Is there a place in cinema where nostalgia for video games’ past and indie rock music can combine and create an entertaining time out at the movies?
Edgar Wright has established himself as a director whose previous films, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, are instantly recognisable as his own manufactured products. Both have also attracted cult followings. Wright's latest feature film, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” would be his most ambitious and possibly most challenging film yet. On one hand, the film is an adaptation of a graphic novel. On the other hand, this would be Wright’s first feature film made outside of Britain (and one not featuring frequent collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, no less). With the odds stacked against Wright, one can only wonder if “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” could help Wright attain a mainstream audience and win big with Hollywood.
The film sees 22 year-old slacker and bass guitarist, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) fall hopelessly in love with the girl of his dreams (literally), Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The two begin to date, however, Scott’s life dissolves into chaos as he quickly learns that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to continue dating Ramona. Initially, this may seem like your regular teen-angst romantic comedy but what Wright does is create a film that’s so different and unlike any other you’ve seen before.
Wright’s stylised use of rapid-fire editing fits perfectly within this film’s universe and helps move the plot forward at a very brisk pace. In doing this Wright doesn’t need heavy exposition to explain things as everything on screen is rather easy to pick up. Once a scene is done it quickly moves on to what happens next. At one point in the film, Wright even parodies his own editing technique to brilliant comedic effect.
What’s particular noteworthy about the film is the fact that it’s very visual, especially with its text. For example, if a phone rings in the background, the words “Ring Ring” would project itself from the phone just like it would in a comic book. When Scott faces one of Ramona’s exes, they both stand at opposite ends of the frame and a “Vs.” sign flashes between them. All these small things provide for great visuals and emphasise the film’s comic book roots as well as making the movie one look like one elaborate video game.
The cast is great and everyone involved, no matter how big or small their role is, provides the film with a layer of depth. The characters are all very well written and all come with their own unique personality. My biggest concern was Michael Cera as he is usually seen portraying the same awkward character on screen. It was a nice surprise to see Cera not be completely awkward but more insecure which definitely helped create his character. Mary Elizabeth Winstead finds a perfect balance between being desirable and nonchalant as Ramona Flowers, Kieran Culkin is hilarious as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells and newcomer Ellen Wong plays the obsessive Knives Chau to perfection. And let’s not forget the villains who are all memorable in their own right with slightly hammy performances that never become annoying parodies.
It should also be noted that the film’s soundtrack is very exceptional as is the wonderfully hilarious and well written script. The film’s score mixes familiar sounds of video games and garage/indie rock to amazing effect, also. These other elements definitely help to add another dimension to the film.
Unfortunately, despite all these highly positives aspects, the film doesn’t look like it would appeal to the general populace as it is a niche film. While I definitely appreciated what Wright was able to make, I don’t think that it’s for everyone. The film is very referential and has a hipster/indie-vibe to it that could make people think the film is too pretentious and may scare people away. This is most unfortunate as Wright has created something absolutely unique and wholly original (by which I mean the execution of the film). In no way does this hurt Wright’s credibility as a director. For now though, he will still remain a cult director and this film will still attain a loyal cult following. Ironically enough, like most things indie and alternative – this film may end up being misunderstood and sorely overlooked.