film review: scott pilgrim vs. the world
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a veritable pop-culture explosion. With more references and allusions than Goombas in a game of Super Mario, this nerd-fest flick brings together comic-book culture, video-game visuals and indie-rock music.
Based on the series of graphic novels by the same name, written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the film introduces us to slacker Scott (Michael Cera), a garage-band guitarist with a heart of gold. Sure, he’s settled for abstinence and started dating seventeen-year-old Knives (Ellen Wong) since the event of his evil-ex, but he’s happy with mere handholding – until, that is, he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Ramona’s two most significant personality traits seem to be (a) that she changes her hair colour every other week (this is how the audience knows her character is spontaneous and alternative), and (b) that she has seven evil exes. Which is problematic for reasons aside from emotional baggage, because her exes have come together to form The League of Evil Exes, and Scott must defeat them in battle to win Ramona’s heart. What ensues is a hyperactive, hyper-coloured, kick-ass karate-driven series of action sequences, with some slick script-writing in-between.
Cera turns in a solid performance as a slightly less awkward guy than the kind of awkward guy he usually plays. Winstead also works well with the material she is given. The real stars, however, are the supporting cast. Kieran Culkin is scene-stealing as Scott’s housemate Wallace, and Anna Kendrick continues to prove her sense of comedic timing as Scott’s sister Stacey.
Scott Pilgrim exists in a kind of hyper-reality, not reality. The surreal and the psychedelic are never explained; but then, nor is the strangeness of the human heart. This film explores the real emotions of the characters, through the unreality of their situations. Scott must literally fight the memories of his new dream-girl’s past dalliances; self-respect is literally a sword that comes from within.
Interestingly, then – for a film so concerned with depicting the battlefield of love in all its beautiful, unbearable, larger-than-life glory – is that Scott Pilgrim falls a little flat in its emotional range. Ramona Flowers is initially shown to be mysterious and detached – which is fine, except that her character never develops beyond this. While her character is based on a cartoon, such two-dimensionality is still disappointing. As such, the relationship between Ramona and Scott is somewhat difficult to believe. One might wonder why he’d keep seeing the girl after the third date, let alone defeat seven evil exes to be with her.
That said, what this film lacks in romantic heart, it makes up for with the heart of its title character. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is ultimately a film about Scott Pilgrim overcoming – not just the adversities presented to him in his love life – but every other insecurity in the world getting him down. It’s a life-affirming blend of live-action and comic-book conventions.
This film is both genuinely amusing and outrageously fun. Someone give director Edgar Wright a gold star. The Super Mario 64 kind, of course.