Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – A Dialogue
Allen Almachar: So, Brandi and I have made our triumphant return for another tandem review. This time we are taking a look at Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the latest film directed by Edgar Wright, starring Michael Cera.
Brandi Sperry: As a longtime fan of the comic, I’d truly been looking forward to this film. And unlike some of the fans of the source material, I was never anything but excited by the casting of Cera as our titular “hero” (if we can stretch the word to mean an obliviously self-centered yet vaguely endearing layabout with shaggy hair and a great punch-kick combo).
Allen: I came into it differently, I actually never read the comic, so I was interested based on the track record of Edgar Wright, who directed both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Plus, I wanted to see how Michael Cera would be as a kung fu fighting action star.
A quick lowdown on the plot: Cera plays the title character, a member of the band Sex Bob-omb (awesome name). He falls head over heels for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). However, to be with her, he has to defeat her 7 Evil Exes, each in a battle to the death. This is when things get a little interesting.
Brandi: Yes, we have to expect interesting in a version of Toronto where a videogame-style brawl is an acceptable way to win the affections of a lady.
Perpetually confused Scott starts in on his task with varying degrees of support, ridicule, or condescension from his circle of pals (played by an assortment of actors who are each more delightful than the last: Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin…). He’s determined to win the right to date Ramona, but he’s not too keen on the situation, or on her stand-offish attitude toward it. Plus, there’s a battle of the bands that Sex Bob-omb totally has to win.
Allen: Stylistically, this is one of the most creative films I’ve seen in a long time; it borrows elements of comic books, video games, japanese anime, martial art films—you name it, this has it. We have split screens, animated flashbacks, captions, everything but the kitchen sink. I like the fact that the film just jumped head first into this style. Whether it was Scott fighting an Evil Ex or Sex Bob-omb rocking out at the battle of the bands, they dive into this “living video game” style of action, without any rhyme or reason except for the fact that it’s damn cool.
Brandi: I agree, I love the style for two reasons. First, because it works on film as something that hasn’t been done in quite this way before (though I would love to do a double feature of this and Kung Fu Hustle). Second, because it is true to the comics, which do the same thing: you’re tossed into the world of this odd stilted-yet-intimate dialogue the characters use (the first scene of the film is pretty much verbatim the first scene of book one), then, just as you are getting used to that, the video game element is thrown in with no explanation. It’s brilliant, and Edgar Wright really captured Bryan Lee O’Malley’s creation, I think.
Allen: I really enjoyed the video game aspect of the film. I was huge on video games as a kid, particularly the Street Fighter series, which this film clearly takes from. I loved how each battle started with the VERSUS title, and when each “player” died they exploded into coins.
Besides the style, I also thought the film was very funny. Michael Cera has a really good way of being understated and having an almost shy way of saying his lines; perhaps that’s just the way he is, but here I feel it worked great. All the supporting characters were funny as well, but I thought Kieran Culkin really stole the show as Scott’s gay roommate, who isn’t ashamed of hitting on just about anybody.
Brandi: We were Killer Instinct kids at my house. But I think any kid of the early 90s will feel a certain pang of nostalgia during sections of this film.
I agree that Cera was spot on. His character is very tricky—we have to like him, yet believe his naïveté, yet buy him as a viable love interest for a much more sophisticated-seeming character. I think he pulls it off. I also loved Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, a hilarious character I longed to see more of in the comics. I’m a big fan of the actor anyway, so the combo was a gleeful treat for me.
The one area where the movie took a bit of a risk was with the character of Knives Chau. I remember her being annoying as hell in the comics, but here the actress Ellen Wong was so likable and funny, and we’re allowed to feel so much sympathy for her, that I almost wanted Scott to get back with her instead. I think it all worked out in the end, but if I’d been making the movie I would have spent a little more time with Ramona and a little less with Knives, to keep the audience on track with the character Scott’s most invested in.
Allen: You know what? That is the EXACT same thing I was going to point out. I think Knives Chau was made into such a sweet and innocent character that by the time they tried to turn her into a possessive and stalker-like person, I didn’t buy it. When you compare Knives, this lovable girl, to Ramona, who’s a lot more aloof toward Scott, and CERTAINLY has more baggage, you kind of wonder what it was that made him fall for her, besides the colorful hair. I slightly disagree with your take that it all worked out at the end; I didn’t feel quite satisfied with how they resolved this love-triangle, but everything else about the film was so good that I was willing to push that quibble aside.
Brandi: Fair enough, I can see how without the comic to cling to it might not be a satisfying ending. Trust me that comic-Knives is way crazier than adorable-film-Knives. I wish the filmmakers had resisted the appeal of Ellen Wong just a bit, to balance things out.
So, great actors, great humor, a maybe-iffy love story that certainly doesn’t ruin anything, too many super fun and visually creative action scenes to get into here, some spectacular sight gags and cameos that of course we can’t give away….and then, Jason Schwartzman as the Big Bad he was always meant to be.
Allen: Schwartzman as the big bad boss, a super-powered Brandon Routh (who knew?), Chris Evans as an ego-driven movie star: the film is filled with great, distinguishable villains. Add to it rocking music, amazing special effects, over the top stunt sequences, and clever dialogue, and you have yourself one hell of a summer movie. I give it…+5000 bonus points.
Brandi: And here’s hoping the film gains its bonus life with some word-of-mouth box office cash. It really deserves it.