I won’t lie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was practically made for this site. It’s a film adaptation of a video game inspired comic book that is not only set in Toronto, but was filmed here too. We cut our teeth covering various aspects of the film’s casting and production. So—despite the fact I’ve only read the first three volumes of the graphic novel—to say that I’ve been looking forward to the film would be an understatement. Which is why I’m so glad that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a film that is everything it promised to be and more. Not only is it a stellar adaptation of the beloved graphic novel series, but it’s also an endearing love story that just happens to be one of the best video game movies ever made.
Spoilers to follow.
I hear a lot of people saying that no one over thirty will “get” Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. They say that the movie is simply too frantic and too fast paced; chock-full of references that only the cartridge generation will understand. Yes, the film has an incredibly frenetic pace, and yes, it is full of winks and nods to people who grew up playing video games, but that’s not what Scott Pilgrim is about. At its heart it is a coming of age film, something that anyone can relate to. Telekinetic bass battles and kung fu sword fights aside, Scott Pilgrim is a very sweet movie about a dorky guy who just has no luck in love. Scott has to do a lot of growing up—and beating up—before he can truly win at life’s real battles.
If you’ve read this site regularly then you probably have at least a vague awareness of the plot. If not, welcome. Here’s what you need to know: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a “between jobs” twenty something living in Toronto. He’s in a band and is kind of dating a girl in high school named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), but it isn’t really going anywhere. One night at a house party Scott meets the girl of his dreams (literally): Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American girl new to the city. After some hilarious scheming, Scott eventually convinces Ramona to go out with him, but soon discovers that she has a little bit of baggage from her previous relationships. And by a little I mean a lot. It turns out Ramona has seven evil exes who really have it in for Scott Pilgrim, and in order to continue dating her, he must defeat them all.
Of all the dorky-slacker types Michael Cera has played, this was the one he was born to play. This was the first Cera film I’ve seen where it felt like he wasn’t playing himself. It’s a version of himself, but the kid from Superbad wasn’t Canadian and didn’t know kung fu. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the perfect Ramona Flowers; a bit snide, a bit aloof, but ultimately a sweet girl. Kieran Culkin almost steals the show as Scott’s roommate Wallace Wells. His one liners are a welcome breath when the action or drama ramp up. Of the seven evil exes the standouts were Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Evans plays the douchey movie star part a little too well and goes out with a hilarious bang. Schwartzman’s Graves is a great foil for Scott Pilgrim, though it is odd to see him playing a bad guy for once and not the dorky underdog.
Director Edgar Wright has skillfully adapted Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels with stunning economy. He took six books worth of material, trimmed the fat and turned it into a rollicking, non-stop two hour film that doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything. Bringing O’Malley on board to consult certainly helped this cause; The film remains as true to the source material as you could possibly hope, but with that awesome Wright flair we’ve come to expect. Part of the reason the film works so well are the fluid scene transitions and quick editing. It does take some getting used to, but the brisk pace the film moves at will have your eyes glued to the screen. You’ll feel like you’re racing through the pages of a comic book.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the best video game movie ever made. The film, like the graphic novel, applies the tropes of video games to suit the story. From the 16-bit Universal Pictures intro before the film to the 8-bit sound effects and music that dot soundscape, people who grew up playing video games will instantly clue in. Defeated foes drop coins (toonies and loonies to be exact), Scott levels up as he develops through the film, and every confrontation with an evil ex is a boss battle of epic proportions. The film is one part homage to the medium and another part love letter to the gamers of the world.
If you like video games, comic books and kung fu you’ll probably get a lot out of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Even if you don’t like those things, it’s likely that you’ll be able to take something away from the film. Under all the flash and the humour, the core of the story is a question we can all relate to: How far would you go for love? The real moral of the film is that you can battle all the ninjas you want and scale the highest pixelated mountains, but at the end of the day, if you’re not willing to change and grow as a person, you are doomed to be alone.