Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a 2010 film about George Michael from Arrested Development having to fight the seven evil exes of his girlfriend. It’s symbolism for having to overcome obstacles and growing and stuff, but also it’s a really fun movie that feels very new and exciting and will be the reason for every single upcoming movie having the word “RRRRRIIINNGG” floating across the screen whenever a telephone rings.The movie is adapted from a comic book graphic novel that I had never heard of except that there is this app that was on the front page of the Android market that’s supposed to be a really cool way of reading the comic but I think my phone is running the wrong version of Android so I couldn’t download it. Then again I’ve always been too lazy to read comic books so it’s a good thing they made this movie, I guess.
Edgar Wright, who directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which I loved, co-wrote and directed this. You might also know his tv show Spaced which everyone tells me is really, really funny and stars the same two guys as Shaun and Fuzz (the redhead and the fat guy) who are suspiciously absent from Scott Pilgrim. I guess it’s because they’re old and British while everyone in Scott Pilgrim is young and Canadian (or American).
The movie sets the tone right away with an awesome 8-bit/NES-like version of the Universal logo and fanfare. Bill Hader narrates the movie, which you’d think would be awful – and it kinda is, but thankfully he has only a couple of lines here and there. The first few minutes before the opening credits give a taste of both the sharp, fast, Whedonesque dialogue and also the refreshingly awesome, turn-it-to-eleven music of Scott’s band, The Sex Bob-Ombs, which I thought sounded very much as if from the mind of Jack White but was actually written by Beck.
Michael Cera is of course not so much acting as being his kinda-akward, shy-but-endearing self in the role of Scott Pilgrim. He’s supported by a bunch of great minor characters: his bandmates (Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons), his “fake high school girlfriend” (the delightful Ellen Wong), Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air as Scott’s sister and the scene-stealing, dead-panning Kieran “Don’t call me Macaulay” Culkin as his roommate Wallace.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Ramona Flowers, object of Scott’s affection and ex-girlfriend to seven evil individuals he has to defeat if he wants to date her. This plays out in increasingly over-the-top fight scenes. Although clearly inspired by Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the fights are not violent but rather like elaborate dance numbers that draw much more from the world of music than from actual physical combat. An early scene in the film features Scott and his girlfriend playing a Dance Dance Revolution kind of arcade game where they have to dance/act out a complicated choreography in order to fight some ninjas or something. That’s pretty much the movie’s approach to fighting in a nutshell, I guess.
You’d think Scott having to fight one ex after another would get stale after a while, but I thought each match was unique and exciting in its own way, and the film cleverly avoids dragging the fights out too long. Plus there is a lot going on in each frame of this movie (not to mention the soundscape), so even in repeated viewings you can find fun stuff to keep you interested.
Brandon Routh, he of the ill-fated Superman-remake from a few years ago, is a great evil ex #3, whose strict vegan diet gives him Dr. Manhatten-like powers. Arrested Development-fans might recognize ex #4 as Mae Whitman who played Cera’s character’s girlfriend Ann (aka Egg). Rounding out the bad guys are Jason Schwartzman‘s enjoyable performance as record man Gideon Graves and Brie Larson as Pilgrim’s very own evil ex, Envy Adams.
Having this many side characters in your movie could run the risk of it feeling cramped or having people just stand around without anything to do, but actually they’re all fairly fleshed out and living lives of their own. They’re not so much revolving only around Scott Pilgrim’s crazy shenanigans as equally inhabiting the same world he does. A world that, despite all this crazy stuff happening, feels more real and relatable than most so-called down-to-earth movies ever do.
It’s not a perfect movie (there are a few things happening near the end that you shouldn’t think about too hard), but it’s damn-near perfect and easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year.