Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World | Edgar Wright, 2010

Originality is something I keep on craving for in this world where it seems that week after week  we get another unnecessary sequel, remake, reimagining, reboot, or whatever. Many already got their serving of it with Inception (not me, still), but only a few weeks later, Edgar Write comes with yet more originality in the form of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The basic plotline may not seem too original (guy does anything to win the girl of his dreams), but thanks to the originality of the details of the story, combined with Wright’s vision, this is unlike any movie I have ever seen.

Based on the highly entertaining six-volume series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World follows the title character (played by Michael Cera) and his precious little life. He plays bass in a band made up of Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Kim Pine (Allison Pill), and sometimes Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). He also lives with his awesome gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and has a 17-year-old girlfriend named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). One day he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and realizes that she is the girl of his dreams, literally. So, they start going out, but it turns out that in order to date her he has to defeat her seven evil exes.

Again, from that synopsis it does not seem like much. However, it is a unique experience thanks to Edgar Wright. First, he chose to be faithful to the books in terms of style, but seeing how this is a moving picture, he had to find more ways to be faithful and please the fans. And he does it in a manner that he excels at: parody as homage. Sure, the story is taken as seriously as it should be considered, but he fills every scene with a ton of references, from videogames, which is the main one in the books as well, to kung-fu movies and even “Seinfeld” and “Arrested Development.” And like in his previous features Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, as well as “Spaced,” it does not feel like they are there to be recognized, therefore prompting a “hey, I know what they are referencing” laugh. Rather, they are part of the storytelling process. Then there are his visual choices.

The movie is so stylish, that in the hands of a lesser director, the images would have taken precedence over the story. In this case, they are there to work along with the story. It also helped that the entire production was top notch. The visual effects, while not groundbreaking, are fantastic. The art direction brings O’Malley’s world to life in a way that I would have never expected. The same goes for the costumes. The score is also really good, and the songs that Beck wrote are really good. In fact, the whole soundtrack is fantastic. And the editing… oh my god. The movie moves at a frantic pace, yet everything moves along slowly. In some scenes I did not even realize that an edit had happened. In a perfect world this movie would get Oscar nominations in all the categories that I’ve mentioned, but since this is not likely to connect with the older members of AMPAS and the impeding box office failure, I doubt it will get any sort of awards recognition.

As for the performances, everyone is really good. I had my doubts about Michael Cera being cast in the part, but he delivered. It is not his best performance, but it is definitely the best character he has played. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfect. The character arcs of Stephen Stills, Young Neil and Knives Chau are expanded a little bit, for the best, and Kim Pine’s is shortened, again for the best, and every actor gives it their best in their respective role. But Kieran Culkin steals the show every scene he is in. His performance is the perfect example of what happens when scenery chewing goes right. Oh, and the sevel evil exes are perfectly cast, my favorites being Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram and Mae Whitman as Roxy. Plus, there are a couple of cool cameos. But still, this is 100% Edgar Wright’s movie.

If there is one thing that I have to complain about, and in fact, it is the only thing that is keeping me from loving the movie, is that the first 20 minutes or so kind of dragged, but once the first fight happened, everything changed.

I do hope to revisit Scott Pilgrim vs. The World more times and find stuff that I missed the first time around. As of now, it is a very entertaining and funny movie that is among my favorites of the year.

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