Editor’s note: Trevor Chamberlain and I go way back. He and I met in Sophomore English class and he introduced me to Reservoir Dogs and La Femme Nikita. In some ways, he’s an important component of how I got to this point. We also spent a lot of time shooting the shit about comic books. These days, I write about movies and Trevor makes them. He also makes the annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic Con where it was said that this year he won tickets to a screening of Scott Pilgrim and wound up high fiving Edgar Wright so hard that his hand fell off. Honestly, I don’t think that last part is true but when I found out that he was going to see Scott Pilgrim it took me about five minutes to press gang him into service for Cinema S and boldly demanded that he review the movie. I’m fucking dying to see this flick and I am very literally green with envy so without further adieu, here’s a review of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World by Trevor Chamberlain.
If you love comic books…. I mean REALLY love comic books. Then you are most likely a Scott Pilgrim. The same goes if you are a movie geek, an LP collector, and especially if you’re all three (like most of us). It’s a fate that you simply must accept. Though, please keep in mind that Scott Pilgrim wins in the end. Hey! I didn’t spoil anything here. Once you’ll see the movie, you will understand. Edgar Wright’s (BBC’s Spaced, Hot Fuzz) insane smorgasbord of all things “nerd” is both the film he has been working towards his entire short career and the film we have been waiting most of our cardboard comic box existences for. Go ahead and dare your friends who’ve seen it to spoil it for you. There is nothing to spoil. This film is about the experience of it. And what an experience Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is.
You play a young Toronto native nobody named Scott Pilgrim (but you look exactly like Arrested Development’s Michael Cera). Scott is in his early 20s, the bass player for yet another living room apartment band called Sex Bob-omb (excellent tracks by Nigel Godrich, this a must-buy soundtrack), and absolutely cannot talk to girls…..well, the ones that he likes that is. He has an incredibly understanding, witty, and slutty roommate named Wallace (another top-notch turn by Kieran Culkin). And – but of course – he’s “between jobs” which means there never was or nor will there be a job in the immediate future. What’s nice is that the film doesn’t begin with Scott as a pathetic loner just pining away for any girl. He does have a 17 year-old girlfriend in high school (yikes!) named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong, in one of my favorite performances in the film). But Scott’s problem is that he doesn’t have the self-esteem and the maturity to manage an honest relationship with ANY girl. Kind of hits close to home, doesn’t it boys?
Then he, quite literally, meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona V. Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Death Proof) and somehow his lack of anything remotely resembling the self-confidence of a healthy adult male comes across as charming to her and they begin to date (because these things happen in a boy’s fantasy). Then trouble begins. Like most young men in his position, Scott’s narcissism prevents him from breaking things off from Knives or even telling Ramona that there is another girl in the picture. This is where Scott Pilgrim’s strengths come in as screenwriters Wright and Michael Bacall start to navigate Scott’s path in doing whatever he can in the name of love for his Ramona and the risk of Scott growing to resent her as the sacrifices he makes begin to accumulate.
Because dating Ramona Flowers can be deadly.
Ramona has 7 evil exes, led by the film’s Lex Luthor/music label executive Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzmann) and they all want to kill Scott Pilgrim. And this is where the movie goes over the top, as it becomes the zaniest martial arts/video game film America has seen since the cult classic produced by Berry Gordy, The Last Dragon (I swear to Christ that was all I could think about during all of Scott’s fight scenes). Super Mario sound effects, boss fights, CG animated weapons, kill scores, 1Ups, Shaw Brothers’ snap zooms, 40 foot leaps that end with an anime mid-air freeze frame, this fucking movie is going to fry your brain. DO NOT, under ANY circumstance, watch this film while dropping acid. You’ve been goddamned warned!
Edgar Wright threw all of the sound and fury he could muster at the screen and, by any definition, this film shouldn’t have worked. It absolutely should not have worked at all. Well, maybe if this film was made in Hong Kong during the early 90s and the director was Tsui Hark, then, yeah maybe. But three cheers to Wright for never losing sight of the sincerity in Scott’s dedicated love for Ramona, his sympathy for the heart-broken Knives, and the pity Scott feels for himself. All three of these elements will come into play as Scott, whether by decision or because the plot dictates it, is forced to grow the hell up. I have a feeling this film is going to hit close to home for some of the viewers out there and that’s where Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a rousing success. Through all of the tripped out animation segments, Dragon Ball Z style fight sequences, and loud, LOUD sound effects (goddamn, is this movie loud), Wright never loses the heart of film. Despite their obvious differences, it’s quite a moment when Scott and Ramona realize that they have both broken a lot of hearts, they have both betrayed a lot of friends, and that they have both spoken a lot of lies just to save face. So guys, the next time you think a girl is “out of your league,” keep in mind that you might have more in common with her than you expect… or maybe even want. I have a feeling this going to cause many a nerd meltdown in the multi-plexes.
And hey, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here. I was a Scott Pilgrim too. What I love about Wright’s film is that he shows the same amount of love that a serious filmmaker like Paul Thomas Anderson shows his flawed characters in films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia. And it’s that love that Wright manages to convey a message that being a Scott Pilgrim is a part of growing up, a natural right of passage, and that there is a Ramona Flowers out there for all of us as long as we are willing to accept her flaws and learn to live with our own. During the final boss battle, one of Scott’s friends asks him what he’s going to do in order to defeat Gideon and save the lovely Ramona from peril. Scott reaches up to grab the 1UP dangling over his head and confidently exclaims, “I’m getting a life.” Truer words have never been said.
BTW, I swear during the end credits there was an 8-bit cover of “Stigmata” by Ministry. How freakin’ awesome is that?!?!?!?!