Scott Pilgrim Achieves an Epic Win (Movie Review)

From the fiery depths of geekdom, director Edgar Wright has emerged with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film daring to defy the conventions of both romantic comedies and action films.  His adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comic book series is a wonderful blend of comedy, action, romance, music, and great visual storytelling.  This is a film bringing together a hip young cast, plentiful video game references, innovative action sequences, and a strong alternative/indie rock soundtrack. It’s a blast of entertainment for anyone ready to experience a kinetic jolt of fun unlike anything seen at this level.

Kim Pine: Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.*

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World stars Michael Cera as our 22-year-old, jobless, slacker hero, Scott Pilgrim.  Scott may be flawed in more ways than one, but he is also the bassist in a band, Sex Bob-omb, and a bit of a lady-killer.  As the film introduces us to Scott, he has just started dating a high school girl, Knives Chau, played with sincerity by Ellen Wong. Scott’s former flames also include Kim, played to her sarcastic best by Allison Pill, who is now the drummer in Sex Bob-omb, and Envy Adams, played by Brie Larson, who dumped Scott a year ago, and is now the lead singer of seemingly the biggest (or hippest) rock band in the world, Clash at Demonhead.

While Knives is absolutely smitten with not only Scott but her newfound joy that is indie rock, Scott has other things on his mind, literally.  A mysterious woman roller skates through one of his dreams, leading to Scott’s encounter with her in real life.  The roller girl is Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Scott is instantly infatuated with her.  While Ramona seems to be somewhat distant and aloof, she too shares feelings for Scott, and the two begin a courtship.  However, problems increase for the couple tenfold when Scott learns he must defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends if he wants to keep dating her.  Now Scott is faced with an assortment of villains and dealing with the very nature of his multiple relationships.  Game on!

Based on the Scott Pilgrim comic book series, Wright has managed to perfectly capture the tone and spirit of the six-volume set, while creating a slightly modified story structure to fit the lengths of a theatrical feature.  It is truly a joy to see a creative director continue to experiment with his visual sensibilities, as once again, Wright manages to bring front and center his fast-action editing style and seamlessly work it into the realms of a comic book film.

While Shaun of the Dead toyed with mixing the mundane with smash-cut editing similar to Sam Raimi’s work in the Evil Dead films, and Hot Fuzz was designed to embody a world similar to the films of Michael Bay and Tony Scott, with ‘Scott,’ Wright displays all the elements of a comic book, which includes handling the framing of shots like comic panels and spelling out moments of onomatopoeia on screen.  Credit also goes to the production and art design of this film. So much is layered into nearly every frame, making for great reasons to re-watch this film.  The visual style is a huge highlight of this film.

Certainly helping this film is its casting. Starting with Cera, who some were skeptical of, this may be his best performance yet, perfectly capturing the character of Scott Pilgrim. He has to be kinda cool, a good fighter, adept at making bad choices, and yet still remain likable.  Winstead, as Ramona, is also good, working well to counter Scott’s usual charm.  There is a standout supporting cast here as well, which includes: Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Scott’s “cool gay” roommate, who gets many of the best lines in the movie; Mark Webber as Stephen Stills, the talent in Scott’s band; Anna Kendrick as Scott’s gossipy sister; and Aubrey Plaza as Julie Powers, the snide, on-and-off girlfriend of Stephen’s.

There’s also the eclectic cast of evil exes, which includes Jason Schwartzman as the man on top of the pyramid, Gideon Graves, chewing it up with delight. There’s also the deliciously evil Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Mae Whitman, who all sink into their parts, playing up their status as fighters ready to take down one little Pilgrim.  All of these characters are played comically over-the-top, and the film is all the better for it.*

Speaking of the film’s comedy, the whole thing delivers in spades.  Staying true to both the style of the comic and Edgar Wright’s own comedic sensibilities, the film is frequently funny due to its dialogue, one-liners, visual gags, callbacks, references, and dash of satirical humor directed towards hipsters and the music scene.  At its core, the heart of this story may be concerned with the romance between Scott and Ramona (in addition to Knives), but the hysterics involved certainly make this film all the more enjoyable.

Of course, the other biggest element of this film is its action.  As the comics are heavily influenced by video games, the way this film incorporates that style is pretty amazing.  Scott is essentially playing through different levels of a video game once he becomes involved in the very stylized worlds of the various evil exes.  He faces henchmen, who turn into coins as they are defeated, levels up as he progresses, and scores points and extra lives as he advances, all while accompanied by the sound effects of different games.

Whether or not the viewer will understand the references being made, one can’t help but be impressed by the action choreography present in this film.  Even in a movie like this, which creates a fast-paced and hyper-stylized world, the work that both Wright and his cinematographer, Bill Pope, have done to capture action scenes that are visually spectacular and easy to follow is a magnificent sight to behold.*

A final shout out to the music as well, which, again, captures the spirit of the books and the characters’ lives.  Artists including Beck, Broken Social Science, and Metric fit right into the indie rock world this film presents.  A big part of this film revolves around the bands who rock out and face off against each other in the movie, and I can certainly appreciate a quality soundtrack that emphasizes this factor.

I may not be able to hide my very enthusiastic praise, but everything leading up to seeing this film has impressed me, and the movie did not disappoint.  I am a huge fan of the comic books and Edgar Wright’s work, as well as much of the other talent involved with this film.  It also helps that I am a 20-something gamer with a fondness for alternative/indie rock. Everything came together just right for me with this film.  The execution was fantastic, both in terms of adapting the material and showing me another innovative approach to filmmaking.  I was thoroughly entertained by this movie; it’s a blast to watch, and I can’t wait to see it again.

Free song download with Scott Pilgrim tickets


9 Responses to “Scott Pilgrim Achieves an Epic Win (Movie Review)”

  1. Gregg

    Great coverage, Aaron! Believe it or not, you have convinced me to watch this, but I’m going to wait until it comes out on Blu-ray. Michael Cera just seems like a one-trick pony to me. The guy is not an actor. However, this film sounds unique enough to give a viewing.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Come on. Any movie where I can use the word ‘onomatopoeia’ to describe it’s greatness deserves to be seen.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    I do want to see this now that I know Edgar Wright directed it.

  4. Amy Coleman

    Great review Aaron. Your dad sent it to me and I just wanted you to know that my son and I wanted to see this movie and based on your review we are going to see it this weekend for sure now. Thanks!!

  5. Greg N

    I had never heard of Soott Pilgrim before but your review certainly makes me want to check out the film. It sounds like it’s a lot of fun. Thanks.

  6. Brian White

    I kind of with Gregg here. While I love your review (I already told you yesterday that this was your best one to date) and I love hearing all the positive praise from the folks at Comic-Con who caught this screening, I think I’m going to wait and watch Gregg’s Blu-ray of this. I never read the comic before and I’m not a big Cera fan, but all the praise and this review definitely make me want to check this out sometime. Thanks for the great review Aaron!

  7. Sean Ferguson

    I enjoyed your review Aaron. I’m with you…I think this movie will be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. Gregg is right that Cera is kind of a one trick pony but you have to admit he does it well. I think Edgar Wright just gets better with every movie so I’ll see this as soon as I can.

  8. Aaron Neuwirth

    So much hate for Michael Cera here, which is unfortunate. I think even if you can’t stand him, the visual style of this movie alone, is worth going to go and check this movie out. Along with the supporting characters, who all get great moments to shine.

  9. Brian White

    I can’t argue with you there. This film does have an outstanding all-star cast. Unfortunately, my heart belongs to another film opening up next Friday… THE EXPENDABLES. I also need to find out where the heck THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CEED is playing at this weekend.