The review of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World appeared in iMAGES on Sunday on the 5th of September 2010. Below is the correction appended and updated version of the review.
Tough-Love, Videogame Style
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
In, what is easiest one of the best, and original, summer pictures based on a graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim, (Michael Cera, a little less secure in comparison to the artwork by Bryan Lee O’Malley) does indeed battle the world. Only, the world is limited to a slightly de-saturated Toronto, an almost garage-band, an eclectic mix of best buddies (one gay; one potty-mouth; one fan-girl/girl-friend) and seven exes of a recently relocated American punk-girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who changes hair-color every ten days and has, so far, never been dumped. The ones she dumped – dubbed as the "League of Exes" – however have videogame boss abilities: mystical fire-bolts, synthesizer-powered sound waves dragons, and pixilated swords that boosts up a player’s bonus meter.
Yes, this is a videogame. But a game that’s inside a romantic movie. Not the other way around, like Avatar. Its "epic epicness" (so written in the poster) is its sincerity to stay serious as a comedy while employing un-realistic special effects (mostly lettering composited in backgrounds with bad-fonts choices) and key actors for bit-parts. Brandon Routh, Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman play three exes out of seven. One a Vegan with Vegan-superpowers the other an action movie star and the last one a record producer.
As a hard-to-get girl-friend with a baggage past of evil super-powered exes, Ms. Winstead becomes a subdued, unattainable, attraction in Pilgrim’s world. At least for the first fifteen minutes. And even then the pairing looks awkward. But awkward is the plus points in director Edgar Wright’s bright (in a very synecdochical way because the film is lit in low-light), visually inventive, coin-op powered, "romantic-action-videogame-film"; If there is no such explanation in the dictionary, then I would like to suggest "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" as a valid entry for the next edition.
Mr. Wright, also one-part screenwriter with Michael Bacall, has yet to make counterfeit entertainment that mixes action and comedy. His "Shaun of the Dead" worked around the Zombie-gore formula as it swung between parody and nonconformity; in "Hot Fuzz" he added kinetic action and dead-pan to cop-buddy conventionality. For "Scott Pilgrim", it’s a mash-up of the quirky.
Scott’s life, when the film begins, is in apathetic recoil from an ex-band member-cum-girl friend, Envy (Brie Larson), whose growling posters, now as a rock star diva, are plastered everywhere that’s convenient by Marcus Rowland’s production design (though mostly, they end up scowling at Scott’s back).
Scott is set-up as an aimless opportunity. In self-denial, he starts a chaste romance with a yet-to-be-kissed high-schooler, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) who also becomes the group’s first groupie (apart from lip-locking, mostly by still-animated artwork of Mr. O’Malley design the relationships are almost chaste here). He shares a bed in a confined basement room with his gay best friend Wallace (Kieran Culkin, remolding the stereotype to his image) and has a prompt-to-call sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick), who exasperates over his girl-friend issues via split-screen cell-phone conversations. His band, "Sex Bob-omb", includes the saturnine drummer, and ex-girlfriend from school days, Allison Pill and Mark Webber the frontman often on the verge of meltdowns. That is until he dreams about Ramona skating past him in a desert wasteland. Mr. Wright marks this as an in-point to crank the film’s potential weirdness.
And crank it he does, even as Scott tells a pointless geek–lore about Pac-man’s origin to impress Ramona (the line already worked before on Knives), or as he faces off with one of her exe’s (Satya Bhabha), who jumps up and delivers combos like he’s in a one-on-one fighting game.
Mr. Cera, who emits the aura of a bona fide looser, matches the muscle power of "Ryu" from "Street Fighter" whenever he fights an evil ex. No one has a problem with Scott back-flipping or throwing energy waves through his bass guitar (at one point Scott and the Sex Bob-ombs release a King Kong-like ape made of energy to combat dual sound-wave dragons). Or the looser dematerializing into small change (from floating text labels, to new one-up life icon this is one of many inspired old-school side-scrolling videogame touches that Mr. Wright pounds into every scene). However, in essence, it’s still about a daft boy meeting a hardcore girl (cue in dramatic music).
Mr. Wright not so much as fakes Scott’s bended-reality as he lets everyone embrace it unfeigned and without concession. There has to be some poetry in that. Let alone the loose change, and bonus points everyone keeps turning into.
The film stars: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Aubrey Plaza, Allison Pill, Mark Webber, Brie Larson, Johnny Simmons, Satya Bhabha, Mae Whitman, Shota Saito and Keita Saito and Jason Schwartzman.
The kinetic cinematography is by Bill Pope (Spider-Man(s), The Matrix(es)), its spry editing is by Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss and the music is by Nigel Godrich.
Released by Universal Pictures. "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" is rated PG-13. It features unadulterated geek–boy absurdity and one make-out scene with Ms. Winstead in underwear. Nothing adolescent boys haven’t seen before.
By Farheen Jawaid
It’s not only hard, but sometimes impossible to find movies that are: A) wholly visually impressive; B) genuinely have heart for the complete length of its running time; and C) have its personality coming out in a way that you can’t skewer away from it. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" has all these things. It so far the most complete movie this year – after "Toy Story 4", of course.
"Scott Pilgrim" our conflict avoiding, early twenty sniveler (Michael Cera, who awkwardly works the role) is a bass guitarist of the band "Sex Bob-omb" – a band on the long road to nowhere along with his morose group of friends. He eats practices and sleeps aimlessly while dating a seventeen year old Asian catholic school girl maniacally named Knives (she looks nothing like a sharp object). She is also the only Fan-girl of the group who faints with excitement at one of his concert. But Scott is dating her to get over his yearlong mourning of his last girlfriend "Envy Adams" (Brie Larson) now a big rock star with posters everywhere. Much changes when he comes across "Ramona Flowers" (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dream (literally).
Ramona is the mysterious girl with dyed purple hair from America who comes packaged with a deal of seven exes with godly super-powers whom Scott, or any other, must defeat in order to have a lasting relationship with her.
The fun of "Scott Pilgrim" is the snappy dialogues that burst from every member of the cast and its even snappier editing. Everything is done with finesse by director Edgar Wright ("Hot Fuzz" and "Shawn of the Dead") who also co-adapts from a manga-like graphic novel of the same name by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley.
The foray of fight sequences as Scott fights off Ramona’s exes starts in Vs modes (reminds of an old Street Fighter game) that go from inventive to physics-law bending. Its choreography and cinematography are as visually impressive as "300".
"Scott" is like a mixture of the absurd and the genuine. A romantic boy-meets-girl comedy and a geeky action film. One can do nothing but enjoy the weird world where self explanatory captions float everywhere and an endless supply of cartoonish charm keeps on oozing.
The published version can be found at: