Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Movie Information

The Story: A nerdy, somewhat awkward twenty-something must defeat the seven evil exes of his would-be girlfriend. The Lowdown: A hyperactive, super stylized action flick that also works as a surprisingly honest account of the pitfalls of insecurity and romantic entanglements.
Score:

Genre: Hyperactive Romantic Action Comedy
Director: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz)
Starring: Micheal Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman
Rated: PG-13

Film—like any art—is all about scavenging. Everything is a collection of influences, so what you end up with is less about what you pull from and more how you reassemble it. Most of what can be found in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is tethered to other films. The film’s pop-art colors and its fluid, nonlinear movement—both from scene to scene and within individual scenes—is reminiscent of the Wachowski Brothers’ Speed Racer (2008). The video game’s come-to-life aspects and the movie’s energized action would be right at home in the Crank films of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. The way the film tries to look and feel like an actual comic book isn’t too far removed from what Ang Lee toyed with when he made Hulk (2003). It even manages to mix something that’s akin to the Shaw Brothers with a look at modern relationships, yielding a result that falls somewhere between Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy (1997) and Richard Lester’s The Knack…and How to Get It (1965), with a good bit of Brian De Palma’s The Phantom of the Paradise (1974) thrown in for good measure.

But what director Wright is doing here isn’t simply waxing referential and flexing his movie knowledge. No, he’s filtering pop culture through his own aesthetics, creating something completely and singularly his own. The story is taken from the Scott Pilgrim comics of one-time, short-term Asheville resident Bryan Lee O’Malley, which themselves pull inspiration from everything from rock music to manga. While Wright’s captured the spirit of the source, he’s also made a movie that makes the comics look downright quaint and utterly inert in comparison. In Wright’s hands, Scott Pilgrim is a constantly shifting, morphing mix of video games, anime and super-stylized, absurdist entertainment, all with a romantic comedy at its center.

The plot is your basic tale of boy meets girl, though in this case the boy—the titular Scott Pilgrim (Micheal Cera), the 23-year-old bass player for garage rock outfit Sex Bob-omb—sees his relationship with said girl—the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Death Proof)—complicated by the fact that her seven evil exes are out to kill young Scott. This entails Scott facing off against each ex in a video game-style duel to the death—with the loser exploding into a burst of coins. The battles are always over-the-top, since this is a movie which resides in a world where, for instance, vegans are granted psychic superpowers.

The action is not only clever but coherent, too—but in many ways, this is just window dressing. The action works to move the plot along, but there’s more than just uber-kinetic fight scenes going on here. The movie itself presents the best take on modern youth culture of any recent film. You’ll see the overused (to the point of completely eroding what little meaning it had to begin with) term “hipster” thrown about by some, but the movie’s too self-deprecating and self-aware to be mistaken as a sop towards any one group of people. The film in its entirety is refreshingly flippant and casual about the world it inhabits. While it’s certainly mentioned on multiple occasions that Scott’s roommate, Wallace (Kieran Culkin, Lymelife), is gay, it’s not an issue or a problem or a cause of disgust. It’s just who he is. On top of all that, the film itself is a very adept examination of dating and an honest account of the insecurity—by way of immaturity—that crops up in relationships.

Some might be turned off by Michael Cera starring role in the film after his string of one-note performances and awful movies like Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (2009), but don’t be mistaken. The character of Scott Pilgrim is at heart a much more lively, confident character than the mumbling boobs he usually plays. The film itself is the anti-Nick and Nora. Where that film was obviously demographically torqued to the point of stupidity, those shortcomings are replaced here with Wright’s verve and style and pure joy of filmmaking. Could the film have been better without Cera? Who knows? But who else is as tailor-made for the part besides Cera? Plus, it would be a pity to miss a movie that’s this much fun because him. Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references.

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42 thoughts on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

  1. I listened to an interview with Wright where he said he wrote the film as a musical, but with fight scenes in place of songs. Certainly comparisons with HELP! seem appropriate.

    Could the film have been better without Cera? Who knows? But who else is as tailor-made for the part besides Cera?
    I know some people are suffering from Cera fatigue, but I liked him a lot in this picture. Of course, the only other films I’ve seen him in are CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (he has about 98 seconds of screen time) and JUNO.

  2. And I think the film should get points for using a T Rex song that isn’t Bang A Gong (Get It On) or Children of the Revolution. And a Rolling Stones song that isn’t Gimme Shelter.

  3. Justin Souther

    I know some people are suffering from Cera fatigue, but I liked him a lot in this picture. Of course, the only other films I’ve seen him in are CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (he has about 98 seconds of screen time) and JUNO.

