Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: August 13, 2010
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance
Stars: 3 out of 5
When you mix a pastiche of '80s and '90s video games, a rock soundtrack, and a romantic plot, the film "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is the result. The film focuses on the protagonist, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) and his efforts to come to terms with himself and win the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead.) While this sounds like a standard forgettable plot, the aforementioned video game trappings make the film a quirky, fun experience tinged with nostalgia for decades past.
The film begins with Scott visiting his bandmates and his girlfriend Knives (Ellen Wong). The other members of the band make fun of Scott for dating Knives, who at the time is seventeen years old while Scott is twenty-two. Scott returns to his apartment and falls asleep, dreaming of wandering in a desert. Ramona makes her first appearance, manifesting as a pink-haired girl on roller skates telling Scott that he is dreaming. He keeps the image and the thought of Ramona in his head and later sees her making a delivery. The band has scheduled a practice session because it has been invited to participate in the Battle of the Bands. Normally, Scott would be elated by this news, but he is too distracted by the thought of Ramona.
At a party later that night, Scott and his friends are talking to record executives. When Scott sees Ramona, he goes to flirt with her; however, he isn't very successful because he lacks confidence in himself. Ramona, a new girl in town, is originally from New York. Although she has seven ex-boyfriends, which makes it difficult for anyone to date her, Scott doesn't give up. Ramona visits Scott after appearing in his dreams again, and they begin dating. She reveals that Scott will have to defeat her exes in combat before they can enter a relationship. The rest of the film concerns itself with Scott and his friends dealing with these exes and confronting the leader, Gideon, before Scott departs with Ramona at the end.
The film has a solid mix of action, comedy, and self-introspection from Scott. At the end, Scott learns that he must have self-respect and be open to friendship before he can have a mature relationship. Scott had dated Knives because he believed younger women were easier to deal with. He had been intimate with Ramona before actually breaking up with Knives, and before he can win the final battle, he must admit this to both girls. This admission marks a transition in Scott's character, though viewers don't get to see it because it occurs near the end of the film.
The film's major attraction is how it depicts the world like a classic video game complete with boss battles, powerups, extra lives, and instantaneous travel. Whenever one of the Evil Exes is defeated, he explodes in a shower of coins. Collecting enough of these coins gave Scott an extra life that he used to effectively rewind the final battle and give himself another chance to win. Some of the methods he uses to defeat the exes are ingenious. For example, one of them is a professional skater, so Scott forces him to grind along a railing until he yields the requisite coins. In the final fight with Gideon, Scott pulls a flaming sword from his chest, mimicking the seemingly ex-nihilo powerups video game characters receive. After Gideon kills him, he uses the extra life to revive himself in the desert dreamscape and resume the fight, like video game characters frequently did in older games. Overall, the movie's world mimics the style of Nintendo classics "Mega Man" and "River City Ransom."
Video game tropes add a spark of whimsy and nostalgia necessary that keeps the plot from being forgettable. They create a stark contrast to the real-world problems that Scott faces and can be inspirational. Obviously, in real life viewers can't go around beating people up to solve their problems, but the video game tropes allow Scott to envision himself as a hero of sorts. In reality, using fictional characters as role models in a similar manner can possibly help people boost their self-confidence. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" effectively combines fantasy and reality to create a classic tale of a hero's journey combined with the modern world of dating and relationships.