Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film I have been meaning to get around to watching for a long time. I think Edgar Wright has made two of the greatest comedy films of the twenty-first century – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (I have yet to see the final part of the trilogy, The World’s End) – but those films succeeded on their abstract British humour and committed lead performances from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World always seemed ambitious, but I was somewhat reluctant because how could it possibly live up to Wright’s previous masterpieces? I finally got around to watching it (mainly in anticipation for Baby Driver), and honestly, I have to say that while it doesn’t live up to the brilliance of the previous two films, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is still a fun and often very thrilling film.
This is a film that perhaps may not appeal to everyone, but it certainly is a film for millennials, from beginning to end. The quirky intertextuality, video game ideology and general design of the film are more a pop art homage to the childhoods of many younger adults now. It has many references that may confuse some that aren’t completely in sync with early 2000s pop culture, and while it is not entirely necessary to understand everything Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is trying to say, it just amplifies the pure fun of this film. This is an important point – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of those films that are fun or the sake of being fun. Nothing serious behind it, it is just a strangely entertaining film, and that is precisely what makes it such a wonderful film and one that knows exactly what it wants to achieve, and it does so excellently.
First and foremost, I feel the need to overanalyze this film a bit too much – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is such a fun and mindlessly entertaining film, the only logical plan of action would be to introduce academic literary theory to it. It is the only thing more fun than watching this film, obviously. However, through looking at it through the lens of something slightly academic, there is actually a whole hidden wealth of meaning behind this film. I consider Scott Pilgrim vs. the World one of the better postmodern films of recent years, mainly because of its dedication to many of the postmodern ideals. First of all, Edgar Wright is a filmmaker that makes his influences abundantly clear in his films – it is actually commonplace for the likes of Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino to take their influences and introduce them liberally into their films. In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright outright steals entire pieces of art and throws them into his film, but in a way that is artistically tasteful and relevant to the story. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World serves to be somewhat of a pastiche of many other similar films, as well as venturing into the territories of television, literature, music and most of all, video games. It is a film layered with influences, and like any good postmodernist, Wright knows exactly what to do with them. Perhaps it may not succeed quite like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz did, but it does work much better than I expected here.
However, above all else, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a great piece of metafiction. Personally, as someone who loves postmodernism, there is nothing that excites me more than a great piece of metafictional work. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film that follows the technique of alluding to the fact that it is artificial in the best way possible – by being completely and utterly off-the-wall ludicrous. There are more ridiculous moments in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World than I am willing to count, and while this can sometimes result in a lack of focus and loss of audience interest, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it is beautifully done and in such a way that it throws the audience into the film head-on. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is aware of how far-fetched the story is, and unlike many recent graphic novel adaptations, it never strives to be realistic. The fact that it comments on its own fictional nature makes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World one of the more entertaining films of recent years.
The reason I wanted to watch this film was because of its impressive cast. Watching the names in the opening credits, I was actually surprised – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has a cast of performers that are far bigger now than they were back in 2010, and it was surprising how now we see many of these people as big stars, whereas only seven years ago, they were far more obscure and less recognizable. If anything, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is worth checking out purely because of the cast, and surprisingly it is one of the rare films that assembles an ensemble cast and is able to use each member properly. Everyone from the major characters to the cameos is used absolutely wonderfully, and some of my personal favorites are in this film, which was just an added bonus in my eyes.
I may not be the biggest fan of Michael Cera – I don’t hate him at all, and I enjoy him in some of his smaller films. But I was somewhat hesitant with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, with him as a lead, mainly because I wasn’t sure the approach this film was going to take and how they would use him. The first part of this film was inferior to the rest of the film for one simple reason – Cera was unbearable – arrogant, shrill and annoying, I thought he was giving the worst performance of his career. However, luckily it turns out that was intentional because as soon as this film is properly set in narrative motion, Cera becomes very likable and a strong lead. He is so good in this film, I can’t imagine a single other actor playing the role of Scott Pilgrim. Cera is a far better actor than people give him credit for – he just needs to a find a way out of these types of roles for two reasons – first, it is a curse to be typecast, and secondly, he will never top it after Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
However, Cera was forgettable considering the supporting cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Let me just state that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is going to become a huge star very soon, and between 10 Cloverfield Lane and her utterly amazing work in Fargo this year, she is destined for greatness. However, her brilliance started early on in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where she is just the definition of magnetic. Commanding the screen with a combination of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and hardcore heroine. She is absolutely wonderful here, and it is great to see her talents were there from the beginning. She is incredibly talented, and I really sincerely hope she gets the roles worthy of her talent and rises to the top because in a world where subpar talented is rewarded, someone of her caliber needs to be celebrated.
The entire supporting cast is pretty solid, in my opinion. They might not be on the same level as Cera and Winstead, but they all are definitive individuals. I have to say, as a shameless fan of Jason Schwartzman, I was so happy to see him in a villainous role like this. He is a great actor and I am happy he gets consistent work, and he is good in all of it. He may only appear towards the end of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but he is still wonderful. Ellen Wong plays Knives Chau, and her broad-smiled, goofy likability make her so endearing, which only creates even more surprise when she is revealed to be quite tough in the end, and the most sympathetic character in the film. I am surprised that Wong hasn’t quite gotten the best work since, but I think it is only a matter of time. I was most delighted to see Academy Award-winner Brie Larson in one of her earlier roles, playing the deliciously unlikable Envy Adams. This film is filled with performers that would go on to do great things – Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick and others. It is a great cast for a great film.
Edgar Wright clearly has an eye for detail, because Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a visually delightful film. Wright inserts so much visual detail into this film, it becomes challenging to catch all of the little references that define every single scene. I do think the manner in which Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is quite impressive – this is the first comic book film that actually takes the comic book sensibilities and translates it perfectly to screen – never campy, but entertaining and thrilling. Cinematographer Bill Pope has worked on some big films, and his work in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is no less impressive than some of his more high-profile work. I may not consider Wright to be as brilliant a filmmaker as most people, but there isn’t any denying that he is a wonderful filmmaker, and his influences are made clear through this film.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a great film. It may not reach the highs of some of Wright’s other films, but it is certainly a great film in itself. A dedicated cast with a strong story, and a highly capable director behind the camera, all added up to a fascinating, endearing film. It is certainly very original, and it is one of the most mindlessly fun films I have ever seen. It may try and have a serious meaning, but all of that is forgotten purely for the fact that the entertaining nature of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is what will be remembered. It is a very good film and one that I enjoyed tremendously. I am just beyond grateful that there are no intentions to franchise this and turn it into a series – as a standalone film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World serves its purpose as a wildly original and truly engrossing film that will hopefully age well and remain as entertaining for future generations as it is for ours.