first meeting them, as if to play to some notion that we like to know our character's stats.

I'll admit that Cera's schtick is wearing a little thin. I mean, how many times can you really play the lovable loser struggling to cope with your identity to find the woman of your dreams? His role as Scott Pilgrim was a bit more of the same but it was also different somehow. In this movie, Cera's character was actually struggling with himself and self-confidence as opposed to just being a lovable loser and I think that helped the role some. Cera became Scott Pilgrim, much the same way that Christian Bale has become Bruce Wayned/Batman and Tobey Maguire became Peter Parker/Spider-man. Perfect casting.

Winstead? Let's just say that by the end of the movie even I was ready to fight seven evil exes to be with her. She was phenomenal as Ramona, hestitant at times about the situation and eager at other times to see Scott win. The movie was just as much about her finding herself as it was about Scott Pilgrim finding himself. Kieran Culkin pretty much played the role of Scott's gay roommate marvelously, pulling out just about every gay stereotype in the book and destroying it. Evans and Routh proved that even more macho characters can play indie gigs and this might be the start of some interesting roles being offered to Evans (Routh has been taking this turn already with his cameo in Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Chuck). Schwartzman is always a favorite, although I felt his role in SPVTW was a little flat; maybe it's just because he was really only in the movie for about ten minutes it seems. And it was fun to see Cera and Whitman onscreen again together, even if there was no mayonegg.

A lot of people forget that Ghost World was a comic and the movie sort of taught us that comic book movies can be hip and cool. Spider-man 2 and The Dark Knight taught us that comic book movies can be serious and stand alone as movies (without the franchise). Scott Pilgrim vs. the World did a little bit of both, although I think that's also the movie's downfall. It's too indie. There's a reason that the film made only $10.5 million on its opening weekend and that's because that's what a film in indie theaters would love to pull. It's a fantastic movie, but it almost feels like it's an indie movie trapped in a Hollywood blockbuster's body. I liken it a lot to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which opened with $8 million and finished with $34 million domestically. Scott Pilgrim currently sits at $20 million (after opening with $10.5 million) and while I do see it grossing more than Sunshine I think the sentiment is the same. I'm not saying the movies are the same (or even similar) and the marketing for Pilgrim probably dwarfed the marketing for sunshine. The comparison comes in just the overall feel of the movies. Sunshine was also a little too indie for mainstream and I think the same thing for Scott Pilgrim.

For me, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will be a day one purchase on Blu-ray. No question. For others, I can see how the film will have little appeal. If you're not into comics (and maybe if you are and haven't heard of the Scott Pilgrim books), video games or youth love stories, you're probably not going to find a lot to like about the film. And yes, it is Cera in pretty much the same role he's been in just about everything he's been in. However, if you're into any of the above three or you like youthful romances full of spirit, wit and vibrant colors you kind of owe it to yourself to see this movie, preferrably in theaters to help out the box office totals. The last thing we want is for one of the best comic book films ever made to forever be known as a box office bob-omb.


  1. thats why you need to see Youth in Revolt as its nice to See Cera make decisions and act out of character you are used to seeing him in.


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