August 19, 2013

Movie Mondays: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Flaming sword! I'm already excited!

Flaming sword! I’m already excited!

Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright & Michael Becall (based on the series by Bryan Lee O’Malley)
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Mark Webber, Alison Pill, Johnny Simmons, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza
Release Date: August 13, 2010
MPAA: Rated PG-13

Hey there Movie Monday readers!  It’s my great pleasure to present to you: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the Review”!

 Scott Pilgrim is a comic book series that started in 2004 and finished in 2010 (the year of the film release) telling the epic tale of the eponymous character and his struggle to win the heart of Ramona Flowers, the girl of his dreams, literally as she has the ability to use Scott’s dreams as a shortcut between locations.  Yep, as a movie based around video game & manga (Japanese comic) influences, all the major characters have crazy powers.  During his struggle he must overcome fierce battles with Ramona’s exes as well as battle his own personal baggage, including his own exes, and his own inner demons.  The comic itself is full of video game and manga (Japanese comic) references and influences, whereas the movie is full of those same influences, as well as influences from American comics, anime and director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead, Hott Fuzz) own visual flair.

A cross between "Sex Bomb" and the Bab-ombs from the MARIO game series

A cross between “Sex Bomb” and the Bab-ombs from the MARIO game series

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which takes its name from volume two of the six volume series, was created by the comic’s creator Bryan Lee O’Malley along with the filmmakers, in tandem with the final two volumes of the series.  It features intentionally different story elements, much like Douglas Adams’ multiple versions of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.  And just like Hitchhiker’s Guide, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is even more enjoyable if you read the books as well.


Boy meets girl... insanity ensues

Boy meets girl… insanity ensues

This is one of those rare movies that goes so completely against the formula that it generally defies any attempt at a brief description, as it’s a sort of genre movie yet doesn’t fit any particular genre.  It’s equal parts video game movie, comic book movie, anime, action flick, indie flick, romance, coming of age, musical (sort of), fantasy, drama, & comedy, relying heavily on all of the tropes and trappings featured therein.

First and foremost, there is the highly unique visual style.  Comic book/manga sound effects splash across the screen as they would appear on a page in an artful yet ridiculous and entertaining style, accompanied by video game sound effects and retro (8 and 16 bit) video game images.  Two perfect examples of this are as follows: the opening logo for Universal Pictures is rendered in old-school 8-bit graphics complete with a midi/chip-tune (8-bit music) rendition of the Universal fanfare; also when Scott tries to get his act together and do something about his situation, an 8-bit image of his face appears on screen as he “gets a life” (a pun about getting on with it, and a classic arcade game reference).  The little nods and references to gaming culture that fill this film manage not to detract from the film for those that don’t get them, while adding tons of enjoyment for those that do.

Anyone who knows anything about Super Mario Bros.  gets this joke

Anyone who knows anything about Super Mario Bros. gets this joke

Bass Battle!  Music + Fighting = Awesomesauce!

Bass Battle! Music + Fighting = Awesomesauce!

The music is an eclectic mixture of the creators’ influences from punk, alternative, and classic rock, and video game music.  It’s an odd and charming aspect of the film, hearing the music jump seamlessly from the likes of Beck or The Rolling Stones, to Metric and the musical score to The Legend of Zelda game series.

The actors all deliver outstanding performances.  Each and every character is entertaining when they need to be, and provocative and reflective when they need to be.  Our main characters Scott (Cera), Ramona (Winstead) and Knives (Wong) all knock it out of the park.  Michael Cera (Juno, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist), who has basically made a name for himself playing the awkward and dopey hipster kid, plays to type while infusing a quirky bit of charm into the worn-out persona.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead aptly plays the loner girl with far too much baggage, making you love her for all of her insecurities.

Ramona's no damsel in distress and can fight for herself when necessary

Ramona’s no damsel in distress and can fight for herself when necessary

But the real show stealers are all of the supporting cast members.  Actors like Chris Evans and Brandon Routh perfectly portray the airheaded stereotypes their characters represent with an enthusiasm that shows they really enjoyed getting to be silly with their roles.  One of Scott’s exes, Kim (Allison Pill) gives off an almost Daria-like sense of cynicism that just adds so much to the film’s payoff when she actually shows emotion (particularly exuberance) during the big climactic showdown.  The biggest show-stealer of the bunch is Scott’s gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkan), who’s just non-stop charming, even when he’s being a jerk.  All of the cast members, from the members of Scott’s band, people Scott happens to know, to all of the evil exes are so goofy, entertaining, and just plain fun.  So fun, in fact, that you’ll probably be wishing for a TV Series spin-off by the time you’re done with the film, just so you can get more of everyone.

A crazy, kooky, cast of quirky characters

A crazy, kooky, cast of quirky characters

The humor and atmosphere in this film is a crazy form of absurd satire, making fun of every genre it borrows from while offering up a well-meaning, good-natured, self-deprecating bit of humor at itself and its audience’s own expense.  Nothing is sacred and nothing is special and everything is hilarious.  The greatest aspect of this movie’s atmosphere is that no matter how absurd it gets, with arcade game style brawls and anime style melodrama, the characters are all 100% real in their portrayal and characterization and instantly relatable.  It presents a realistic depiction of relationships, with all of the unpredictability and neurotic insanity that comes with it.

A comic book/manga fight brought to high-intensity life

A comic book/manga fight brought to high-intensity life

Fiery Katana vs 8-Bit Light-Katana! SWEET!

Fiery Katana vs 8-Bit Light-Katana! SWEET!

The greatest element of this “love story” is that in the end, it’s not love that conquers all.  It is self-respect (in the comic, it is understanding), which one would agree are both qualities necessary for real love to work, that is needed to save the day in the end.  Insofar as self-respect and understanding are concerned, while this film may be an action-comedy-romance, the biggest contributing genre is the tried and true “coming of age” story.  People acknowledge their own issues, suffer the consequences of their screw-ups and enjoy the rewards of doing a bit of growing up.

If it seems like it has been just constant praise for this movie, it’s because it is just that good.  From the editing, pacing, acting, writing, and so on, there just doesn’t seem to be a flaw in this film.  Even if you’re not into gaming or comic book culture, there’s something here for everyone.  If you’re a hipster that likes to poke fun at his own culture or someone who likes poking fun at hipsters, if you’re a gamer, a comic book nerd, if you’ve ever been in love, this movie is for you.  You’d honestly have to be some sort of curmudgeon actively trying not to enjoy this film in order to walk away from this movie with anything less than satisfied.

As an adaptation of the source material this film gets a score of 8 out of 10.  As a film on its own merits, this film is a solid 10 out of 10.  If you’ve seen it before, go watch it again, and if you’re one of those people that never bothered to see it, do yourself a favor and go see it right now!

Aaron Nicewonger


One Comment

  1. I was probably the only guy who reads comics that didn’t know it was based on a comic when I first saw the preview. After a bit of research I was more psyched to see it and I’m so glad I did! It’s a fun movie that can be enjoyed more than once!

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