REVIEW: ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’

Grade: B+

This may be a generalization, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that every male born after the year 1980 had their youth influenced by video games in some way. Growing up in the age of Super Nintendo and Sega Game Gear my peers and I found a new form of socialization that evolved into an entertainment that would define a generation. Even though I rarely play video games today, I still maintain fond memories of everything from my grandparent’s portable Pac-Man game to the more graphically advanced Super Mario Kart.

Edgar Wright’s newest film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World taps into that video game nostalgia in a brilliant way by paying tribute to the games that boys of all ages grew up with. The film gets lost in its own world of video game rules with different levels of difficulty, extra lives, and cartoonish labels. The film references or pays tribute to video games from the 8-bit Atari to new games like Guitar Hero and Nintendo Wii. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does for video games what the Toy Story films do for toys – stir up a wonderful sense of nostalgia.

Wright’s film, which is based on a comic book series by Canadian author Bryan Lee O’Malley, puts you in a fast-moving world of digital life. The film demands that the viewer release their grip on reality and enter the world of a video game for one thrilling two-hour ride. The narrative is presented in a nicely laid out episodic format and I rarely found myself wishing to enter a code and skip ahead to the next level.

Scott Pilgrim is an awkward 22-year old hipster who is seemingly content with his existentialist life. He is in a band that doesn’t totally suck, dating a 17-year old Asian Catholic schoolgirl, and getting along well with his sardonic gay roommate. That all changes when he happens across Ramona Flowers – a girl with bright-colored hair and an heir of disregard for any type of moral authority. It’s love at first sight for Scott and his attempts to woo her seem to go easier than he could have imagined. At first.

While performing on stage with his band Sex Bob Omb, Scott is suddenly attacked by a eye-liner wearing man named Matthew Patel. It turns out this is the first boy Ramona ever dated and the first part of Ramona’s most recent ex’s plan to prevent her and Scott from being together. Scott must face every one of Ramona’s exes in battle in order to win her heart from the action movie star to the Vegan bassist and eventually Gideon, Ramona’s most recent ex and the diabolical mind behind the whole plan.

The plot for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has a lot more than what you see on the surface. Not only does Scott have to change his ideals as he realizes how he has hurt people in the past, but he must also face his own self-doubts. In a giant metaphor for how video games can inhibit real-life growth, Scott must realize that his relationships do not deserve to be treated as a game.

There was no better director for the style of Scott Pilgrim than British filmmaker Edgar Wright. Wright is a surface level director in that he is less concerned about the internal motivations of the characters and more concerned with how their environment is affecting or controlling them. Wright is also a master of quick comic moments and excellent timing. He perfectly balances the action in the foreground with subtle bits in the background with quick attention shifts that are appropriate for the video game generation. One scene that particularly tickled my fancy was one with “Vegan police” where the quick changes in power are perfectly demonstrated with the camera up until the background high-five at the scene’s conclusion. The superb editing and Wright’s ability to achieve pitch-perfect timing from his actors make for some of the funniest moments of the year.

Michael Cera essentially plays himself in the archetypal awkward young adult role that he created. Cera has the ability to fully commit to his own discomfiture which makes him very entertaining to watch. Frequently upstaging Cera was Kieran Culkin who played Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells. Culkin’s sarcasm made for some of the funniest line-readings of the film and revealed excellent comedic timing.

One of the issues I had with the film was that some elements seemed like they were thrown into the narrative only because they were in the graphic novel. Having not read the books I can’t say with any level of expertise, but it seemed that things like Scott’s relationship with his lead singer ex-girlfriend and some of the moments with ex number three were unnecessary subplots thrown in to please fans of the series.

Despite the minor discrepancies Wright’s film will be a treat to re-discover on a second viewing because there is so much going on. After the film is over you’re going to find yourself wanting to reset the high score and start it all over again.

Bottom Line: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does for video games what the Toy Story films do for toys.

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  • Andrew R.

    Yay.

  • Jose

    The film was a blast.

  • Quinn

    I just saw it this morning and I loved it. I agree with you about the ex girlfriend/lead drummer sub-plot, and the whole thing about Scott’s ex-girlfriend, and ex number 3’s current girlfriend, were unnecessary. But it was a ton of fun and the it was very funny. Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Kieran Culkin were great. The visuals were excellent, and the scene where Scott’s band Sex Bob Omb was playing both Ramona’s 6 &7th evil exes in the battle of the bands was so much fun to watch and my mouth was hanging open the whole time.
    A-.

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