26 Aug 2010


By Matt C

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick
Director: Edgar Wright
Runtime: 112mins
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 25 August 2010

Since Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World didn’t even come close to meeting box office expectations when it opened in the States a couple of weeks ago, the word ‘failure’ has been bandied about ever since by various cultural commentators. In a year that’s seen Kick-Ass and, to a lesser degree, The Losers ‘underperforming’ there are those saying we’ll soon see the end of movie adaptations of more quirky, leftfield comic books that don’t feature bankable icons like Batman and Superman. That’s unlikely considering the wealth and diversity of material available (is anybody not convinced The Walking Dead will be the next breakout TV show?) but ‘failure’ is just the wrong noun to apply to Scott Pilgrim.... Maybe it didn’t make its money back in its opening weekend but I can guarantee it’ll take off once it hits DVD/Blu-ray, and anyway, calling it a ‘failure’ gives the impression it’s purely a product, ignoring any artistic value it may have. That’s the key point here, because no one in their right mind can watch Edgar Wright’s dazzlingly inventive adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels and call it a failure.

I was a latecomer to the joys of the Scott Pilgrim books but as soon as I picked up the first volume their appeal became immediately apparent. Basically, if you grew up on a diet of video games, comics and indie rock then you are the intended audience for Scott Pilgrim... (which may partly explain why Mr & Mrs Joe Average might not connect with the film). Scott is a jobless slacker who plays bass in an unlikely-to-succeed indie band and sets his sights on hipster chick Ramona Flowers, but before they can ever truly become an item he must first fight and defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. And there’s your basic plot: boy meets girl, boy must prove himself to win girl’s heart. Pretty standard stuff, but on top of that Wright showers layers of wit, visual brilliance and a restless, unstoppable energy that makes the entire enterprise utterly irresistible. Of course, a lot of this comes directly from the comic book source, but Wright ups the ante considerably, taking O’Malley’s black and white illustrations and adding a three-dimensional, hyperactive dose of inspired genius to them. It works so well because it takes a familiar story and then bends it into new, unexpected shapes, repeatedly surprising us with comic (in both senses of the word) invention.

Wright first two feature films often felt like love letters to Hollywood, so it’s ironic that his first ‘Hollywood’ movie feels like a love letter to his roots (from Spaced through to Hot Fuzz): Scott Pilgrim... is a big-hearted ode to irreverence and pop culture. It’s certainly his most accomplished picture to date, and places him right up at front of the Brit director pack. He appears to have a great knack for assembling a brilliant cast too, from his leads right down to some hilariously memorable cameos. Michael Cera may get stick in some quarters for “always playing the same role” but he’s far more subtle a comic actor than a lot of people give him credit for, and his unlikely candidacy for action hero status is a particularly effective element of the film’s success. Winstead plays the cool, aloof hipster chick with flashes of genuine emotion and makes it seem perfectly understandable why seven of her exes would deem it necessary to fight to the death for her. Amongst the supporting players, Chris Evans and Brandon Routh make the most of their limited screen time, although to be fair just about everybody brings their A-game to their roles.

You can take Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World as simply a wonderfully delirious romantic (action) comedy, and that’s what it is to all intents and purposes on the surface. Dig a little deeper and it’s a resonating fantasy that anyone who grew up spending a lot of time in their rooms playing games, reading comics and listening to loud music can relate to. When a girl comes into that scenario, the imagination runs riot, and what better way to woo a fair maiden then busting out some Street Fighter moves on competing suitors while some righteous tunage plays in the background? Scott Pilgrim… will easily sustain repeat viewings with it’s ‘extra life’ video game logic, and while it sadly may not bring hordes of people into the cinemas it will take on a life on its on once it becomes available for home viewing. It’s about as far away from ‘failure’ as you can possibly get. You remember when you were a kid, pulling silly faces, and your parents used to tell you if the wind changed direction you’d stay like that? If the wind changed while you watched Scott Pilgrim…, you’d be stuck with a stupid grin for the rest of your life. In a rather lacklustre summer blockbuster season, it’s crept on in, instantly attained cult status, and positioned itself as a contender for movie of 2010. My advice? Don’t wait around for it to reach the small screen. See it now. 10/10


Matt T said...

Loved Scott Pilgrim, there was plenty to take in. I'd probably have to watch it 2 or 3 times to pick up every videogame/comic/music reference. The starting sequence in 8-bit grabbed me, and it didn't let go till the end. Awesome stuff. Just goes to prove that Edgar Wright is one of the most innovative directors working in Hollywood. Can't wait to see his Ant man (how long have we been saying that for??)

Stewart R said...

I think there's probably a great deal of Paradox Comic Group love for this film and it's very much deserved. Visually stunning, funny across a broad comedy spectrum and one of the best soundtracks seen in the past couple of years. Inception really did wow this Summer but Scott Pilgrim was either making me laugh or sending shivers of awesomeness up my neck and never dropped a beat. May pop along for a second viewing in the next week and enjoy it all again.