    Please, stay away from Paper Heart and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Play List. I think the only reason I don’t mind him now is that I have Cera fatigue fatigue.

    And I think the film should get points for using a T Rex song that isn’t Bang A Gong (Get It On) or Children of the Revolution. And a Rolling Stones song that isn’t Gimme Shelter.

    I felt the same way when they used a Ramones song other than “Blitzkrieg Bop” in Get Him to the Greek. Of course, this is after they insisted on using “London Calling” and “Anarchy in the UK,” so it was a bit of a wash, really.

    I think what I liked about those T. Rex and Stones songs (and apparently a Queen track according to the credits, though I’m not sure where in the movie it’s at) is that while this is a very less British affair than his first two films, he still managed to get some of that sensibility into the film without shoehorning it in there.

  4. Ken Hanke

    And I think the film should get points for using a T Rex song that isn’t “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” or “Children of the Revolution.”

    He’d have gotten more points for “Soul of My Suit” or “Teen Riot Structure.” “Teenage Dream” is okay, though. I usually welcome “Children of the Revolution,” though. (What’s it in besides Moulin Rouge! [and not by T Rex] and Breakfast on Pluto? Is it in Billy Elliott? I can’t remember.) I understand the basic sentiment, though. I probably gave an extra half-star to The Kids Are All Right for using Bowie and not using “Queen Bitch.”

  5. Ken Hanke

    Please, stay away from Paper Heart and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Play List. I think the only reason I don’t mind him now is that I have Cera fatigue fatigue.

    No, no. I think Jeremy should see those so he can understand Cera fatigue.

    and apparently a Queen track according to the credits, though I’m not sure where in the movie it’s at

    I didn’t catch it in the movie and didn’t see the credit, but if it’s not off Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera or A Day at the Races, there’s a fair chance I wouldn’t recognize it.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I couldn’t hear any Queen tunes in the film either and haven’t been able to confirm their appearance online.

    Nor have I. Justin is in the best position to nip into a theater and catch the credits and see what is claimed to be there. Like I said, if it’s not off one of the three named albums, I might have simply missed it. I can’t think of another Queen album I’ve listened to all the way through more than once — and there are some I have never listened to at all.

  7. Me

    Shouldn’t this have been “the pick” of last week since that’s when it came out? I don’t even remember what last weeks pick of the week was.

  8. Me

    The Sex Bob Omb band i thought was actually pretty great too. I knew Beck and some other bands like Broken Social Scene were involved but i didn’t know Nigel Godrich was involved until i saw his names during the opening credits.

  9. Ok movie, but too much like Crank 2 for me. I hate Cera even more now, but Kieran Culkin stole this film from him.

    Awesome soundtrack. There’s also a Beachwood Sparks and post-Gram Burrito Bros. song in there.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Shouldn’t this have been “the pick” of last week since that’s when it came out? I don’t even remember what last weeks pick of the week was.

    Last week’s pick was Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky.

    The situation is hardly unusual for the “pick” to be for a movie that opened the Friday before the issue, since the studios don’t remember Asheville even exists except at Xmas when they’re wanting a SEFCA vote and a top 10 spot. Only the smaller art or indie distributors — the ones that really count on reviews — make sure we get to see most films early enough for the review to hit two days before the film opens. It’s always been this way. This isn’t new.

  11. Ken Hanke

    too much like Crank 2 for me

    See, that strikes me as a plus.

    Kieran Culkin stole this film from him

    Now, there I agree completely.

  12. Dread P. Roberts

    I loved this movie (despite Cera), but I can definitely see where others would be turned off.

    I’ve been sort of curious if Scott Pilgrim was the type of movie that would, generally speaking, only appeal to my twenty-something age group? As always, I’d expect there to be exceptions, but some of the pop-culture reference stuff (especially pertaining to the late ’80s era videogames) would more-than-likely go over some other peoples heads, and might slightly hinder their enjoyment. The subtle references (like the Zelda theme music) was great medicine for my inner geek.

    Kieran Culkin stole this film from him

    To me – although Kieran is great – the film is far more about Edgar Wright’s direction than any one actor. I guess I would say that Wright stole the film from his cast.

    And, yes, I concure that the music was great!

  13. Dread P. Roberts

    See, that strikes me as a plus.

    Oh, I totally agree. More movies need to be like CRANK 2.

    I was a bit befuddled, because it looked, to me as well, like you meant that as a negative.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I’ve been sort of curious if Scott Pilgrim was the type of movie that would, generally speaking, only appeal to my twenty-something age group?

