Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Let me be frank, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is one of my favourite films of the year.

Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/Spaced) and based on comic books by Toronto local artist/writer Bryan Lee O'malley, SPVTW is a dizzying adventure that's visually stunning, gut-busting funny, and full of heart. It's a Hollywood caliber film shot entirely in Toronto where for once, Toronto is actually suppose to be Toronto. The film opens to a narrator saying "Not so long ago, in a faraway land called Toronto, Ontario, Canada." Funny enough I find this to be the most Torontonian film I've ever seen even though it's not made by a Canadian.

The Scott Pilgrim story is generally a simple one. An early twenty something Toronto slacker falls in love with a super cool New York girl. There's only one thing standing between him and his sweetheart; a league of 7 evil exes. In order to claim the love of his young life he must defeat these 7 evil exes in battle. See? Simple.

The Scott Pilgrim books are riddled with video game references (mostly from 80's Nintendo era) which explains the formulaic plot. However, the books are also heavily rooted in the Toronto independent music scene as Scott himself plays bass in a local rock band called Sex Bob-omb (see! A Super Mario reference).

Luckily for fans of the books and the uninitiated alike, Edgar Wright took immense care with the original stories infusing the best parts of the comics with his penchant for over the top genre nodding film-making.
An average evil ex battle in the film will play out like watching two skilled players play Street Fighter 2 at a place like A&C Games, yet at the same time no two evil ex battles are alike which only adds to the ingenuity of the film.
As for the music, lovers of the comic book can rejoice. Although hilarious lyrics were written out on the page one always had to imagine a tune, but not anymore. Wright commissioned no one other than Beck to write the tunes for the fictional band. I feared the music could really hurt the film if it wasn't up to par, however Beck has written some of the most bad ass garage rock tunes heard for sometime on this side of Lake Eerie.
So, the original comic is great and the director of the adaptation is more than competent enough, now how does the film stand up on its own?

Well, for one it's one of the sweetest films I've seen in years. Between salivating for the next jaw dropping battle, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World features a surprisingly emotional story on youthful love. Obviously the metaphor of a league of evil exes is for how one's past can make you feel inadequate in a relationship and what you must do to overcome those doubts. Scott's journey isn't one for his love, Ramona Flowers, but instead for Scott. He has to realize he isn't fighting these evil exes for her but rather for himself. It's not a fight for love at all actually, it's a fight for self respect.
Within that story is sprinkled all those dramatic relationship scenarios that plagued many of us throughout high school and beyond. Scott starts dating Ramona without first breaking up with his current girlfriend (a sin I'm ashamed to say I've committed once or twice). Scott's friend starts dating his ex which leads to some awkward moments. One of Scott's best friends is a girl he dated in high school that holds a grudge against him for past transgressions. etc, etc, etc.
Basically it plays like my high school relationship resume, complete with immaturity and lack of self respect. The sweeter moments like Scott and Ramona walking in the snow and sitting on swings in what looks like a high park area playground are immensely dreamy and nostalgic. Not to mention they feel like they were ripped directly from my life.

The pacing of the film is fast and furious, always having another battle to look forward to keeps the film moving briskly. Although truth be told as the fights started to dwindle I found myself saying "please don't end."

The cast is just marvelous. An absolute gem of an ensemble with Michael Cera really shinning as Scott Pilgrim. Alison Pill (Milk) as disgruntled drummer Kim Pine of Sex Bob-omb is a highlight as well as Kieran Culkin doing a fabulous turn as Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells delivering some of the films best laughs.
As for the evil exes every performance is a real treat. My personal favourite being Chris Evans' Lucas Lee. An ex pro skater turned action movie star extraordinaire who lets his stunt doubles do the fighting for him (the character is loosely based on Jason Lee). A close second would be the head of the league Gideon Graves who is played to slimy perfection by Jason Schwartzman. Another ex worth mentioning is Roxy Richter played by Mae Whitman who also played Michael Cera's girlfriend Ann in Arrested Development. Obviously, this connection is intentional and for fans of AD you'll get a hoot out of watching George Michael and Ann battle it out.

The soundtrack, mostly written by Beck, is the first movie soundtrack I've purchased in years. It plays like a terrific rock record with tunes from Canadian and international talents. It perfectly depicts the atmosphere of the film, especially during the more dramatic scenes. However, every rock performance by Sex Bob-omb is also fantastic.

Sorry to bring Roger Ebert into this again, but I watched a shitload of At The Movies growing up. I recall his review for 2001's Ghost World, (which was also based on an independent comic book) where he gave the film full marks starting off by saying "some times you watch a film and feel like it was intentionally made for you. That's how I feel with Zwigoff's Ghost World...". I enjoyed Ghost World but in no means did i find it stellar and I think that's the deal with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
I personally feel the film was made for me. Not only scenes and scenarios ripped right from my life but every reference to video games, tv, film, music etc. were nods to things I love. While the locations the characters frequent around the city are places I at one time or another hung around a lot, say like Lee's Palace or the Pizza Pizza located at Bathurst and Bloor. A surprise cameo by my favourite male actor of all time, Tom Jane, only proved the point further.
"I Just want my kids back"

While certainly not a film for everyone; the "hip" kids will scoff at this one for getting the Toronto art scene completely wrong and over exposing Toronto to the International stage. Others will find the film alienating, either because the references will go over their heads or the the film over exposes Toronto's "hipster" scene which they find despicable.
Granted, I went into the film expecting to grind my teeth at the portrayal of all these cool pretty young Toronto musicians and artists but instead I felt welcomed like a friend.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World didn't do so well in theaters in North America. It did however do well here and is still playing in first run cinemas, a rare thing these days after two months of release.
Universal Studios didn't sweat what many people wanted to call a box office bomb, you know why?

That's right, Universal made their money back in the Japanese market where it's a rousing success.

The DVD and Blu-Ray hits our shelves November 9th. I highly recommend picking up a copy and getting lost in this most "epic of epicness".


La Sporgenza said...

Wow... boffo post Kato. Loved the personal touches, the Ebert quote/comparison, and the "Japan" pic. Well done.

stonerphonic said...

I've seen episodes of Southpark, so I know there's no such thing as a "Canada"...

SPvsTW is right up there with Kick-Ass as being one of my secret movie indulgences outside of the horrorsphere. it's been out for a few weeks here now (australia), and I can't wait to hit it up.

awesome story. awesome director.

and an awesome review.