Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright; based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Cast: Starring Michael Cera, Ellen Wong, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Satya Bhabha, Bill Hader, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Keito Saito, Shota Seito, and Jason Schwartzman
Length: 1 hour and 52 minutes
Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Description from IMDB:
“Scott Pilgrim must defeat his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes to win her heart.”
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is 22, the bassist of rock band Sex Bomb-Omb, and dating a high schooler; well, 17 year-old Knives Chou (Ellen Wong). He soon meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American hipster chick and goes on a date with her before dumping Knives. At Sex Bob-Omb’s battle of the bands gig, Scott is attacked by Ramona’s first evil-ex, Mathew Patel (Satya Bhabha); after a fist fight that ends with Patel bursting into coins, Ramona explains that if she and Scott are to continue dating, he must defeat her seven evil exes.
The characters in this film are charming, if not entirely good people. The protagonist, Scott, is awkward, goofy, and selfish. Sure, he can be nice, but to a point; he is accosted about past relationships where he dumped girls rather easily and is petrified at the thought of being dumped by Ramona’s. People in the world of this film often say dumb things for comedic effect (one character says that the band they just saw live sounded good, but they sound better live, thereby making fun of the pretension in the music scene). They also don’t seem to think much about video game fights breaking out in their everyday lives; Scott gets into these epic fights and then, once they are over, everyone goes back to normal.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World makes various references to video games and comics. The first few characters introduced in the film come with character stats (i.e. Stacey Pilgrim, younger sister, 18 years-old, Rated T for Teen). The fights between Scott and the evil exes are similar to One v One fighting games where combos are achieved from consecutive hits and the defeated opponent transform into coins. Scott even has a pee bar that depletes when he steps into the bathroom, much like a health or energy bar in a video game. There is also a moment where Scott picks up a pixelated version of his head and says he is “getting a life”, which is an achievement in the video game, but also connects to his decision to tell Ramona how he really feels. The sounds in the film also includes video game voice-overs and narration done by Bill Hader and famous sound effects from the SNES system and Legend of Zelda. It also references its comic origins by using comic book drawings of sounds and onomatopoeia throughout the movie in both fights and dialogue.
Edgar Wright is a director known for his use of foreshadowing through dialogue and visuals. In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, he foreshadows the coming of the evil exes with Knives and Scott walking along a snow path shown from above as a large X. There is also some very impressive editing in a sequence where Scott isn’t paying attention to a conversation and, as it continues, time passes and he turns to suddenly be in another place. There is a lot of detail in the film that can be easily overlooked; each of the exes has their number somewhere on their person or in items associated with them: Scott drinks Coke Zero and has a shirt with ZERO written on it, Matthew Patel has one chevron on his jacket, Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) has a number 2 tattooed on his neck and painted on his car, Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh) wears a shirt with the number 3 on it, Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman) fights Scott in a club called 4, the dragons on the Katayanagi twins (Keita and Shota Saito) synthesizer look like 6’s individually and combine to make a 5, and the pattern on Gideon Graves’s (Jason Schwartzman) tie pin and microchip look like number 7’s that are turned to the side to form the letter G. Wright also makes great use of the music inherent in the story and, with many of the characters performing in bands, he allows the songs throughout the movie to become diegetic sound (sound that is created within the world of the movie so that not only the viewer hears it, like a film score, but the characters as well).
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is among my favorite films for a few reasons; the sense of humor is sarcastic and hits all the right buttons for me, there is a lot of wordplay and I believe it is successful in the way it executes the translation from one medium to another. I have not actually read the graphic novel (and, I admit, wasn’t aware of its existence until the movie was released), so I can’t speak to how the movie works as an adaptation, but I do know that it is one of the best comedically paced films I have ever watched. If you are in the mood for a funny movie that has action, a little romance, and doesn’t require too much of your attention, but pays off if you give it, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a great choice.
Verdict: 5 video game references out of 5
Recommended for: Children 13 and older, fans of music, comic book geeks (in a good way), fans of the graphic novel, those who like Edgar Wright’s movies, people with a silly sense of humor, and the eagle-eyed.
Not recommended for: Children 12 or younger without adult supervision, people who dislike Michael Cera, those without a sense of humor, people who dislike fast dialogue and quick cuts, or people who cringe when they see other people get hit.