    Well, you know me, and I’m definitely long past 20-anything, and I liked it. I also don’t read comics or play video games. (Say Zelda to me and I think it’s Dobie Gillis’s wanna-be girlfriend, F. Scott’s missus, or the Bonzo Dog Band song “Beautiful Zelda.”)

    I guess I would say that Wright stole the film from his cast.

    Listen to this week’s Elitist Bastards and you’ll find you and Mr. Souther are rather on the same page.

  15. I was a bit befuddled, because it looked, to me as well, like you meant that as a negative.

    I can’t say that I love CRANK 2, but I love the fact that the damn thing got made and put into wide release. Movie goers need more slaps in the face like it.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Movie goers need more slaps in the face like it.

    That’s certainly how the audience I saw it with seemed to take it.

  17. Dread P. Roberts

    Well, you know me, and I’m definitely long past 20-anything, and I liked it.

    I figured that you would appreciate the stylized visual panache, but I wondered if you’d get a little bit burned out on the video games-esque nature of the beast. As Justin noted in his review, “The movie itself presents the best take on modern youth culture of any recent film.” I was merely curious how that aspect sat with other age groups. I’m glad you liked it.

    Listen to this week’s Elitist Bastards and you’ll find you and Mr. Souther are rather on the same page.

    I always try to tune in (eventually), but I gathered that we were on the same page from the review, too. A very well written review by Justin, I might add.

  18. Sean Williams

    he’s also made a movie that makes the comics look downright quaint and utterly inert in comparison.

    I stand by my statement that Scott Pilgrim is the most significant (if not actually the best) American comic of the new millennium. Still, it’s true that it isn’t technically innovative beyond the fact that it displays its Japanese influence so openly. What I really love is its portrayal of youth culture and its surprisingly mature perspective on immature relationships.

    Based on the trailer for the film, I was hoping Wright would take the material and add the missing element: extraordinary style. I’m glad to hear that’s more or less what he’s done.

    Certainly comparisons with HELP! seem appropriate.

    I made the same analogy in another thread for many of the same reasons Mr. Souther states in his review. (I realize that for Some Among Us, comparison to Help! verges on sacrilege.)

    Movie goers need more slaps in the face like it.

    Personally, I think it’s spiritually productive to be shocked and offended on a regular basis.

  19. Me

    I was almost turned off by the get go with the “what do you play?” joke at the beginning, but it grew on me until about the last 30 minutes where i thought it fell a little flat. Besides the obvious creative things he was trying i liked the smaller less subtle things he did, like the studio audience laughter, that almost reminded me of something Godard would have tried back in the day.

    What was with all the Eternal Sunshine references?

  20. Me

    Beachwood Sparks and Gram Parsons were in the film? I didn’t here that at all.

    I thought Beachwood Sparks had broken up, i haven’t heard anything from them in a long time.

  21. Me

    I don’t think Scott Pilgrim is anywhere near being the the most significant (if not actually the best) American comic of the new millennium.

    Im still holding my breath somebody is going to adapt Charles Burn’s Black Hole into a film last i heard Fincher dropped out.

  22. Sean Williams

    I don’t think Scott Pilgrim is anywhere near being the the most significant (if not actually the best) American comic of the new millennium.

    Well, what alternatives do you suggest?

  23. Sean Williams

    Okay, I saw the film this afternoon. Obviously, I’m predisposed to love it, but I found myself wondering whether certain points would be clear to viewers who were unfamiliar with the source material. Wright did an admirable job of compressing six volumes into one film, but he omitted a lot of the connective tissue and background information. Did any of you non-Pilgrimites have difficulty following the plot?

    I’m still deciding exactly how much I love it. I try to judge adaptations in their own terms, but my foreknowledge of the plot distorts my sense of pacing: scenes that were longer in the comics seem to pass too quickly.

  24. Me

    Like i mentioned above i liked Charles Burn’s Black Hole. I’ll read anything Dan Clowes or Chris Ware put out also. I also liked Bottomless Bellbutton, Persepolis, Asterios Polyp, and Blankets.

    Im not really a fan of that type of comic or that type of cartoon artwork or anything resembling anime really.

  25. Ken Hanke

    Wright did an admirable job of compressing six volumes into one film, but he omitted a lot of the connective tissue and background information.

    That’s sort of inevitable, don’t you think?

    Did any of you non-Pilgrimites have difficulty following the plot?

    No, it made perfect sense to me. I think it’s probably similar to watching a single movie out of a complex filmmaker’s oeuvre — you’d get more nuance if you were more familiar with the fellow’s work, but it works just fine on its own level.

