Thursday, 13 January 2011


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World [Review]

Opinion: B+

Coming-of-age youth genre has never been more exciting and sensory overwhelming than Edgar Wright's visionary take. Creating a whole new world (or genre) that may be absurd to some as it is highly stylised with video-game arcade and pop culture treatment, but it's exactly how the youth dabble in daily and worldly affairs. A youthful film that either gets you reminiscing or repelling youth.

Meet charming and jobless Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera). A bass guitarist for garage band Sex Bob-omb, the 22-year-old has just met the girl of his dreams...literally. The only catch to winning Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)? Her seven evil exes are coming to kill him. Genre-smashing filmmaker Edgar Wright (of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame) tells the amazing story of one romantic slacker's quest to power up with love in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Scott Pilgrim has never had a problem getting a girlfriend. It's getting rid of them that proves difficult. From the girl who kicked his heart's ass—and now is back in town—to the teenage distraction he's trying to shake when Ramona rollerblades into his world, love hasn't been easy. He soon discovers, however, his new crush has the most unusual baggage of all: a nefarious league of exes controls her love life and will do whatever it takes to eliminate him as a suitor.

As Scott gets closer to Ramona, he must face an increasingly vicious rogues' gallery from her past—from infamous skateboarders to vegan rock stars and fearsome identical twins. And if he hopes to win his true love, he must vanquish them all before it really is game over.

Right from the start when the Universal opening sequence greets you in an old school arcade video game rendition, it is hard not to notice something very different about this film. Yes, it has a lot to do with classic games like Pac-Man, Super Mario, and Street Fighter in terms of aesthetics. This is however not a video game adaptation like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but a coming-of-age adolescent tale of one Scott Pilgrim as he takes on his realm of juvenile issues.

Perhaps deemed a tad bit overly treated with the outrageous flashes of comic-style emphasis on action and video game graphical elements smeared across the silver screen at every chance, but it is done on purpose. Ask any young teenager and he or she will likely relate his or her life to video games, superheroes and pop culture. Very much like how girls always dress their dolls in various outfits, they envision themselves in an alternate fantasy.

So here we have a 22 year old guy who's initially dating a 17 year old girl that is a cult status achievement accordingly to him, especially when she's of Chinese heritage and goes by a name like Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). It's a cool affair to Scott until he meets a neon-haired mature new kid in school, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who reminds me so much of Kate Winslet's character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

One's so much younger while the other is too mature and cool for him.

It's part of the growing process to actually desire a dream date who is much younger or older, all thanks to the curiosity of puberty. Teenage fickle-mindedness is also very apparent here through Scott's sudden switch in interest from Knives to Ramona, on top of other aspects such as the abrupt changes in the location settings (one moment they are shopping in a record store and the very next second they are walking in a residential neighbourhood).

Think how people jump from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 with just a quick multi touch scroll of a finger.

Essentially, it's all about being cool and to stick with what's cool. Many a times when we are young, we tend to discuss and perform silly affairs that usually amount to nothing. All the rash urging decisions and impromptu bashing attitude towards everything, which adults routinely refer to them as teenage rebellion, is nothing but part of growing up.

Despite so, there's something that we all lose as we navigate our way out of this teenage phase of our lives. Dreams and creativity. Through the overwhelming visuals and blatant music, Scott's vision of everything in his life is very much a fantasy that he creates for himself. The issues between Ramona and Scott are interestingly debated via a battle with her seven evil exes, for the adults, this translates into a symbolism of how Scott deals with Ramona's baggage of past relationships.

There are several minor but critical characters in Scott's circle of life, these people actually make up the entire memories of youth. We have his gay room-mate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) who provides both a hearing ear and an advisory service to him as his close pal (we have a colloquial term 'suck-cock buddy' for this, no puns intended). His sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick) who always seems to know everything as well as an upper hand in anything. Hangout buddies of interest with the likes of band crew Kim (Alison Pill), Stephen (Mark Webber), and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). Also one that has attracted and impressed me, the forever naysayer (often served in foul tongue) to everything Julie Powers (Aubrey Plaza).

An excellent cast ensemble, if not for a few who are not as memorable as the rest.

Scott grows as the film progresses and faces an ultimatum battle that he has to conquer before he matures and moves on from it. Lessons like self-respect and love are presented in the form of "level-up" power bonus that can be used against strong enemies (adversities). Before the film you might not be familiar with the generous video game vocabulary used, but you'll surely walk away with a well-versed mind on such after.

Very likely, you'll end up slapping either the word 'fan' or 'ban' across this film. Akin to how some people adamantly claim to be PlayStation or Xbox fans. Just as the film title suggests, it's youthful at its core with lots of stylised teenage aesthetics.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World didn't manage to make it to the big screens here in Singapore, instead it was directly released straight to the DVD shelves. Amidst controversy, I think this is a fine example of a bold modern pop culture literature that highlights and embraces our teenage saga. Just like how some will find Shakespeare's work boring, it is not surprising to see how some may dismiss this as nonsensical.

Should you find yourself in favour of this film, you might have found a connection of relativity between yourself and the film (or rather your adolescent years). If you find yourself having a distaste for it, consider taking a step back and ponder this:

Perhaps you're not understanding today's juveniles well enough?


  1. is it really good?? looks like the whole film is out of a comic book. :O

  2. This is one of my favorite movies of 2010. It mostly impressed me with its cartoonish kung fu hustle-like special effects and the unique editing. The only negative is, it was a bit lacking in action. Otherwise, excellent! Just like your review, mate ;)

  3. @JEMSEN This film is pretty two-sided. I've friends who felt that it isn't good. So you will really have to watch it and find out for yourself I'm afraid. =S

    @Nebular Thanks George! =) Oh yes, now that you mentioned it, the editing is really smooth. Yes, I thought it was something unique for 2010 as well!

  4. Nice review J-Son!

    I really like this film. It is hard not to be impressed by Edgar Wright. The guy has such a masterful knack for visual comedy, and as you mentioned, I loved the arcade, old video game style sequences (from an aesthetic and auditory standpoint).

  5. @MDV Yes Wright has broken genre boundaries yet again with this one. I'm really surprised that it didn't make it to the big screens here. Thank you Matt! :)


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