The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageEdgar Wright’s latest film is the best video game metafiction ever (and yes, that is a good thing).

I can’t speak to the faithfulness of this adaptation, as I am completely unfamiliar with the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Passionate Pilgrim fans (are you really out there?) may well decry the film as too much of a departure. I really don’t know, and I don’t much care. After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Edgar Wright pretty much cements the fact that he is a freakin’ comedic genius, and in this latest film he’s given us a hilarious, incredibly original, and wildly inventive film filled from Universal logo to credits with (who saw this coming?) video game metafiction.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22-year old slacker and socially awkward guy coming off a big, bad break up. He lives in an apartment in Toronto with his gay friend Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), plays bass in a no-talent band along with an old-ex Kim Pine (Alison Pill) and Stephen “the talent” Stills (Mark Webber) who call themselves the Sex Bob-ombs. When we meet Scott he is dating a 17-year old high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Though Scott’s friends continually give him shit about it, he sees little wrong with the relationship, given they’ve never even held hands and mostly just hang out, talk about music, and play a mash-up of Dance Dance Revolution and Ninja Gaiden at the local arcade.

One night at a party, Scott meets the (literally) girl of his dreams Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But for Scott to date Ramona, he’ll have to defeat her Seven Evil Exes. Meanwhile Scott has to figure out how to break up with Knives (and deal with the aftermath), and win a battle of the bands in order to land a record contact with the mysterious but ultra-hip producer G Man. It’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World; he’s going to need all the help he can get.

Luckily for Scott (and most definitely for us), his world is some mad scientist’s wacky creation, and every geek’s wet dream, a video game/comic book/real world chimera wherein Scott Pilgrim is the hero. You don’t have to be a gamer to “get” SPvTW (I’d rather not write that whole title everytime), but if you have ever played video games, especially the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat arcade classics or virtually anything Nintendo ever released, the film is full of delightful meta-moments, some of which you’ve likely seen in the trailer:

SPvTW is saturated with geeky goodness. In no particular order, here are some random things I loved about the movie:

Does anyone do angsty, awkward teen/twenty-something better than Michael Cera? Doubtful. I don’t know how much longer Cera can keep coming back to what is essentially the same character that he’s been playing since Arrested Development. Instead of playing the awkward teen (Superbad), in SPvTW he plays an awkward 22-year old, which happens to be his real age (why do I think he’s older?). We may hit a point when audiences aren’t interested in seeing Cera in another one of these roles, or Cera could end up getting typecast a la Christopher Reeve/Superman, but for right now he still brings the funny like nobody else in this particular character-type.

Scott Pilgrim’s girlfriends are freakin’ hot. Seriously, for a skinny, awkward slacker who looks like Michael Cera (he’s not a sex symbol, is he ladies?), Scott manages to land some seriously fine looking women. If you don’t believe me, check it out:

 Image Brie Larson as Natalie “Envy” Adams – Envy is the girl who broke Scott’s heart, not to mention kicked him out of the band when she landed a recording contract and left him behind. She returns to torment Scott, and heat up the screen. Incidentally, I couldn’t find a pic of Brie Larson that matches how hot she is in the film. This will have to do (though it doesn’t quite do her justice).
 Image Ellen Wong as Knives Chau – I don’t know (and couldn’t find info online re:) Wong’s real age, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that Knives is a) kind of hot, b) a student at a catholic high school, and c) SEVENTEEN combined to fill me with all kinds of guilty, conflicted feelings. Mostly because I would SO do more than just hold her hand. Gah! Don’t look at me!
 Image Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers – Winstead is definitely hot in the film, and then I went and Googled her (heh heh), and HOLY CRAP she’s even hotter in real life! Yeah, I think I’d fight seven evil exes to get with her. Yowza!

All the video game metafiction, and the overall style. SPvTW may very well be the best video game movie we’ll ever get, and it’s not even based on a video game. While most video game movies try to distance themselves from the style (if not the story) of the source material (Mortal Kombat is one exception, the first-person perspective near the end of Doom another), SPvTW embraces the video game genre. Scott’s quest to defeat Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes is pure Street Fighter/Tekken/Mortal Kombat, right down to running hit combos lighting up in the air and a disembodied voice calling out things like “Fight!, Bonus!, and Reversed!”.  While SPvTW draws heavily (and primarily) from fighting games, there are so many other great moments, floating 1-ups and pee meters, super vegan powers, dueling monsters of pure sound, and much more. Hell, in one scene I’m almost convinced they borrowed this classic bit of music from Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I geeked out so much I almost wet myself.

The complete lack of any explanation for all the crazy-awesome shit happening onscreen. About half way through the film, a thought voiced itself in the deep recesses of my brain, “Crom, I really hope they don’t try to explain all this as ‘just happening in Scott’s mind’ or due to ‘his geeky, unique perspective’ or anything similar. That would be really lame.” Thankfully, Wright refuses (gleefully, I suspect) to do any such thing. He bombards the audience with all these wonderful bits of metafiction as if they are real. In the world of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, they are real.

I can’t wait for a rematch.