    Similarly, I don’t read comics — I have no interest in the form and find it reader-unfriendly — and that posed no problem. I might recognize a Tetris or Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario reference, but the video game stuff posed no problem. I’m clearly way the hell too old for the film from a generational standpoint, and while there are things about the current crop of 20-somethings that absolutely mystify me, the basic dynamics of human interaction don’t change as much as each generation would like to believe.

  26. Sean Williams

    I also liked Bottomless Bellbutton, Persepolis, Asterios Polyp, and Blankets.

    All of those comics are worthy of note, especially Asterios Polyp, which is perhaps the most formally inventive graphic novel of the decade. And I, like you, tend to avoid imitation manga — although I do like genuine manga.

    While I concede that Ware and Clowes are significant, I think they’re significant to a very specific social set — just as DeLillo is the most significant novelist of the ’80s…but only if one defines the ’80s exclusively in terms of middle-class insecurities.

    Of course, Scott Pilgrim also deals with a very specific social set, but I think its human dilemmas are more universally appealing than Clowes’ and Ware’s complaints about the loneliness of the postmodern condition. I admit that this distinction may come down to the fact that I find Clowes and Ware too self-important.

    In any case, I think Scott Pilgrim is the best representation of its generation, which has to count for something. Too many modern comics — even comics that are better than Scott Pilgrim — are pastiches of or responses to earlier genres. As determinedly as Clowes and Ware present themselves as pioneers of the medium, I think they spend more time trying to distinguish their work from mainstream comics than they do trying to be good.

  27. Sean Williams

    That’s sort of inevitable, don’t you think?

    Of course, and it didn’t bother me in the slightest — I was just wondering if it presented a challenge to the uninitiated (which is, I realize, an extraordinarily pretentious way of referring to people who do not read Scott Pilgrim).

    I think the material just works that way. The first volume of the comic is a fairly conventional romcom right up to the final chapter with Matthew Patel. And then suddenly everyone has superpowers, which is never explained. I kind of like that.

    I have no interest in the form and find it reader-unfriendly

    Someday, I will find a comic you like. I have an inkling that you would enjoy Asterios Polyp, which Me mentions above and is my favorite comic of the year.

    the basic dynamics of human interaction don’t change as much as each generation would like to believe.

    Actually, that’s part of the reason I love Scott Pilgrim: it’s something new and something old. It recognizes the limitations of its youthful perspective. And under the hyperactivity, it’s all about love.

  28. Ken Hanke

    Someday, I will find a comic you like. I have an inkling that you would enjoy Asterios Polyp, which Me mentions above and is my favorite comic of the year

    Maybe you can do it, but understand it’s not the content I necessarily object to, it’s the form itself. I find them incredibly slow going because I can either read them or I can look at them, but — unlike a movie where the elements can be combined into a single whole — I can’t do both at the same time. I find that tedious and very counterproductive to involvement in the story.

  29. Me

    What about Black Hole Sean? If you haven’t read it you should check it out.

    Im with Ken in that i have no interest in video games whatsoever and i find it weird that people my age still obsessively play them. I am glad that at least some of the video game references in the film were at least from my generation of video games.

  30. Me

    Besides the Eternal Sunshine references i thought there were a couple scenes that reminded me of Billy Liar.

  31. Pepi Acebo

    This film exceeded my expectations and just works. Worth full price. I think I’ll see it twice.

  32. Me

    Another great comic that incorporates video games maybe even better than Scott Pilgrim is Ganges #2.

  33. Ken Hanke

    For those who want to see this — or see it more than once — it should be noticed that it’s been cut to one show a day at The Carolina and two shows a day at the Regal (expect it to be gone on Fri or even Wed, since The American is a Wed opener). Cinebarre and Epic have dropped it altogether. Beaucatcher is the only theater with a full set of shows.

  34. Piffy!

    dam.

    and here i was thinking this movie would suck.

    now im gonna have to watch it for more than just the appeal of the chick with colored hair.

  35. It’s a shame that this film seems to be under-performing. It’s a fine piece of work and I’ve yet to encounter a person who didn’t care for it.

  36. brebro

    “But who else is as tailor-made for the part besides Cera?”

    How about Jesse Eisenberg? I was halfway through “Zombieland” before I realized he wasn’t Michael Cera.

  37. Ken Hanke

    How about Jesse Eisenberg? I was halfway through “Zombieland” before I realized he wasn’t Michael Cera.

    If memory serves, Eisenberg has a chin.

  38. Dread P. Roberts

    How about Jesse Eisenberg?

    That’s a great choice! I’ll take him any day over Cera.

  39. brebro

    The only Queen album I don’t have is that soundtrack to the Flash Gordon movie. So the song must have been that “Flash! Ah-ahh!” title song from it.

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