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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

I don't know why the hell it has taken me so long to this review. Not only was Scott Pilgrim one of my absolute favourite films from last year - so much so that I saw it 3 times in the cinema - but it tanked at the box office so I'm always eager to try and get more people to give this wonderful piece of work a shot. Not just because I think Edgar Wright, Bryan Lee O'Mally and co. utterly deserve it but because I want to live in a world where something as original and inventive and heartfelt as Scott Pilgrim makes oodles of money.

From (Originally written 3 December 2010)

What it's about:
Scott Pilgrimis, more or less, your average 23-year-old guy. He lives in Toronto, Canada, and shares a crummy apartment with his gay roommate Wallace. He plays less-than-great bass in a less-than-great garage band and is dating a high-schooler named Knives Chow. He has no real ambitions beyond this. That is, until Ramona Flowers, literally the girl of his dreams, enters his life and steals his heart. There's only one catch: in order to date Romona he has to fight, and defeat, her seven evil exes. 

What we thought:

It has been less than four months since Scott Pilgrim vs. The World debuted on American screens and, though it may have bombed rather horribly at the box office, it is already a bona fide, modern day cult classic. Mainstream audiences may have turned their backs on it – because apparently Vampires Suck was much more worth their hard earned cash – but it has already developed a fervent, passionate fanbase, one that very much includes me as a member.

I went into Scott Pilgrim with high expectations. I dare say that there were few, if any, films released this year that I expected more from. Already a fan of most of its constituent elements, I expected the film to deliver and deliver big. Directed by Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Spaced fame) starring the immensely likeable Michael Cera and based on one of my all-time favourite comic books, there was surely no way that Scott Pilgrim vs. The Worldwould be anything less than awesome.  

On the other hand, with those kinds of sky-high expectations, there is always the worry that it wouldn't be able to live up to my potentially unreasonable hopes and dreams for it. It would have been all too easy for Scott Pilgrim to have been the crushing disappointment of the year. The trailer looked great but bad movies have had great trailers before, right? Maybe there was just too much story to be told in a two-hour movie, maybe Edgar Wright just wasn't as good without his usual collaborator, Simon Pegg. What if it all just went horribly, horribly wrong?

I needn't have worried. Not only is Scott Pilgrim an absolute corker of a film, delivering on almost all levels – it actually feels like a game changer. It's the sort of film that not only feels remarkably fresh but is one that may well have reinvented the way films based on comics AND video games are made from now on. 

There have been plenty of great comic book films released over the past few years – some of which have even been better, though not much better, than Scott Pilgrim. However, no matter how much they may have caught the spirit of the comics on which they were based, they have seldom reflected the very unique visual language of the comics' medium itself. Those that have attempted such a feat in the past have either been largely artistically unsuccessful (Ang Lee's admirable misfire The Hulk) or played purely for laughs (the 60s Batman TV show). For Scott Pilgrim however, Wright has finally found a way to mix the poptastic, eye-catching visuals of comics at their most energetic with a style and feel that is the very definition of cinematic. 

Even more impressively, he has made the first true video game movie since possibly 1982'sTron. I know, I know, there have been loads of movies based on video games. The thing is, though, that those movies essentially took the cinematic aspects of the video games - the bits that basically were movies in the first place - and turned them into feature films. Big deal. Scott Pilgrim does something far more interesting. Wright doesn't base the film on the story of any particular video game. Instead, he infuses the look, the sounds, the feel and the non-logic of the least cinematic bits of old Nintendo games – think Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter 2 or Super Mario Bros – into every last inch of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. 

Scott Pilgrim is, aesthetically, breathtakingly original. It's not all about the surface though. Beneath the sheen and spectacle is a simple, heartfelt love story. A love story that uses the film’s surface pinnings – the dazzling action scenes, the frantic editing and the story's flashy fantastical elements - as visual metaphors. Why tell us that Scott is a kid with a short attention span when you can show it instead? Why tell us that Ramona has a complicated romantic past that Scott has to come to terms with, when you can bring it to vivid, high-kicking life? 

It's a movie packed to the gills with snappy dialogue, brilliant sight gags, unforgettable characters, frantic and varied action scenes as well as large dollops of surrealism – all of it working together towards a greater purpose; a more cohesive whole. That it suffers slightly being dragged down by one (or indeed two) too many evil exes towards the end, can be forgiven by the fact that there is always so much going on on-screen that you will barely notice, let alone care. 

I could also mention the fantastic performances of everyone in the cast (seriously everyone, but special mention must go to Kieran Culkin who steals the show as Wallace), the hilariously cool cameos, the note-perfect soundtrack and the sheer genius of how Scott deals with Nega-Scott, his evil twin of sorts, but I'll leave all that for you to discover on your own. 

I understand that Scott Pilgrim won't be for everyone. It clearly has not caught on with most mainstream audiences and critical responses have been decidedly mixed. That doesn't mean you shouldn't see it though. It is, if not one of the best films of the year (and I will argue that point to the death), certainly one of the most inventive and unforgettable. It is, despite what box office takes might suggest, the very definition of a must-see movie. 

So please, go and see it. See it and hate it. See it and love it. See it and debate it. Whatever. Just see it.

SA readers buy Scott Pilgrim vs The World (DVD) from Take2 or Buy the Blu-Ray instead

International readers buy Scott Pilgrim vs The World (DVD and Blu-Ray) from


  1. I enjoyed this movie a lot. I think the actors did a great job portraying the characters in a very animated fashion. My favorite scene in the movie was when he was fighting the skateboarding actor and all the stunt doubles were doing all the work. I work for Dish Network and I didn't see this movie in theaters but I did order it in HD and it was very worth it. Great article and I agree just see it!

  2. Thanks, Ray.

    And, yeah, it's just shameful how much it flopped at the box office.