Michael Cera, action hero ?
In the cleverly written visual film feast, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, that’s what happens when the wiry thin, geeky character that Cera often portrays in previous films gets an amped-up, martial arts reboot as a Gen-Y guy ready kick some serious butt… all in the name of love.
Based on the popular series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” follows the soon-to-be increasingly bizarre misadventures of a 22-year old Toronto guy who seems to have no real sense of direction in his life.
Scott is wrestling with plenty of issues while his mostly dazed and confused focus seems to be mainly on playing bass guitar for his garage band, Sex-Bob-Omb. Scott is also still licking his wounds from being dumped by his sexy girlfriend and, on the rebound, platonically takes up with a lovesick, giggly 17-year old high schooler named Knives Chau ( Ellen Wong ) who adores his every move. Meanwhile, Scott’s nosy younger sister ( Anna Kendrick ) does her very best to remind Scott of the folly of his “relationship” with this younger girl… while Scott’s equally nosy roommate ( a great Kieran Culkin ) also chimes in with his disapproving two-cents as well.
One of the many visually amazing fight sequences in “Scott Pilgrim”
However, Scott’s world is changed when Ramona Flowers ( Mary Elizabeth Winstead ) rollerblades into his life and he’s suddenly head over heads attracted to this mysterious girl who’s mood seems to change as often as her hair color.
But gradually, Ramona finds an attraction growing between them, and allows Scott to get closer emotionally and physically.
The only problem now for Scott is that he must face off, mano a mano against Ramona’s “seven deadly exes”, or former lovers, in various battles to the death. Each of these exes possesses superhuman fighting skills and abilities that Scott must somehow overcome to win Ramona completely and unhindered.
What follows next is a series of wonderfully staged and choreographed battle sequences as Scott meets each “deadly ex” in an ongoing obstacle course of jilted and very angry paramours.
The brilliance of this film is that the audience isn’t required to question how Scott somehow acquires the same ninja like, martial arts skills to dispatch each new foe in his quest for Ramona’s affection. Each ex appears simply looking to challenge Scott, often at a most inopportune moment. The result is a series of video-game inspired fantasy battles that are a brilliant visual mash-up of Street Fighter meets Tron in live-action.
Scott faces off against Ramona’s final ex played by Jason Schwartzman
There’s no need to question how seemingly normal Scott suddenly acquires the skills of Bruce Lee combined with a sword-wielding samurai.
We just go along for the ride because what’s presented on screen is so cleverly dialogued, acted and directed in such uniquely colorful fashion; we’re held riveted by the over the top spectacle that’s taking place.
Many films have been made that are “based” on the comic book genre. However, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is truly a comic book and video game come to vibrant life on the big screen.
Wright directs this film where laws of normal, realistic physics don’t exist. Video game graphics pop-up on screen announcing points being scored by the combatants. Pop culture references abound including a scene that plays literally like a TV sit-com with a laugh track… and even a riff from the “Seinfeld” show.
While all this may sound like a muddled, plotless mess powered only by visual flash… rest assured, it’s much more than that… and it works.
The wild video game pacing and tone of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” will definitely appeal to the younger generation with ease. For those of an older demographic, think of this film’s comic book style as semi-reminiscent of the old classic Batman TV series with it’s “BAM, BOOM, KA-POW!” graphics and color palette… only ramped up into overdrive.
Cera is very good in his role. Though, his Scott comes across at times as unsympathetic, Cera brings a degree of likability to his character as he continues to battle each new foe in the quest to win Ramona.
Winstead makes Ramona an interesting character as well, as she seems unattainable by Scott at first. However, Winstead infuses Ramona with a degree of vulnerability as she gradually lets her guard down to eventually embrace Scott into her baggage-filled life.
Kieran Culkin often steals many of the scenes he appears in as Scott’s roommate… who is both amused by Scott’s problems and concerned as well. Kudos to other cast members including Brandon Routh and Chris Evans who seem to be having a great time on screen as two of the campy, but deadly exes of Ramona.
Alison Pill of “Milk” and “In Treatment” is hilarious to watch with her dead-pan sarcastic comments and facial expressions as one of Scott’s own former flames, who now simmers through her own issues about their old relationship while toiling as the grimly serious drummer in Scott’s garage band.
Finally, Jason Schartzman chews up the screen as perhaps the best and final of Ramona’s evil exes that Scott has to battle. His character is equal parts charming, smarmy and deliciously malevolent. His final face-off with Scott at the film’s climax is one of the film’s best extended scenes.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is one of those films that dares to break a lot of rules with it’s unorthodox storytelling style and fantasy-based video game visuals. It may not be the cup of tea for a wide audience
… but, if you go in with an open mind, you may just enjoy this unique and fun film enough to watch it again and again when the game is over.
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Tim is a member of the Broadcast FIlm Critics’ Association.