I came to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on Blu-ray with no prior knowledge of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 6-volume summary-size graphic novel and, although the second volume in the series appears to share the film’s title writer / director, Edgar Wright He worked with O’Malley to incorporate the key elements contained in the 6 volumes into the script. I’m not an avid reader of graphic novels, in fact the only time I’ve been forced to read them is after watching movie adaptations, namely Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Dave Gibbons and Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World, this is not a prejudice against comics. per se, I find that I have less time to spend on recreational reading than I did before the pressures of work and parenthood, what a shame!
However, I am predisposed to admire graphic novels and their film counterparts, as I enjoy telling fantastic stories primarily through the use of images. This is why my favorite films tend to be predominantly from visual directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and indeed Edgar Wright, who directed the groundbreaking television comedy series Spaced and subsequent feature films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. which, by breaking the structured norms of the genre, have contributed to revitalizing the British film scene.
Scott Pilgrim is a bum and bass player for the local Toronto band Sex Bob-omb, the first obvious nod to video games of my youth, Bob-ombs were the little squiggly bombs that would trip over Mario in various editions of Nintendo Mario Bros. franchise. Scott is moving from band practice to band practice and is dating Knives Chau, a 17-year-old Chinese-Canadian high school girl who he has yet to kiss; He’s been in shock ever since his ex-girlfriend Natalie ‘Envy’ Adams left him and became the lead singer of Sex Bob-omb’s biggest rivals, The Clash at Demonhead, who have been on a successful New York tour.
Scott has a dreamlike vision of a delivery girl on skates in which, literally, when he wakes up, he thinks she is the “girl of his dreams.” When she shows up in real life to deliver her Amazon order, he instantly falls in love with her and loses interest in Knives and the up-and-coming Battle of the Bands contest that Sex Bob-omb had participated in. Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, has recently moved to Toronto from New York, she’s moody and mysterious, but she’s genuinely into Scott and continually surprises him by going to his dates. On the night of the first stage of the band competition, Ramona comes to see Scott play and, while on stage, is attacked by Matthew Patel, the first of Ramona’s 7 Evil Exes, whom he must defeat his once if you want to be with her.
Edgar Wright and script co-author Michael Bacall have cleverly combined elements of O’Malley’s original artwork, 8-bit jingles from classic console games, multiple references from popular film and television (my favorite is the musical from Seinfeld) and extensive fight sequences drawn directly from Tekken or Street Fighter to create a completely unique visual style for this extremely surreal film.
It’s not a case of style over substance though, as Michael Cera’s central performance as Scott is totally compelling and the audience truly empathizes with his hapless existence and the quest that leads him to exorcise his complexes about Envy, finish his relationship with Knives in a mature way and avoid becoming another of Ramona’s evil exes. Wright has built on the success of his previous collaborations with Simon Pegg and created something deeply original and thought-provoking in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which puts him at the top of the A-list of Hollywood directorial talents, I look forward to his next project and hope it will be just as exciting.