Every now and again there’s a film that makes me love being a film geek. Whether it’s the ageless wonder of the science fiction classic Back to the Future or even new classics that call back to the old days of crime capers like The Brothers Bloom, sometimes it’s simply easy to love film. Thankfully, Edgar Wright’s newest film is not only one of the finest examples of the idea, but also a hysterically original adventure that proved to be irreverently entertaining. The film takes place Toronto, Canada, where 23 year old Scott Pilgrim is pretty well content living the life of playing in the band “Sex Bomb-Omb” and dating a girl in high school. Soon there after Scott begins a secret affair with the mysterious Ramona Flowers, and reluctantly initiates a series of battles with her seven evil exes, Matthew Patel, Lucas Lee, Todd Ingram, Roxy Richter, The Katayanugi Twins, and Gideon Graves. Over the past decade Wright has made his name on the comedic genius of the duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost from their work in both Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, and I was really interested to see Wright involve himself with a different cast that was mostly not British like himself. Whenever I first started recommending the film after I saw it, one of the first questions I was asked was “Is Michael Cera still playing Michael Cera?” I personally have always liked Cera’s work, and I’ve always thought Cera’s playing different characters each time, but he as a person comes off in a certain way. As Scott Pilgrim though in the lead role, Cera plays the naive nature of the character almost perfectly. Matthew Patel, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, the Saito Brothers, and Mae Whitman all play their “Evil Ex” characters delightfully over the top and bring personality to each one. It feels like it was each of their own dreams to play a bad guy in a movie some day, and their performances are pure wish fulfillment, which is a sheer joy. Both Routh and Evans seemed to have the most fun bringing their characters to life in some of the best comedic scenes in the film, and had some standout lines. On Scott’s side of the fence was another fierce batch of acting talent. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) got some girlish squeals of laughter from me in how dark and brooding her character could be at times and how Wright played with that, and I continue to love Anna Kendrick, even as she plays a completely different character from her amazing role in Up in the Air, as Scott’s sister. Marc Webber, Johny Simmons, and Erik Knudsen have some fine moments of comedic glory, but both Ellen Wong as Knives Chau and Allison Pill as Sex Bomb Omb’s Drummer brought the heat in some brilliantly comedic moments in the film. Keiran Culkan also killed as Scott’s homosexual roommate, interjecting great lines at the beginning of Evil Ex fights and playing perfect deadpan off of Scott. In case you couldn’t tell from the trailers or TV spots, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has a visual style all its own. In case you haven’t seen the videos and have no clue what I’m talking about, phones literally go “ring”, punches are visibly seen with words like “smack” and “crash”, and there are video game and television references galore like a constant callback to Street Fighter during each of the fights, and a couple of references to television shows like Seinfeld. The callbacks and incorporation of it into the film as a structure of story transcends the idea of a gimmick and brings the film onto its own playing field. The visual style of the film is nothing like you’ve ever seen before, and the film never uses it as a crutch, but uses it to enhance their storytelling, taking a film with a lot of heart and making it twice as cool. Other directors would ignore the core story there in favor of the visual flourishes, but with Wright style comes second, and gets as much attention as the already blooming tale being told. Just like Gondry with Eternal Sunshine, the main focus has to be the love story here, if that fails, so does everything else. Tons of attention goes into making the love story between Scott and Ramona feel believable, and the same goes for making his relationships with his friends and family strong but at the same time gut-bustingly funny. The film doesn’t just use the visual pizazz to strengthen it’s story, it also uses it in a variety of dream sequences with some throwaway gags and some truly unique jokes. I won’t spoil any, but there are some great laughs to be had when Edgar Wright stretches his brain skin. The visual style of the film hooked me from the get go, after the opening credits I turned to my friend and said “I already love this movie”. Thanks to the quick nature of the references and the already quick style that comes with making a video game-like film, the film moves at a hyper speed from scene to scene and character line to character line. I loved this about the film even though it was disorienting at times, and I can’t wait to check back in with multiple viewings to see all there was to see. That being said, some of the more geriatric viewing audience may fairly use this to hate the film, and that’s understandable. The movie moves quick with bright colors, quick lines, and quick edits, and while some may not be, I certainly am the perfect audience for the film. Although I was all for the quick and fantastical, over-the-top feel for the movie, there were a few moments that broke the illusion for me. There were a few moments in the film that just came off as “odd” to me when it came to some of the dream sequences and a moment or two from some of the fights. It felt just a tad bit out of tone. Moving on, the film scored some major points with me, being a major action film geek, by delivering on the high expecations when it came to the action. One of, if not my favorite action scene of all time comes from 2007’s Hot Fuzz where Simon Pegg takes on a town of elderly people with shotguns and rifles, and the entire thing is choreographed beautifully. The fight scenes never quite achieve that level of action magnitude (and being fair, Hot Fuzz never achieved this creative level), but they are entirely their own creation. Each fight scene has its own vibe and taste, sending Scott into a different situation and type of fight, whether it’s hand to hand, fireballs, or tricking the Evil Ex into submission. However, Wright proves his ability as a director by filming the fights impeccably, giving us a great view of the action. It would have been great alone if they had just done the same action scenes over and over, but the way he interjects his style and humor into the fights is un-matched in today’s club of filmmakers. It’s also evident a lifetime and a half went into the music work for the film. All of the times Sex Bomb-Omb gets to perform had me tapping my foot as the band was genuinely great and had a unique sound to them, and other musicians like Brie Larson get to perform. Who can forget also that songs by classic bands like The Rolling Stones are thrown in for good measure, and the score for the film is suitably hypnotic. In case you’re still wondering if I loved Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes”. Not enough people saw this film last weekend as it was totally released on the wrong weekend only scoring $10 million of its $60-$90 million budget. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out though, the film is an absolute blast and is determined to be a cult classic. The movie is bursting with ambition and brilliance in both its comedic references and gorgeous action that manages to use the video game style to its own benefit. Also, who can forget there’s a great love story there too. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film made for our generation of technology, video games and film. One reviewer put it best when he stated that it’s a teen film that defines our generation, and I couldn’t agree more. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of the most original films I’ve seen in quite a long time, it’s a love letter to this generation, hand-crafted by this generation, and tells a story we can all appreciate in a bold, new, and daring way unlike any we’ve ever seen. This is just like a number of films, telling the classic story of boy meets girl, boy must defeat seven evil exes. It’s a classic, right?
4 stars out of 4