Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
by Jason Coffman
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Edgar Wright’s two feature films with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost— Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz— were hugely enjoyable tweaks on established genres. Their charms earned Wright and his collaborators legions of fans, but despite the lengthy gun battle that closes Hot Fuzz, Wright’s films could hardly be considered “flashy.” With the release of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, however, that goes out the window— like the similarly overlooked Speed Racer, Scott Pilgrim delivers non-stop eye candy of the highest order. Oh, and it’s pretty funny, too.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is cruising along in mourning over a big break-up that happened over a year before we meet him. At the start of the film, Scott has started dating Asian Catholic schoolgirl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) in order to further put off dealing with a real relationship. Soon after meeting Knives, Scott has a dream about mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) that turns out to be not quite a dream— Scott has a “subspace bypass” in his head that Ramona uses to shave time off her delivery routes.
Scott’s decision to pursue Ramona comes with a challenge: in order to be with her, Scott must first defeat Ramona’s seven Evil Exes. Suddenly, self-centered Mr. Pilgrim finds himself trying to juggle Ramona, the League of Evil Exes, and a rapidly-advancing Battle of the Bands that may catapult his awful band Sex Bob-Omb to untold success. But is Scott willing to grow up and accept responsibility for his own selfishness, or is he just another Evil Ex waiting to happen?
The world of Scott Pilgrim is one unlike quite any other: at first, it seems more or less normal, but then we see visible sound effects (the “D” of the bass guitar is one of my favorites), the “subspace bypass” is introduced, and no one seems to be all that impressed or even particularly surprised by the fact that Scott and his opponents all are able to fight with videogame character levels of proficiency seemingly out of nowhere. The most ridiculous plot points are conveyed as completely matter-of-fact: when one of Ramona’s Evil Exes uses telekinetic powers to throw Scott through a wall, his girlfriend simply explains that “Todd’s vegan.” The rapid-fire dialogue and constant stream of pop culture and video game references are enough to keep the film moving forward at an exhausting pace.
Still, while it’s exhausting it’s also undeniably exhilarating. There’s never been a film that so completely incorporates the aesthetics and trappings of videogames into its narrative, making Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World simultaneously one of the best graphic novel adaptations to date as well as one of the best “videogame movies” yet. Edgar Wright uses every trick in the book and then appends several chapters of his own to bring Scott Pilgrim to vibrant, eye-popping life; fortunately, he’s just as good at managing the relationships between characters. The acting is great across the board, especially Ellen Wong as lovesick Knives and Michael Cera as a protagonist who falls very short of being completely likeable. The supporting cast is also amazing, most notably Kieran Culkin as Scott’s roommate (and voice of reason) Wallace.
Attempting to describe Scott Pilgrim vs. the World exhausts my superlatives. It’s a breathless, brilliant ride through a unique cinematic world. I can’t recommend it enough.
Universal Studios releases Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on DVD and Blu-ray disc Tuesday, November 9th. Special features include four feature-length commentaries, deleted and alternate scenes (with optional commentary), several still galleries (fake movie posters, graphic novel to film comparison, and many more), an on-screen trivia track, and a completely insane amount of Blu-ray exclusive content that will make you very sad if you only have a DVD player.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org.
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