Scott Pilgrim and his band, The Sex Bob-ombs, are performing at a local band competition in some run down music bar. His girlfriend — or at least the girl he’s seeing — Ramona Flowers is sitting on the mezzanine with a bunch of his other friends and fans, watching him. All of a sudden, the ceiling caves in, and an Indian guy flies in from outside. He looks like a goth kid who has forgotten to add white to his face. He challenges Scott to a fight to the death, claiming to be the first of Ramona’s Evil Ex-Boyfriends. At first, Scott is bewildered (who wouldn’t be?), but then he accepts the challenge. Their fight includes both men flying through the air, landing 60-hit combos, crashing into equipment, super fast running speeds, and four sexy spawns of satan hovering and dancing to an Indian battle song.
This is just the beginning of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’s craziness. And I mean “just the beginning”. From start to finish, the movie zips on by with insane fight scenes, clever editing, blisteringly loud and fast songs, whacky effects, gags and jokes that never stop, and characters that never seem to take a breath. It is based on a graphic novel series of the same name, which in turn is strongly inspired by old school arcade gaming, so I suppose it’s only fitting that the movie, like an actual arcade game, doesn’t have the time to pause and inhale.
Scott (Michael Cera) is a geeky dude who lives with a bunch of roommates (two of whom are also in his band). He tells them one morning that he’s gotten into a relationship with a 17 year old Chinese girl, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). But then, he dreams about another girl with pink hair, and later sees her at the library. He is swept off his feet and Knives doesn’t have a clue. The band goes to a party, and guess who’s there! The girl with the pink hair, who is in fact Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She’s aloof, awkward, and kind of gives off the vibe that she’d rather be left alone. Well, what luck! Scott’s the same. They start to date; Scott is ready to dive right in there, but Ramona remains somewhat distant. And she has a good reason to.
Enter, the Evil Ex-Boyfriends. Seven imposing whackos who each have some sort of superpower. They have formed something known as The League Of Evil Exes, and their sole purpose in life now is to make Ramona’s new boyfriend’s life a living hell. They enter the story one at a time — later two at the same time — and engage Scott in otherworldly pixelated gaming showdowns. Every fight plays like a video game from the ’80s, with characters conjuring swords and giant mallets from thin air, performing gravity-defying stunts, earning tokens for every opponent defeated, grabbing a “life” for performing good deeds. It is essentially a video game brought to the big screen, less subtle than Run Lola Run, but infinitely more inventive.
The movie’s directed by Edgar Wright, who also directed Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, and while it doesn’t have the same look or feel as the other two, its propensity for laugh-out-loud humour is consistent. Many of the evil exes in particular have wonderful comedic lines and good timing. Brandon Routh, for instance, as the vegan bass-playing jock, Todd, perfects the deadpan delivery of some of his lines, and his immortal last word is classic. Chris Evans, too, is funny and effective as the overly pompous skater actor dude, whose arrogance cuts his screen time in half. But the humour doesn’t only reside in the people. Wright manages to construct and organise many of his shots and scenes with exact editing, editing that transports characters from one location to another in the blink of an eye. Wipes, dissolves, and split screens that have a purpose and that add to the funniness.
But the thing that makes Scott Pilgrim such a joy to watch is not how all these little details work independently, it’s how they come together in spite of the insanity and still produce a movie that’s character-driven, CGI-laden, and enjoyable. We have to remember that this isn’t a movie that takes place in the real world (in fact, much of it takes place inside Scott’s head) and that its plot comes from a graphic novel. The League Of Evil Exes might seem like a ridiculous idea, but the entire movie is ridiculous, and in a good way. It is a sensory explosion, overloading our eyes and ears with colourful visuals and thunderous music. It is fresh and genuinely entertaining, and if you’re one of those people who’s had the privilege of playing ’80s or ’90s 8-bit arcade games, Scott Pilgrim will have a soft spot in your geeky heart.
Best Moment | All of it. Really.
Worst Moment | Nope. Can’t think of one.