Seeing Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is an exhaustingly fun experience – enough to make anyone with ADD sit up and say, ‘Whoa, slow down a minute, would ya?’
Based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels, the movie tells the story of guitar-playing slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) who feels love at first sight when he lays eyes on Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). It sounds like a pretty typical set-up for a romantic comedy, until Ramona mentions Scott will need to fight – nay, defeat – her seven evil exes before they can date. And these aren’t schoolyard fistfights we’re talking about, these are full-on Street Fighter-style brawls. Pilgrim battles with his feet, his fists, and even a flaming sword at one point, causing his foes to explode in a rain of coins when vanquished. It’s pretty amazing.
Quite simply, veteran cinematographer Bill Pope and director Edgar Wright have done a fantastic job creating the look of this film, capturing the video game esthetic far better than any other film released to date.
Scott Pilgrim was financed independently, so Wright chose to condense all six books worth of O’Malley’s material into one film, lest he not get a second kick at the can later. As a result, calling the film frenetically-paced is an understatement. What’s surprising is it somehow works. Between all the visual fireworks and the non-stop, in-jokey references to early 90s video games, bands, and Toronto locales, there’s a compelling, fun story at the heart of Scott Pilgrim.
Cera is in typical form as the title character, stammering and stuttering his way through just about every social interaction. It’s a performance he’s given far too often, but admittedly he’s brilliant at what he does. Because of the way the plot shoehorns in so many elements, Pilgrim’s character arc is pretty ridiculous – introverted indie kid one minute, superheroic ass-kicker the next. Fortunately, by the time the fight scenes start coming fast and furious, you’re having way too much fun to care about narrative consistency.
Winstead’s arc is also rushed as Ramona goes from the ultra-cool, unobtainable object of Scott’s affections to his main squeeze in no time flat. Even so, she’s believable in the role, and she imbues the character with a sense of vulnerability along the way.
The supporting cast is filled with names like Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick and Chris Evans, though my favourite secondary performance probably comes from Alison Pill. She plays Pilgrim’s former flame Kim Pine, now the drummer in his band Sex Bob-omb (ah, there’s one of those videogame references). She’s permanently deadpan, except for her enthusiastic “One! Two! Three! Four!” counts when drumming.
Continuing the trend of cramming a lot into a small space is the soundtrack, which features contributions from Beck, The Black Lips, Broken Social Scene, Metric, Dan The Automator, and many others. It’s mostly up-tempo stuff, which further heightens the break-neck pace of the script.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is many things. It’s an incredible cinematic achievement. It’s probably the most visually arresting film you’ll see this year. It’s a pop-cultural treasure trove. But mostly it’s just a really good time.