Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Directed by: Edgar Wright Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: August 13, 2010
PLOT: Boy (Cera) plays bass. Girl (Winstead) plays hard to get. Boy gets girl. Boy must “defeat” all seven of Girl’s evil exes. “And … FIGHT!”
WHO'S IT FOR? For the “young” men and women who think that Mountain Dew is an “energy drink,” and that DDR is a sort of sport. If you have absolutely zero-precent clues as to what “DDR” is, then the chances are even higher that this pop-culture love-story action-palooza may not be for you. If I’ve just described your Friday nights, then get in line, n00b.
EXPECTATIONS: Though I had (once again) abstained from previews, what little footage I saw from Scott Pilgrim made it appear very stylized, and possibly fun. Excited about another "badass" role from Cera and the marketing that used a tagline like "An epic of epic epicness," I put this at #4 on my "Top 7 Anticipated Films of 2010." Still, I wasn't sure whether the enjoyment of the movie would come with much brain power, or even funny bone tickling for that matter.
Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim: As they say in hip hop culture, "haters are gonna hate," but Cera continues to expand on his “sensitive and quirky” label that he earned with the career-launching Juno and Superbad. The still soft-spoken actor is able to play ball with the film’s cartoonish aspect, in both action and humor. When he’s fighting you’d think he’s already been in some action movies, and when he’s making you laugh with his super-quirks you’ll forget he’s the same kid who wore track shorts and ate Orange Tic-Tacs only three years ago. If it’s any consolation, he’s also got a bit of an ego, which makes him less twee than we could expect him to be. Yeah, we haven't seen him play this kind of a jerk since the Olsen Twins movie, Switching Goals. Score: 8
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers: Though she is the geek’s fantasy girlfriend, she lives more in a reality than Scott Pilgrim does. She responds to his cartoonish acts with confusion and dryness, and this makes it all the more surprising whenever she is integrated into the physics set by this movie’s alternate universe. In Death Proof Winstead, in a cheerleading outfit, played the classic “Baberaham Lincoln” (as Wayne Campbell would say), but now she’s the new type of dork dream girl – her hair constantly changes color, and she has more mystery behind her than an entire season of “Lost.” Not to mention that she allots for every arcade romantic’s dream, which is to allow her new BF to destroy all of her DB exes. Who the hell doesn’t want to be able to do that? Score: 6
Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Gordon Graves: Just like you may think Cera would be incapable of selling combat, Schwartzman stomps into the third act of this movie with ultimate super-jerkiness and totally pulls off the part of being Scott Pilgrim’s final boss/ultimate nemesis. It is no coincidence Gideon represents the exact opposite of Scott – Schwartzman’s character is the sell-out side of geek, as his Rivers Cuomo glasses, perfect hair cut and expensive clothes embody the diabolical “geek chic” that has been trumping the self-expression by true nerds like Pilgrim for the past decade or so. (Writer’s note: It is also true to all true nerds that these are the type of true losers that somehow end up getting the girls). Having experience with “indie-ness” himself, it is only more amusing to see Schwartzman play up this total sell-out. Score: 7
TALKING: We haven’t gotten to the point where 1337-speak or “Lolcat” humor is used, but now it doesn’t seem far off. Scott Pilgrim uses a whole urban dictionary full of geek speak, with whole sentences that are inspired by either hyperbolic internet smack-talk “If your life had a face I would punch it” to video game lingo. (It is probably the first movie to use “It’s on like Donkey Kong” as a tag line). The editing of dialogue assists the pace of the movie, making the conversations between characters often pretty speedy, and to the point. Along with the anime/manga reference in the visual style, the characters’ tongues function with the same velocity, but still with cohesion. And there is plenty of time (and opportunity) to laugh at this fresh and funny dialogue. Score: 8
SIGHTS: Dare I say it – the hand-to-hand combat is shot better here than in anything of The Expendables. Coloring up the frame with textual onomatopoeias and a lot of lens flare, the combat is cohesively captured and supported by moments of anime-inspired extreme close-ups (these are just a few of the visual touches that give the battles inScott Pilgrim their “epic” flavoring). Overall, Wright deserves special kudos for his editing of the entire picture, which is quick-paced but never stumbles over itself. The sugar-high energy of the movie supports the uniqueness of the comedy and also makes the battles even more fun to digest. Score: 9
SOUNDS: Beat it, electric guitars. All your bass belong to us. When the movie is not playing various songs with the name “Ramona” in them, (by artists like Frank Black), Scott Pilgrim calls for a revolution in rock and gives the wonderful sound of the fuzzy bass guitar top attention (especially with Pilgrim’s band, Sex Bob-Omb). Other giddy geek tidbits include the usage of 8-bit music (even for the Universal theme song!) in both the beginning and end of the movie, and the sound design, which uses sound effects from classic games like “Legend of Zelda” with little abandon. Nigel Godrich's electronic score will "kick your teeth in." Score: 8
BEST SCENE: It's difficult to choose which battle is the most fun to watch. But in the goal of humor, the second date between Scott and Ramona may have the movie's funniest moments.
ENDING: High score.
QUESTIONS: What’s with all of the Smashing Pumpkins visual references? There’s no actual music by the band, but Scott wears two Pumpkins shirts (one of them is not representing just his initials) and there’s even a chapter called “Infinite Sadness.” What gives? Also, first fuzz bass battle ever? Right?
REWATCHABILITY: "Would you like to play again?" Hell yes. Now that I am used to the new ways that Scott Pilgrim operates, I am stoked to revisit the film and just take in its unique world.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World actualizes the fun fantasy of video games, by blending the logic of the video game universe with that of reality’s more simple, and arguably much more boring existence. With Scott Pilgrim, life is a video game with 1-Ups, bonus points, hit combos, and even the opportunity to destroy our girlfriend’s evil exes. In more ways than one, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a dream come true.
A big gulp of summer-slurpee sugary awesomeness, the film possess a monstrous imagination that grows bigger and bigger as the story's events progress to even more epic heights. It is a movie that doesn’t trap itself with video game aesthetics, but it instead uses that style for many creative advantages, making for a fresh experience that is funny, warming, and more internet-message-board simply, "f**king cool."
The romantics of the arcade have finally been given their fuzz bass-driven love song to their certain way of looking at the world. With Scott Pilgrim being the victor against mediocre boyfriends/movie experiences, he rings true something that has been echoing since the age of Revenge of the Nerds - the geek has indeed inherited the Earth.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10