Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

When Scott Pilgrim vs. the World came out earlier this week, it was briefly the most mentioned Twitter topic in the world. Given that there is perhaps no barometer of pop-cultural relevance as reliable as the Twitter trending topics, this is a substantial achievement for a relatively inexperienced director adapting a film based on an obscure Canadian comic which stars that weedy kid who usually plays a sidekick. Its tag is “An epic of epic epicness”, and we’re pretty much down with that. Gaming superheroes are the new superheroes!


Scott Pilgrim starts out like a pretty standard rom-com. The eponymous hero is an out-and-out slacker whose life consists of endless practices with his mediocre band Sex Bob-Omb and dates in the video arcade with his teenage other half Knives – until, that is, feisty rollerskater Ramona Flowers glides into town and enchants Scott, who is still recovering from “having my heart kicked in the ass” by his last girlfriend. Scott seeks to win Ramona’s heart in his own charmingly inept way, but he discovers that although their affection is mutual his path is barred by Ramona’s past paramours – the Seven Evil Exes.

Pretty intimidating, non? Especially if you’re Michael Cera and clearly weedy as they come. Something pretty special is going to have to happen if Scott wants to avoid getting beaten to a Canadian pulp…

Scott Pilgrim: “Hey, I’ve learnt the bassline to Final Fantasy 2!”

This is approximately where the film gets mental – in fact, at this point it’s no longer possible to regard Scott Pilgrim as a film at all, because not even in cinema do people inexplicably display superhuman fighting skills and bad guys turn into a shower of coins when they’re KO’ed. From around the half-hour mark you’re only really going to get the full benefit of Scott Pilgrim if you can view it as a live-action video game – there are nods to innumerable iconic titles and classic game structure, from the hierarchy of bosses Scott must defeat to the Zelda theme tune appearing in a crucial love scene. Scott gradually levels up as he takes on ever more imposing opponents, until the climactic battle where he must unlock a secret weapon to take on Evil Ex #7 (a superb Jason Schwartzman) and his 8-bit katana.

The highlight of Scott Pilgrim is undeniably its amazingly realised visual effects. From the word ‘go’ Scott and his friends are living in a world with more than a tinge of the graphic novel about it – doorbells paint the word ‘Riiiiiiing’ across the screen as they chime, love is depicted as a fluffy pink cloud, and the characters play on the classic cartoon dynamic of ‘hammer space’ to produce items they really couldn’t have had in their pockets. For example, Ramona (who evidently takes these things literally) at one point whips out this rather snazzy mallet:

…yeah. No arguing with that hammer. Edgar Wright‘s brother Oscar was a crucial member of the SFX team, and the success of their partnership is evident – the animated elements of the film are perfectly worked in, whether as a seamless part of an otherwise ordinary scene or a huge, glaring fantasy element.

Michael Cera is excellent as Scott and the supporting cast is generally reliable, although I did find Ramona (Winstead) quite bland and thought many of the less significant characters outshone her, particularly the superb Ellen Wong as Knives and Macaulay Culkin’s little brother Kieran as Scott’s “cool, gay” room-mate Wallace. The plot is snappy and fast-paced if a little shallow, but I suppose that’s what you get when you use retro video games as your template – in any event, the appeal of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World lies less in the overall picture than in the countless fleeting moments which make you squirm with unashamedly geeky joy. In a superb follow-up from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright has produced yet another epic win.

Now read: The fall and rise of the cinematic superhero

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