Film Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Following the success of 'Shaun Of The Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz', Edgar Wright found his foot in the Hollywood door. When he made it big, it was easy to assume that he would follow the same formula that’s worked so far: more Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, more blood-and-Cornetto Brit-com genre-mockery. His next project came as a shock: an adaptation of an unknown Canadian comic book, inspired by Manga and videogames, about twenty-something year-old geeks struggling with love and life. It was certainly an odd choice, but a good one.

Let’s get one thing clear: 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' will not be a universally-loved classic. It will not be well-received by the majority of the cinema-going public. The reason for this is that it is a niche movie. It is a celebration of all things geek, and is too quirky for an audience expecting a conventional summer flick. The film's mediocre showing at the box office is perhaps an indication of its advertising, which has alienated the mainstream. With that out the way, let’s get talking about marmite.

'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' is a love letter to mid-20/early-30-year-olds, the generation who grew up with videogame arcades, Nintendo and MTV. This is a movie built on retro appeal. Throughout the film, the audience is treated/subjected to a myriad of lovingly-crafted pop-culture references. This is a world where absurdity is something to be proud of, where anything is possible. It is a story about a 20-something year old loser (Michael Cera) who falls in love with a girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but has to defeat her 7 evil exes in order to be with her. It sounds like the premise of a videogame, and it is no coincidence that the film is structured like one. To call it a ‘geek movie’ would be an unfair oversimplification.

The film perfectly merges ‘reality’ with the worlds of videogames and comic books. The visual style is unique: while Zack Snyder’s '300' and 'Watchmen’ were visually spot-on *translations* of their source comics, 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' is literally a moving comic book, complete with split frames and spelled-out onomatopoeias. This is geek comedy vs. 'Street Fighter' vs. Adam West-era 'Batman', a combination that works surprisingly well. Action sequences haven’t felt so fresh since 'Kill Bill', Quentin Tarantino’s own pop-culture cocktail.

It would be very easy to dismiss this film as gimmicky, but the film doesn’t rely on the visual style to hold it up. This is a funny movie, with an endless stream of sharp dialogue delivered by a great cast. Kieran Culkin almost steals the show as Scott’s “cool gay roommate”. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a layered performance as Scott’s love interest, nicely balancing a tough, mysterious side with a sad vulnerability. Michael Cera plays Michael Cera again, but he has expanded his repertoire slightly, convincingly adding depression, anger and optimism to his default awkward insecurity. The editing is particularly impressive, with the occasional sleight of hand demonstrating just how far Wright has come since 'Spaced'.

There are some weaknesses. The film struggles to maintain its momentum, becoming somewhat repetitive towards the end, but finishes before it outstays its welcome. The music, which is a central theme, may not be to everyone's tastes. The film’s biggest ‘flaw’ is that it is so very geek-centric. Pop-culture references and quirks are fun and a great source of humour, but only for those who get it. Non-geeks will most likely find this film one-dimensional and repetitive.

Still, blaming the film for catering to geeks is like blaming Picasso for catering to Cubists. The bottom line is that this is a well-written and stylishly-presented film. Literally POW!-packed and full of WIN, 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' stands to be the most unique film of the decade.

Comments

  1. This review is a little bit too shallow and surfaced based to be a true reflection of Scott Pilgrim vs The World. To say Scott Pilgrim is too geek-centric, and thus flawed for its pop cultural references is too single minded and limiting for what was a well rounded and flawlessly adapted film. You don’t have to be a geek to understand the references in Scott Pilgrim; you just have to be open minded.

  2. I don’t think that the movie holds up well at all. It tries to be a comedy, but it’s not very funny at all. It tries to be an action film, and while it does do some action things well, it’s not great action. It tries to have drama, but the story never really sticks well.
    Part of that is due to Michael Cera, who continues to show no range with his acting ability.
    The plot is not particularly interesting, it has to rely on those grandiose moments when Scott is battling the exes to try and get some cheap “ooohhh’s” and “aaahhhh’s” from the audience.
    The film could have been great if the story were more endearing, but as it stands it will just have to live with its sure to be cult status.

  3. Yeah, Michael Cera is, as always, a terrible choice.

  4. I have to disagree. When Cera brings it, he brings it. Check out Youth Revolt to him at his best. Odd indy flick, but you will see his true abilities shine. He’s much more versatile in Youth Revolt then in any other flick so far.

  5. I didn’t like Youth in Revolt too much, mainly for the same reason Adamwells disliked this movie: It wasn’t funny and it didn’t hold up well. I think that he had a good role, but only one of his roles was really him acting. Himself when he wasn’t Francois was completely him, offset or on.

  6. Ive had this discussions with many of my friends and a few who are not. Yes most are the “geek” that loves to game and the occasional comic, who loved it. It did seem that most who did not fit in those categories would always give me the same anwser. “some parts were funny but overall not my style of humor. I personally enjoyed the love conquers all story, told in a new fun way.

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