When you see that the filmmakers have manipulated the Universal Pictures logo to make it look like it is coming from some old school Atari or Nintendo game in addition to scoring the fanfare with that prehistoric techno music, you know you are in for a creatively exciting ride! I always get a kick out of when directors mess around with those movie studio logos we see at the beginning of every motion picture. It’s an immediate sign of those making clear that they are out to make something different and have no interest in running through the same crap of every other movie Hollywood pumps out dispassionately. Perhaps if audiences embraced movies like this more often, then we wouldn’t have to deal with this unending plethora of remakes!
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is without a doubt the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a theater this year, let alone the 2010 summer movie season. It’s another inspired masterpiece from director Edgar Wright who has previously given us the giddy cult classics that were Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. His talent for making endlessly entertaining movies can no longer be held in doubt, assuming that it ever was. Based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, it’s really an ode to all things video games and a collage of the visual audio effects from them that are combined with a story featuring characters that are anything but boring. It’s beautifully shot, perfectly cast, very well written, and extremely well directed! In case you are wondering, yes, I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS MOVIE!!!
The Scott Pilgrim of the movie’s title is a 22 year old man child who plays bass guitar with his friends for the rock band Sex Bob-omb. Finally rebounding from a devastatingly painful break up which occurred a year ago, he has started dating a 17-year old girl named Knives who is still in high school. His friends, including his gay roommate Wallace, tell him ever so bluntly that he has lost his mind and assume that Scott is trying to rebound with someone they consider to be his “fake girlfriend.” But then he gets a glimpse of the new girl in town, the mysterious and raven haired Ramona Flowers, and he is hopelessly smitten on sight and becomes obsessed in asking her out on a date.
But there is a catch; if Scott is going to date Ramona, he may (as if he really has a choice) have to defeat her seven evil exes. Indeed, Scott does get an email warning him of this, but he ends up deleting it quickly after declaring it as “boring.” As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, big mistake! When Scott and his friends perform at a battle of the bands competition, he is suddenly met by the first evil ex of the bunch, Matthew Patel. The exes include those with mystical powers, a former skateboarder who has since become an actor (not a very good one at that), and another bass player who has developed telekinetic powers thanks to his Vegan diet. Let the battle begin!
Basically, the movie treats Scott’s life as though it were one old school game with dated graphics, and we watch him take on each ex (note, not all of them are men) as if he were in a real life Mortal Kombat tournament but without all the blood and guts. That’s the thing; there is no real gore to be found here as was the case in Edgar Wright’s previous two films. I bring that up in part because I gave my sister in law the DVD for Hot Fuzz, and she was a bit horrified at the sight of Timothy Dalton’s face being impaled on a tiny replica of the Big Ben tower.
Scott defends himself pretty well, but he also ends up being dealt a harsh beating without suffering any broken bones. It sounds cool when you think you can take a lickin’ with out a shattered collarbone or worst, but he does feel pain, so the side effect of taking on those people who were at another time equally enamored by Ramona is unfortunately unavoidable. In defeating the exes, he will capture Ramona’s heart and become the first boyfriend of hers who is far from evil. He will also end up inheriting a boatload of coins after delivering the final blow. It sucks that he has no time to collect the coins or have some big gym bag to hold them all. The amount spilled would have set him up in the local video arcade for life!
What I loved about this movie is that it is so endlessly inventive in the visuals and scenarios it comes up with, and it integrates all these images from video games deeply engraved in our minds to make us feel like a kid again. There is one shot in particular that defies easy description, but it had me laughing harder than anything else I have seen recently to the point where I got seriously light headed. I’m pretty sure you’ll know it when you see it. There have not been quite as many movies released this past summer that are as cheerfully creative as this one, and it almost makes me wish that Edgar Wright would release a movie every other week.
Now the pitfall of having such great visuals in this movie is that other elements like acting and the screenplay might fail to get the same delicate attention. But Edgar Wright has written a script containing characters that, while flawed here and there, we all come to care about deeply. Unlike all those characters from those Pac Man or Super Mario Brothers which we played at home or (in my case) at your friend’s house, these are not just a bunch of one-dimensional beings with one simple goal in mind. Scott doesn’t just have to defeat the league of evil exes, he also has to develop a strong self respect before he can movie on with his life in Canada.
