REVIEW: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

21 08 2010

The video-gaming culture that has shaped the lives of my generation has never been so vibrantly alive as it is in “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” a movie with as much frenetically spontaneous action as you can handle without toggling a joystick.  Based on a comic-book series, Edgar Wright’s third film takes a reality from in front of a console and puts it on screen: any loser, even if they are as frail or feeble as Michael Cera, can kick butt and take names in the world of the video game.

Cera’s Candian chump, Scott Pilgrim, is a pathetic twenty-something bunking with the affluent homosexual Wallace Wells (Keiran Culkin, Macaulay’s little brother) and playing bass for the band Sex Bob-Omb.  Much to the dismay of his friends, he starts dating high-schooler Knives Chau (whose name should have been a warning).

But everything falls away when he sees pink-haired Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) delivering a package on roller-skates in the Toronto snow.  After some casual stalking at a party, they get together, drawing Scott into a world of violence he can’t even fathom.  He has to defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes (not ex-boyfriends, as she consistently reminds him) in order to date her.  Unfortunately for him, they have formed a League to hunt him down, and their union includes a music mogul (Jason Schwartzman), an egotistical skateboarder-turned-movie star (Chris Evans), and a vegan with powers (Brandon Routh).

The aesthetic elements of “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” are easily the movie’s highlight.  Every punch packed, note strummed on the bass, or kiss planted has an accompanying onomatopoeia, which will have English teachers everywhere salivating.  Even if your gaming experience is limited to playing Super Mario 64 at your monthly haircut and the occasional Mario Kart (which would be me, in case you were wondering), you can still pick up on the gaming jokes littered liberally throughout the movie.  Be it through borrowed sounds or graphics, or my personal favorite, the vanquishing of exes leading to coins dropping, there’s no shortage of paying homage to the games that were of influence.  Wright seems to understand the sort of giddy rush we get from playing around with a video game, and he somehow manages to translate that into a beautiful cinematic form.

The turbo-charged videogame style action may be the best thing about the movie, yet it also works against it many ways.  The premise is fun, but the high-concept just felt like a front for the filmmakers to get away with whatever they wanted.  I’m fine with suspending reality in the name of fantasy, but the movie just got a little too ridiculous at times.  Things like the Vegan Police revoking superpowers for drinking half-and-half were hilarious, but times like when Sex Bob Omb’s loud music turns into a fighting dragon were just a little too strange.

In a very impatient culture, video games have catered to our needs for instant gratification.  We love being able to speed through levels at the speed of light, fighting and running at unimaginable speeds.  But the seven levels of “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” take much too long to complete, and since it feels like a video game, it’s easy to feel boredom and fatigue by the time Scott defeats the second ex.  It’s still a nice change of pace to see in the theaters, though.  Rather than seeing a video game masquerade around like a movie, we get to watch a movie acting like a video game.  There’s something very cool about that switch.  B /


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2 responses

22 08 2010
Simon/Ripley

Loved it. Because I’ve long since outgrown epileptic seizures.

I like how you put it in the last part. More movies should be like this (but not. That is not condoning ripoffs).

23 08 2010
Fitz

I’ve heard that the film tapers off around the Japanese twin exes. Maybe five exes would have been better for the film?

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