Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, Brandon Routh, Keita Saito, Shota Saito
On the weekend that every cinematic action hero hits the big screen in just one film, The Expendables, how can moviegoers be expected to accept Michael Cera as just as much of a hero? Thanks to the ingenious filmmaking techniques of Edgar Wright, some may find that Cera is more of a leading man than any of those muscled up stars. Cera isn’t given CGI biceps, but the film adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book series, Scott Pilgrim, is packed with the most fantastic kind of digital effects, ones that actually enhance the film. However, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World isn’t a flick that relies on a sole asset; it’s a success and innovative achievement on every front.
Scott Pilgrim is the perfect role for Cera. He’s a musician, he’s geeky, has lady issues and frequently mumbles amusing nonsense. To his friends’ and sister’s dismay, Scott’s dating “a 17-year-old Chinese schoolgirl” named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Scott’s into her, but she’s clearly on the juvenile side. When he invites her to check out his band, Sex Bob-Omb, she becomes their very first groupie. His bandmates, Kim Pine and Stephen Stills (Alison Pill and Mark Webber), and their friend and wannabe Sex Bob-Omb, Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), aren’t thrilled but tolerate Scott’s baggage. Then there’s Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and snarky sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick) who both insist Scott grow up and ditch Knives.
He protests, but then concedes not because he’s over Knives, but because he finds someone new, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He spots her at a party and instantly falls for her. She reluctantly agrees to go on a first date and then the fun begins because that’s when it becomes official that Scott must take down Ramona’s seven evil exes if he wants to date her. There’s the Bollywood-infused Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), the skateboarder-turned-movie star, Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), the vegan-powered Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), the sole lady in Ramona’s life, Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman), the Katayanagi twins (Keita and Shota Saito) and the toughest of them all, music producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).
After namedropping such a massive amount of characters, what comes next is usually the criticism of how the movie wasn’t long enough to accommodate them all, but that is far from the case in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Almost every single character gets an appropriate amount of screen time and is developed enough to make a significant impression. The only two that could have benefited from more background information are Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, but their battle scene is so impressive, it goes completely unnoticed.
Every fight is really wildly remarkable. They’re funny, well shot, show off incredible choreography and are just downright mesmerizing. It’s really impossible to pinpoint the best of the bunch. Patel makes quite an impression with his musical performance in the first fight while Evans’ impossibly arched eyebrows is really all you need to get a kick out of his scenario. Routh’s big fight is particularly inventive and features two fantastic cameos. Ramona finally gets in on the action when Whitman comes in as the crazily eccentric and angry Roxy. The visual effects for the weaponry are exceptionally striking here, but the best part of the scene is how Roxy goes down. The fight with the twins stands out because of the music. It’s the ultimate battle of the bands pitting Scott’s Sex Bob-Omb against the Katayanagi’s electronic styling that erupts into a visual brawl. Scott Pilgrim is certainly effect heavy, but all of these actors really deserve major credit because it’s their performances that make every evil ex so profound when each gets such a small amount of screen time. Effects aside, Schwartzman puts on one heck of a performance as Gideon. He shows off some impressive swordsmanship, but the highlight of the character is Schwartzman’s congenial yet menacing portrayal.
The fights aren’t the only portions where the special effects come into play. In fact, Scott Pilgrim is packed with them from the Universal logo on. Wright ditches the standard globe and theme song for a pixilated version and an 8-bit tune à la Nintendo. From there we get text sound effects on everything from the “ding dong” of the door bell to the “click” of a light switch. Then there are more humorous digital effects like Scott’s “pee bar” and some emoticon-infused emotion on Knives’ face. This is the first film since Zombieland to put text to good use and it accomplishes that feat tenfold.
Even with all of the bells and whistles on Scott Pilgrim, so much of it comes down to the performances. This is Cera’s show but the breakout star is Wong. She’s got a vast emotional rang, fantastic comedic timing and can put up a serious fight. Culkin also makes a great addition getting a ton of laughs as Scott’s gay roommate with a habit of stealing Stacey’s dates. But as our two stars go, Winstead and Cera are winners. Ramona’s generally unenthusiastic towards Scott, but Winstead artfully slips in the compassion when necessary, making Ramon’s affection believable. As for Cera, he’s a natural in the role. It’s easy to connect the dots between Scott Pilgrim and his past roles, but what makes that okay is that Cera doesn’t just sit back and do what he does best; he throws himself into the part 100% and it shows.
Scott Pilgrim is a big deal for a number of reasons. The successful use of videogame-esque effects is astounding, the management of a character-heavy piece stellar, the humor perfectly timed and the fight routines spectacularly unique. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is really a film not to be missed not only because it sets a new standard for filmmaking, but because it’s a blast as well.
By Perri Nemiroff