Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a knock out
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: Scott Pilgrim vs the World is one of my favorite movies this year. The quick editing, unique visual style, impressive cast and seeing Michael Cera take a welcome departure from the usual charmingly befuddled geeky character make this film a total knock out.
Based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the film tells the story of Scott Pilgrim (Cera) as he tries to defeat the seven evil exes of his love interest, the wonderfully hip Ramona, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Scott’s life is simple before he meets Ramona. He’s the 22-year-old bass player in a Toronto band called Sex-Bob-Omb with his friends Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), Kim Pine (Allison Pill) and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). He lives with his gay best friend Wallace Wells (played to infinite perfection by Kieran Culkin) and is dating a 17-year-old Chinese high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Scott isn’t particularly ambitious and is very content with his life.
That all changes when he meets Ramona Flowers, a trendy girl from New York who now works for Amazon in Toronto.
Scott begins pseudo-dating Ramona while still going out with Knives. As the relationship intensifies, he learns that, if he wants to be with her, he must defeat her “seven evil exes” in a video game-style battle to the death.
Cera has a tendency to play the same adorably awkward geek in every film, so it’s nice to see him as Scott. While Scott’s not exactly a cool guy, he has an inner confidence, bordering on arrogance, that makes him different from Cera’s previous roles. Sure, he’s awkward around Ramona, but he’s almost cocky around Knives and that break from tradition makes Scott one of Cera’s most memorable characters.
The entire group surrounding Scott is even more impressive. Wong is like a Fatal Attraction teddy bear as Knives, completely obsessed with Scott and his entire world. Anna Kendrick, as Scott’s sensible sister, Stacey, brings humor through sharp logic when advising Scott on his relationships. Still, the stand out in Team Scott is Culkin, who brings the perfect recipe of compassion and sarcasm to Wallace.
It’s hard to choose a favorite out of the evil exes, even Winstead had trouble picking one, because each has something unique and funny. There’s Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), the first evil ex who challenges Scott through a sort of emo Bollywood dance. Next is Chris Evans as Lucas Lee, an action movie star with a pro skateboard line and the pointiest eyebrows this side of Sylvester Stallone. After that, Scott goes up against Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh rocking blonde hair and glowing eyes) a vegan bass player in a band fronted by Scott’s very own evil ex, Envy Adams (Brie Larson). To Scott’s surprise, one of Ramona’s exes happens to be a girl, Roxie Richter, played by Mae Whitman. Coincidentally, Whitman also played Cera’s girlfriend on Arrested Development. After defeating her, with a lot of help from Ramona, Scott moves on to confront exes 5 and 6 in the Katyanagi Twins (Shota and Keita Saito) before making it all the way to the final ex, Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Graves. In typical video game fashion, this “boss battle” is the toughest of them all an involves using power ups and extra lives.
The visual style of the film is one of the most impressive aspects. The film spectacularly weaves in and out from simple scenes of Scott at home with Wallace to elaborate fight sequences with graphics and slow motion effects a la Sin City or 300. I would argue that it’s one of the best film representations of a comic ever with perfectly placed title cards, written sound effects and a visual style that makes you feel like you’re living inside the pages of the comic. When the fights break out, it’s like a journey through a wonderland of old school Sega and Nintendo nostalgia. Bill Hader’s video game narrations are reminiscent of the “finish him!” commands in Mortal Kombat, but with an extra hint of humor. The fact that the exes turn into coins when they are defeated is a fun live-action representation of a fond video game memory.
No doubt this is a movie for the younger generation, people who only remember playing Pong will probably find the quick cuts and vibrant graphics to be overwhelming. Anyone who spend hours playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out–which happens to be one of Culkin’s favorite games–will thoroughly enjoy the Scott-vs-ex combat. I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim vs the World immensely and am already planning to see it at least four more times.