The most basic comic book movies prominent today come from the likes of Marvel and DC, but Edgar Wright bests all of them with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But for as much as I love Edgar Wright, I’ve always underrated this film since the first day considering I merely came in as a prominent Nintendo gamer and of course in theaters I caught onto the numerous video game references ranging from The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., and Final Fantasy, but even then, it only came perfectly clear to me I still didn’t “get” what the film was saying. But over the years and a journey through Edgar Wright’s body of work, everything had come clear to me about why Scott Pilgrim vs. the World works as perfectly well as it does and it may also be Edgar Wright’s finest film as a director as of yet. For as wonderful as the Cornetto trilogy may be, this one tops the rest in an instant.
Michael Cera stars as Scott Pilgrim, the 22-year-old bass guitarist for Sex Bob-omb. He is in a relationship with Knives Chau, a much younger girl – which leaves him and his friends in a state of unhappiness. It isn’t long enough before he meets Ramona Flowers, a delivery girl from Amazon.ca, although winning her heart won’t be as easy as simple chatting like friends would but rather instead he has to fight against her seven evil ex-boyfriends. It would be easy to think about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as a different sort of a romantic comedy, almost a distorted version one at that – like it seeks to reach out to a “nerdy” demographic. But it’s not as simple as adapting Brian Lee O’Malley’s original comic series for the screen, but Edgar Wright uses the established storytelling in order to make his own vision shine its brightest, and given the style of the source material – Wright manages to serve something all the more clever under his sleeve.
On the surface, it follows a pathos of an exaggeratedly clichéd romantic comedy, with a sleazy male lead in the form of Scott Pilgrim, and with a female as the object of desire. But Edgar Wright seems to be so aware of how these aspects are damaging to one’s character and never seems to glorify what they do to a person. Rather instead he seems to use the sort of culture that a stereotype has been ingrained within, whether it be from the video game aesthetic, tropes, and references coming in, allowing for a distinct appeal towards a niche – only to go ahead and distort what they know they can recognize. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is built upon how well it seems to be a part of a masculine nerd culture to that point it ends up making fun of expectations in the process, even from the basic plotting and character details. Scott Pilgrim is a possessive figure, but as we see his own image of the girl of his dreams in Ramona Flowers comes into his life, it takes something as crazy as the League of Evil Exes to help him learn about this damage.
The film’s aesthetic, bordering on comic book-style actions with video game sound effects is one thing set to grab any viewer, because they are among the most exciting elements presented by the film. Right here is another expectation it seems that Edgar Wright is playing around with, considering the fact that comic book movies have pervaded the screen in years to come, now beating down to one’s head that they are watching something that came from a comic book. When watching an action sequence take place, what could be seen is that you are watching something so funny or so exciting, even a blend of both, because whenever they come about they just explode with the most energy that can come out from the film. It also helps that with the distinctive editing style, there comes a spotlight for Edgar Wright’s own sense of visual humour but the delivery, whether it be from Cera or any of the Evil Exes themselves (Mae Whitman and Jason Schwartzman being the funniest of the bunch) is so perfect, making the film a breezy watch.
Regardless of what one makes of Scott Pilgrim himself, Michael Cera’s performance only makes everything all the more entertaining. Scott is never a particularly easy character to root for but it’s a part of the point that Edgar Wright wishes to get across in here, because he lives a life filled with deceit to that point he has been left only with bad choices to be made one after another. But it’s the growth from what Scott Pilgrim has become that ultimately makes the film all the more wonderful, because the Evil Exes have only come in the way to serve as a lesson for his own self-confidence, highlighted by the set pieces which surround oneself inside an environment of guilt. For some a scene where the famous “Fairy Fountain” theme from any of the Zelda games shows the most avid video gamer a love for Nintendo, but in the context of Wright’s work it signifies a change in character. Wright’s style is a different sort of experiment with the storytelling at play for it seems evidently bored by the straightforwardness of a pathos we can recognize, it just condemns it all through a figure like Pilgrim.
I’m shocked that I didn’t even get what Scott Pilgrim vs. the World had aimed for when I first saw it, but over time it’s come to hit me as Edgar Wright’s best work. It seems to be appealing to a certain niche but at the same time condemns a certain familiarity that they have embraced themselves within because of the general public’s perception, and just goes off the walls as it pleases. It’s not anything especially unexpected of a filmmaker like Edgar Wright, but it goes to show how he has established a name for himself as one of the most creative minds working today. It’s funny, but touching, if also a heaven for video gamers because of the constant calls back to Nintendo and the Final Fantasy series among many others, because it’s a comic book movie that seems tired of all the rest that flood the screens – it flaunts as much as it possibly can on the go. But at the same time, I feel in the mood to get back into my gaming years because I knew those times have helped in my enjoyment of this film by a tad. Nevertheless, the freshness always hits me with each new viewing and solidified it as Edgar Wright at his funniest, most heartfelt, and his best as of yet.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Edgar Wright
Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Michael Bacall, from the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by Brian Lee O’Malley
Produced by Eric Gitter, Nira Park, Marc Platt, Edgar Wright
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Ellen Wong, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Mae Whitman
Release Year: 2010
Running Time: 112 minutes