Leading the cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is Michael Cera, and he gives his best performance to date here. I know there’s that big backlash going on right now because like a lot of other actors out there, Cera has been seemingly stuck in playing the same type of character; an awkward young man who isn’t sure how to feel or act about anything due to a deep fear of embarrassment. But Scott Pilgrim is not really the same sort of person Cera has been portraying. Sure there is a good dose of awkwardness when we first see him talking to Ramona, but he’s about to give up on Romana and will see that through to end.
It’s also important to note that Scott Pilgrim is not always a likable character. At times he is caught red-handed in bring very dishonest with his friends, and he doesn’t always take their feelings into consideration. The major triumph of Michael Cera’s performance is that he still makes you root for Pilgrim in spite of some of his actions, he is a very well meaning guy, just like his characters from Superbad and Juno. Right now, I’d say that Cera will still be around for quite a bit.
Playing the beautiful Ramona is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and I can’t think of another actress who has looked so incredibly gorgeous with hair dyed a highly unnatural color. Winstead previously appeared as John McClane’s daughter Lucy who proved to be just as tough as her dad in Live Free or Die Hard, and she showed off a fantastic set of vocal pipes in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (one of the two movies in Grindhouse). She makes Ramona look tough and intimidating on the outside, but she also allows us to see the wounded person underneath that cold defensive exterior of hers. You might think that Ramona is just going to tease Scott Pilgrim and make him feel like crap, and that’s probably from just looking at her. Ramona may look mean, but she is a wounded soul. Then again, who wouldn’t be after having endured seven failed relationships?
But there is a dynamic scene stealer to be found in this movie, and that is Kieran Culkin who plays Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells. Shamelessly stealing men from Scott’s little sister while texting gossip on his phone like it were second nature, Kieran gets to bring that same biting wit of his which he used to great effect in Igby Goes Down. It somehow feels like it has been far too long since Kieran had a role like this one. Let’s hope he gets another like it again really soon.
As for the exes themselves, each actor imbues their characters with the specific traits and powers they come equipped with, and they succeed in making each one totally unique from the other. Brandon Routh gets to really let loose here in a way he never got to in Superman Returns as Todd Ingram, the Vegan ex with telekinetic powers. Witnessing his expected demise brings one of the funniest moments as Scott finds this rival bass player’s kryptonite. Jason Schwartzman is also excellent as a slick theater manager who uses his charms around everyone, including Pilgrim and his greedy friends. Schwartzman is a slimy delight in the role throughout, a record company exec who earns your trust and the breaks it when you’re not watching.
What else is there to say about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Plenty! I also want to point out that the director of photography on this splendid picture was Bill Pope, the same man who did wonders for many of Sam Raimi’s films as well as The Matrix trilogy. His style perfectly matches up with Edgar Wright’s sensibility, and the way he sets up certain shots in the film is amazingly brilliant. Furthermore, I have to applaud artists like Beck and Nigel Godrich among others for giving Scott’s band Sex Bob-Omb some kick ass music for them to play. In movies like this, I expect the bands to get stuck with some lame ass music that is geared more to sell a soundtrack than fit in with the overall story. That’s not the case here thank goodness.
You also have more inspired turns from actors like Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air) as Scott’s sister Stacey, Alison Pine whose character of Kim Pine shows a bitter and stony expression, and Aubrey Plaza whose heavy stares and sarcastic state of mind as Julie Powers is a sight to behold.
Seriously, see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World! See it now!! It doesn’t matter if you didn’t grow up playing Atari or Nintendo games or if you are currently without a Playstation or X-Box in your home. It also doesn’t matter if you can’t stand Michael Cera. The movie was advertised with a young audience in mind, but anyone looking for a really fun time is certain to get a kick out of what Edgar Wright has brought us. Don’t let it’s disappointing box office open of $10 million (a lot of money in other circles) give you reason to avoid it (or for Universal Pictures to give up promoting it). Along with Inceptionand Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World demands to be seen in a movie house on the big screen with a large audience. You can wait for Eat, Pray, Love to come out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Julia Roberts isn’t going anywhere!
Loved this movie I did!
**** out of ****