Review “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – 2010

There are a lot of people that like to read a comic book, play a video game, or watch a movie. But why do these things separately, when you can now do this all at the same time? All you need to do is get your hands on one of the most original movies in recent years; Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

English director Edgar Wright isn’t unfamiliar with mixing genres when it comes to filmmaking. In 2005 he made a successful combination of horror and comedy with the zombie-parody Shaun of the Dead, and two years later, in comparable fashion a mix of action, comedy and mystery with the buddy cop film Hot Fuzz. But with his latest film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, he goes one step further and throws everything in the mix, from comedy, action and romance to videogames, comic books and rock bands.

The film, based on the six-part Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, follows the titular Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year-old slacker (Michael Cera) who just got himself a new 17-year-old girlfriend (Ellen Wong). It gets a bit complicated for Scott when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and fall head over heels in love with her. When he starts dating her, it becomes even more complicated, as he learns that he’ll have to fight her seven ‘evil exes’ if he wants to continue dating her. The plot may sound a bit silly, but it is almost a ideal setup for a fast-paced, visually interesting rollercoaster-ride of a movie.

The whole accomplished look and feel of the movie is for not a small part due to London-based visual effect studio Double Negative, which is responsible for most of the visual effects, and they really had their hands full with a production like Scott Pilgrim. Most of this is because the film is loaded with visual treats, from small onscreen ‘ding dong’s and ‘tring’s when the doorbell or phone rings, to epic band battles with Chinese dragons and an enormous Yeti. And with a studio that also did the effects for among others Inception and the latest Harry Potter film, the result in Scott Pilgrim looks nothing short of fantastic.

Besides the input of Double Negative, the feel of the film owes a lot to the work of editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. With a style that involves among others editing one dialog over three different locations, and almost no ‘traditional’ cut between scenes, the films plays with an enormous fast pace, which should take some viewers a while to get used to. That such a fast-paced film isn’t for everyone may be clear, and the director goes even further in excluding a broad public with including endless references to pop-culture and especially videogames. The film is filled with sound effects from the Nintendo’s Zelda-franchise, and with band names like ‘The Sex Bom-ombs’ -after the Bom-omb bad-guy in Super Mario Bros. 2– and ‘The Clash at Demonhead’ -after the Nintendo game of the same name-, there is a lot for the fans to discover. And although the recognising of these references aren’t necessarily for understanding the film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does ask for a specific, defined public. This could also perhaps explain why the film wasn’t a big hit in the American cinemas; it only brought in a little over half of the sixty million dollar budget.

But even with a very slick look, the movie doesn’t depend only on look. The story isn’t much more then the simple description earlier in this review, but the portrayal of the characters is done very good. First of all we get Michael Cera, the 22-year-old Canadian actor who got worldwide recognition with leading roles as a socially awkward teenager in films like Superbad and Juno. It was actually after seeing him in an episode of the cult series Arrested Development that Edgar Wright decided to cast Cera as Scott Pilgrim. Besides Cera there is the beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his love-interest, but it are mostly the evil exes who steal the show, including Chris Evans as Lucas Lee, a skateboarder-turned-actor, Brandon Routh as super vegan Todd Ingram, and Mae Whitman as Roxy Richter, an ex from Ramona’s bi-curious phase, who, ironically, played Michael Cera’s Christian girlfriend in Arrested Development.

But even a great movie like this doesn’t come with its minor flaws. After a few views for example, you might start wondering why Pilgrim wants to be with Flowers so badly, since it somewhat becomes apparent that she isn’t really the sweetest girl. But then again, we all know what love can do to our decision making.

All by all, it is a very original and foremost very entertaining movie, thanks to the great directing and acting, and with a lot of help from the visual effect- and editing-department. And although the film is targeted on a certain generation that grew up games and other referenced material, it shows thatHollywood, when it pairs up with the right artists, still has a lot of originality.

Jeroen Bijl

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