Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a 2010 American action comedy film directed by Edgar Wright of (Spaced, Shuan of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame) based on the comic book series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Interestingly, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was planned as a film after the first issue of the comic was released!
The film follows the precious little life of Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera). Scott is a bass guitarist for the band "Sex Bob-omb," who dates a Chinese catholic high-school girl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and lives (and sleeps) with his gay housemate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). Scott eventually literally meets the girl of his dreams, a mysterious American called Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). To date her however, Scott must defeat the League of Evil Exes, 7 of Ramona's Evil Ex boyfriends who are hell bent on destroying all that is Scott Pilgrim. Whackiness does indeed ensue.
As a director, Edgar Wright makes all of the right decisions in regards to this film: Edgar hired Mr Brad Allan, the wushu expert who has worked with Jacki Chan in countless movies, and Bill Pope, the cinematographer of the Matrix trilogy was brought on board. The soundtrack includes music from Beck, Canadian bands Metric and Broken Social Scene, Nigel Godrich (who is a producing collaborator of Radioheand and Beck), and two members of Supergrass who recorded a Legend of Zelda theme. Several sound effects were sampled from retro 8-bit titles like Sonic and the Legend of Zelda to give it the most authentic flavour possible and techniques such as switching aspect ratio’s were used to mimic the look of in-game cut-scenes.
As with Shuan of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this script is well constructed; the first part serves the audience metaphors of what is to follow in Scott’s subjective ‘reality’. For example, there is a great scene where we see Scott and Knives at an amusement centre. Without giving too much away, a lot of information in regards to Scott’s subjective outlook on his own life is weaved into this scene both visually and through the dialogue, setting up more surreal / hallucinatory sequences for later.
A lot of trouble has gone to marketing the film to both Gen Y ‘hipsters and Gen X gamers. It is interesting to note that Scott does not use a mobile phone, plays coin-operated arcade games in arcade stations and is pretty much computer illiterate. The technology on show is either the use of a pay phone, an old beige computer and several old Nintendo consoles littered around his sorry; Wallace’s) apartment. However, one can’t help but feel that the film is a very expensive marketing exercise that ultimately targets a very specific audience: males currently in their early 20’s.
The film tries to hard to be hip and cool, or perhaps this is what the current hipster culture is all about, it certainly was with Gen X…or like, whatever.
Thankfully, in regards to this, the film has a lot of self-referential observations of how ridiculous it all is, from bystanders of Scott’s ‘world’, i.e. – Scott’s friends namely his older sister and his roommate Wallace, played brilliantly by Kieran Culkin.
The special effects are amazing and cannot be flawed. It is such a shame to see Brandon Routh play a superhero role which is shot in a way that you wished his performance in Superman Returns was.
It is interesting to note that this movie has bob-ombed at the box office. This may not be all that surprising as the film is a dangerously niche, quirky comedy. It will be interesting to see if it dates quickly. It is a tremendous indulgence and it is amazing that such a film was made on such a budget in the first place. It seems that lessons were not learned from Speed Racer; a film which audience’s did not know what to make of amongst the tremendous amount of CG which created a digital divide between the audience and film: ie - is it a cartoon? Is it supposed to be taken seriously? Or perhaps falut can be found simply in the marketing strategy of the film: if you think you are walking into a hip-cool counter-culture movie a la Empire Records, Dazed and Confused or Clerks you might be disappointed. You will definitely be surprised!
Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a surreal, hallucinogenic kung-fu rock-musical peppered with retro-video game and other pop-culture that Scott has been raised in. All of this serves Scott’s perspective of his world and his role in it. As Randel in Clerks, and Holden in Chasing Amy, Scott must confront his feelings of inadequacy in relation to his current crushe’s romantic past, all the while facing the end of his adolescent reality as he knows it. In fact, this film would have been Kevin Smith’s opus if hehad been, like, bothered to make it…..pfft……
This type of money, expertise and the serious nature in which the film has been constructed makes one think of all the missed opportunities in regard to other comic-book-titles (The Batman film series, Superman Returns and a possible Ultimate Spiderman).
For all Gen X grouchiness aside for a minute, one can empathise with this world viewed from the self-interested mind’s eye of its protagonist: when one is young, everything is played for high-stakes and you are the immortal rock-star of your own life (such a metaphor was used successfully in The Lost Boys).
Special effects aside, Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a study of growing up: waking up to the world around you, coming to terms with a serious relationship, confronting sexual jealously and planning on leaving all childish things behind to venture off vulnerably into the great unknown, strengthened by the one that you love.
Ultimately, I was not the audience for this, so I felt like I was babysitting for 2 hours and was slightly angry that I could not join in on the fun (a bit like watching The Goonies again. Trust me; the experience has changed). 10 – 15 years ago I would have loved it. It would have been perfect if it was made in 1985 and starred Michael J Fox!
That being said, if you are already a fan of Scott Pilgrim, coin-op or console video-games (now labeled as, sigh, ‘retro), romance Manga comic-books, kung-fu, rock’n’roll and Michael Cera, you will undoubtedly love this little-big film.
3.5 evil Ex-Boyfriends out of 5
Check out the film at IMDB, and check out the trailer..
Luke McWilliams August 2010