Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — 2010 — dir. Edgar Wright
Many films set out to teach viewers about different aspects of life, whether it’s facts they don’t know, people they’ve never seen, or situations they haven’t been exposed to. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World instills viewers with life lessons they never thought they’d need to know, and asks important questions such as, “Do you know this one girl with hair like this?” Another handy tip the film offers is something everyone can relate to—how to go about defeating the seven evil exes of the girl you love.
Beginning with an 8-bit version of the Universal Studios logo, Edgar Wright’s latest film immediately launches its viewers into a story filled with so much color, dialogue, captions, and accessories that it’s hard to catch everything on the first viewing. Many scenes in Scott Pilgrim appear as if they’re ripped directly from the pages of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series of the same name. The film’s characters are just as colorful and unique as the settings they traipse through. Our main character is Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera), a 22-year-old who is dating a girl in high school, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). After being given a hard time about this predicament, Scott ends up meeting the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who sports at least three different hair colors for the role), in a dream, ironically enough. Despite the numerous warnings about dating Ramona, Scott quickly becomes enamored with her and after a failed attempt at wooing her with a line about the origins of Pac-Man the two eventually begin dating.
Between courting Ramona, breaking up with Knives, and practicing with his band, Sex Bob-omb, for the Toronto International Battle of the Bands, Scott begins to get into seemingly random fights until he realizes that Ramona is plagued by a league of seven evil exes, put together by her most recent ex, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). In order to date her, Scott has to defeat her seven evil exes.
That’s where it starts to get weird.
Ramona’s exes each have their own distinct powers and strengths—there’s a self-absorbed actor that Scott’s roommate, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin, who effortlessly steals every scene he’s in) has a crush on, a vegan with psychic powers who partakes in a bass battle with Scott, and an independent record executive who holds the fate of Scott’s band in the palm of his hand. As an added bonus for Arrested Development fans, there’s a small reunion between Cera and Mae Whitman, who played Ann on the late sitcom and has the role of Ramona’s fourth evil ex, Roxy Richter, in the film.
There’s no other way to put it—Scott Pilgrim is ridiculously fun to watch. Wright’s imagination and attention to detail is perfect; he adds so much to each already high-energy scene, making the movie the closest you can get to O’Malley’s original story without picking up the graphic novel. It’s an interactive experience and is laden with pop culture Easter eggs; the Seinfeld theme makes an appearance along with various video game songs and different aspects of video game and comic book culture. Life meters and one-ups are scattered throughout the scenes and the characters are able to grab them at their leisure, similar to how a video game character would. The fight scenes are highly stylized and fantastical eye candy; when I saw this film for the first time, the whole theater cheered and applauded after each one. One of the trademarks of comic books is that they write noises like “Pow,” “Bang,” and “Whump,” based on whatever’s happening in the panels. This technique is used constantly throughout Scott Pilgrim as well, which adds to the hypnotizing effect of not being able to look away from the screen for fear of missing something. My personal favorite touch, however, has to be the fact that whenever a villain is defeated, they disintegrate into coins that Scott can collect.
The film is also refreshingly self-aware. A character in the background of a scene is heard saying that the comic book is better than the movie; it’s not known for sure that he’s referring to the film he’s in, but it’s a pretty safe bet. In order to avoid an R-rating, Wright made the stylistic decision to include a black censor bar over the mouth of a character named Julie Powers (Aubrey Plaza) every time she swore. It’s funny enough to see the bar alone, but an extra laugh is added with Scott’s question: “How are you doing that with your mouth?” Another nice touch to add to the interactive experience of the film is that whenever Scott covers his eyes, the camera is covered, too, so that the audience is in the dark just as much as Scott.
There are many more quirks and inside jokes strewn throughout the story, which holds its own very well among all the action and special effects. It’s hard to know for sure what different people will take away from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but in a world where the nicest thing a guy can do for a girl is punch a hole in the moon for her (or defeat her seven evil exes), it’s bound to be something entertaining.