Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Cooper Johnson, Copy Editor
November 17, 2010
Filed under Opinions
“Scott Pilgrim vs the World,” like many movies made primarily for and about geeks, did not break even at the box office. Advertisements failed to convey the point of the movie, and Universal’s decision to open alongside to two surefire blockbusters, “The Expendables” and “Eat Pray Love,” greatly damaged its own ticket sales. What popularity “Scott Pilgrim” did achieve relied heavily on that of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels, from which the film was painstakingly adapted. Like the graphic novels, the feature-rich DVD will continue to please the existing audience, whose culture it encapsulates. More significantly, though, it speaks with such fresh authenticity to the childhood fantasies of so many others that it will enthrall them as well when they see it.
At its core, “Scott Pilgrim” chronicles a turning point in the emotional life of the title character (Michael Cera), a 22-year-old washout. When the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) arrives in town, Pilgrim’s immediate obsession with her forces him to confront his insecurities and become a man worthy of their chaotic relationship. The catch is that in their world, this means he must defeat her seven evil exes in superhuman bouts of mortal combat. The movie operates unflinchingly on the logic and visual style of video games, and even a rudimentary fight involves impossible acrobatics, extraordinary stamina, and experience points.
Because of these quirks, a viewer’s reaction to the film’s NES-style rendering of the traditional Universal Pictures introduction almost certainly foreshadows his or her reaction to the rest of the movie. Nearly every scene contains several tidbits that recall “Street Fighter,” “Final Fantasy,” or “The Legend of Zelda,” and various classic audio snippets pepper the soundtrack. Many people, having never touched these types of games, will not understand the film. Others will, and for them, this is one of the most uniquely entertaining movies in recent memory.
While Cera does not carry the film — the premise and style are original enough to do that by themselves — he certainly grounds it well enough. For better or worse, Scott Pilgrim is the same type of character as every major role Cera has played, so although he does nothing new apart from fighting, his specific experience does help him give the character life. Even though Scott is the only one who knows just why he loves Ramona, he endears himself to viewers so quickly that they accept the sentiment without needing to understand it fully.
Much of the rest of the movie does this as well. As elements enter, they instantly secure laughter and acceptance with deft prods at childhood memories of classic games. In many cases, all the movie needs to establish legitimacy is to demonstrate that it is funny, and it does this by staying consistent with its silly surreality in inventive ways. Ridiculous concepts like demon hipsters and the Vegan Police make sense in their context, and the context makes more sense because of them.
The DVD features four audio commentaries, a blooper reel, deleted scenes with commentary, and several image galleries. These alone jam plenty of extra content onto the disc, but the Blu-ray also includes many making-of featurettes, music videos, trailers, and even more various extras. Much of the additional content, especially on the DVD, complements repeated viewings of the movie, but plenty else stands more or less on its own. The film’s long, careful production cycle created many hours of the bonus material as by-products, so no gimmicks or filler waste precious gigabytes on either disc.
The entire package is as silly as it sounds, but silliness, in this case, would be more conspicuous by its absence. “Scott Pilgrim’s” brand of nonsense, of which copious amounts are involved, certainly banks on some level of audience familiarity with video games, but because Cera, his costars and director Edgar Wright execute it so dynamically and unapologetically, the nonsense works, and the result is a movie of genuine originality and quality.