Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ★★
(USA, 112 min)
Dir: Edgar Wright; Writ: Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall.
Starring: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick.
Is the comic book genre on its last legs? It seems so, given the fact that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is almost dead on arrival, despite seeming to be one of the big-screen adaptations most in tune with its graphic novel origins. The film certainly has big B.O., but from the weekend trade reports, it’s evident that I don’t mean big box office. Quite frankly, the film stinks.
The film suffers mostly because of its over-reliance on comic book conventions. One need not see the credits to realize that Scott Pilgrim is based on a series of graphic novels (by Bryan Lee O’Malley). The film clearly derives its aesthetic from the genre, as it involves plenty of split screens, animated visuals to emphasize the sounds, quirky info bubbles, and then some. While all the graphics probably thrill fans of the original Scott Pilgrim series, the film quickly loses its charm. Each scene is oversaturated in tacky graphics. When coupled with all the quick cutting, screen-splitting, and noisy bling-bling in the background, the film amounts to sensory overload. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is self-referential to the point of nausea. This is a movie after all, and if one wanted all the graphic bits, one would read the comic book. Moreover, the frequency of the flashy visuals makes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World feel like one is watching a video game instead of a movie.
George Michael, I mean, Michael Cera, performs quite capably as Scott Pilgrim, but given that he’s once again playing the awkward skinny nerd-boy, that isn’t too much of a surprise. I’ve been a fan of Cera since his days of “Arrested Development” and Juno, but after Superbad, Paper Heart, Youth in Revolt, etc., the routine has all been done. One can only see an actor give the same performance so many times, so I hope that Cera changes things up soon before his talent grows as tiresome as Vince Vaughn’s overgrown baby routine. Scott Pilgrim is mostly a melee of George Michael-esque situations, though, so the film isn’t all bad.
Scott’s quest is to win the girl of his dreams, a pink-haired and intimidatingly confident girl named Ramona, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This is plausible and appropriate, since Super Mario’s quest was always to win the heart of Princess Toadstool. Like Mario must save the Princess from the Svengali-like Bowser, Scott must defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes before he can claim her as his own.
As Scott makes his way around Toronto’s indie music scene, he confronts and fights Ramona’s exes one by one. Scott goes through the list at a painfully slow pace and the film might have been tolerable if Ramona had only had three exes. Furthermore, some of Scott’s battles drag on due to second lives, bonus rounds, and secret villains. It’s unfortunate that Scott Pilgrim wasn’t granted the typical game feature of a ticking-down clock.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does feature many appreciated Canadian references though. In fact, Scott Pilgrim is probably the most “Canadian” American production of recent years. It is nice to see Toronto feature so prominently as Toronto, from the recognizable flamboyancy of Honest Ed’s to the hip stage of the Mod Club. However, when my favourite part of the movie is the fact that the Anna Kendrick character works at Second Cup, that doesn’t say much…
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an admirable effort. There’s some fun and cute moments, and the soundtrack is great, but it’s unfortunate that it comes on so strongly. Hipsters, gamers, and original fans will surely rejoice over Scott Pilgrim. For everyone else, it’s game over.