Director Edgar Wright has created a fantastic(al) tale of the angst of love with his pop-culture fest Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Scott is a geeky (but lovable) 22-year old bass guitarist (Michael Cera) from Toronto, whose life seems pretty bleak to him. Romance is a bit on the scanty side. His ex-girlfriend’s band has just made it into the big league, while Scott’s band, Sex Bob-omb, is still looking for the ever-elusive recording contract (*Note – the band name may suck but their music really is not half-bad). So, he enters into a ‘mourning period’ by dating a giggling, blushing highschooler, somewhat denting his ‘rock star’ image.
Enter the dark and mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Scott immediately falls head over heels for the cyberpunk beauty. As in all relationships, both parties are dragging some baggage along with them. But, Scott could hardly have guessed that he would have to defend his right to love Ramona in the “League of Seven Evil Exes”. He has to duel with all her previous boyfriends, in a series of martial arts fights.
Wright based the film on a popular comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, and has managed to translate the iconography of comic books onto the big screen with great skill. From the Pop Art title sequence to the Manga-style split frames, video game speech bubbles and throwback references to the golden days of Atari and Nintendo, gaming geeks and postmodernists alike will appreciate the visual pastiche.
Cera has becoming quite the front man on the indie movie scene following his performance in the Oscar-winning indie-hit, Juno (2007), and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008). His latest role cements his credibility as a lead, that is, until he decides to ‘expand’ his career by starring in an action-comedy blockbuster with Jackie Chan.
There are plenty of laughs in the film for those who like their humour slightly offbeat. Ramona’s third ex, Todd – the guy who stole Scott’s ex-girlfriend from him – is a vegan which gives him superpowers. “Being vegan just makes you better than most people”, he tells Scott, taking a dig at those holier-than-thou cellulose-munchers. However, just as Todd is about to kick Scott’s ass, he is arrested by the vegan police for cheating on his diet. Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), is also a delight of dry one-liners. He’s a bit of slut, which is problematic since he and Scott share a bed (their flat really little small). When Scott complains about Wallace’s string of lovers sleeping over, he’s drily told, “I didn’t make up the gay rule book. Take it up with Liberace’s ghost”.
The soundtrack is a great mix of indie and garage rock. Sex Bob-omb reminded me of a mix between Oasis and Radiohead while I was watching the film. I was right, Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich is a contributor while there are also five new tracks by Beck, whose collage of musical styles is the perfect backdrop to the film.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World really is everything and anything: it is probably what pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, would have created had he managed to get his hands on Mortal Kombat. There’s a touch of sitcom, a little Bollywood, a dash of Taratino and plenty of satire. The film simply doesn’t do much wrong. My only gripe is with the amount of exes involved in the plot – after number five it becomes tedious and having a lesbian ex is just slightly obvious (apologies for the spoiler).
The film has been a box-office blowout in the U.S. but I’m strangely alright with that, because it means Scott will likely make it to ‘cult classic’ status. Box-office groupies do not deserve films like these anyway.
Director/producer: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead)
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwarztman
Rating: 4 out of 5