They really went all out to capture the retro game vibe that’s central to Scott Pilgrim, they even have a delightful eight-bit version of the universal studios logo, which I think sets us up perfectly for the visual style prevalent in the movie. Following on from that, the establishing shot resembles panels of a comic book or a manga, which both references both the material from which the story is taken as well as the broader context of geek culture in general.
Another fun little visual gag that I really enjoyed were the info boxes which pop up to introduce various characters, not only is it always very in keeping with the whole video game style but it’s also just fun.
I feel like regarding movies where Edgar Wright is involved it’s hard not to mention visuals, and if you don’t know what I mean I strongly suggest you watch the Cornetto trilogy, and then watch this movie, you’ll very quickly appreciate Wright’s strong sense of aesthetic.
As a fan of the graphic novels from which the movie is loosely based, I was a little disappointed that they didn’t flesh out Stephen ‘The Talent’ Stilles as much as I would have liked, but the film is still a strong piece of cinema, so I’ll let it pass.
Michael Cera who played the titular Scott Pilgrim was typecast very early on in his career, after playing characters such as Evan in Superbad, Paulie Bleeker in Juno and George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development, he ended up playing the same kind of socially awkward character repeatedly, and Scott Pilgrim, arguably one of his biggest roles, especially at the time of this release, did not help. Still people often get typecast because it works for them as an actor so I can’t feel to bad for him, especially since he no doubt got crazy money for playing the same type of character over and over again. He also did try to break away from his typecast in Youth in Revolt, although you’ll need to watch it to see how successful he was.
Keeping with the theme of casting, prior to watching this movie for the first time, I had only seen Mary Elizabeth Winstead who played Ramona Flowers in one of the more forgettable Final Destination movies (Final Destination 3, where she played Wendy Christensen) or Sky High where she played Gwen Grayson /Royal Pain. While she was a serviceable talent in both of those movies, she didn’t stick out to me so it was strange to see her in this movie, but in hindsight she was a strong choice for this bringing, the perfect blend of attitude and vulnerability.
Oh and they had Kieran Culkin (brother of Macaulay Culkin) as Wallace Wells, Scott’s roommate. Now I will admit I am more familiar with his older brother, but Kieran was a fantastic addition to the cast and really brought Wallace to life, in fact some o the funniest lines/moments in the movie were because of him.
There are so many fine casting choices for this movie including Aubrey Plaza (as Julie Powers), Chris Evans (as Lucas Lee) and Brandon Routh (as Todd Ingram) just to name a few, so I won’t go through every single choice, but the entire cast contributed to this cult classic.
Transitioning into talking about visuals again for a second, and speaking of which, something I really liked and appreciated were the transitions and cuts, it’s never messy or awkward, the scene just cuts to the next part, sometimes in the middle of a sentence.
When I first started doing these reviews I would watch it and take notes, so my reviews tended to seem very linear and event focused, in editing/going forward I’m trying to shift more to my overall opinion of the movie, but I do need to comment on the Pac-Man story, it just feels so honest, especially for someone who suffers from social anxiety, much like myself, and presumably Scott Pilgrim, to go for a tried and tested fact of anecdote when uncomfortable.
I’ve tried not to talk about it because little to none of it actually made it into the movie, but I wish they’d brought in more of the idea that Scott is a little deluded and what we see/are told is edited by Scott to make himself look better. He’s very much an unreliable narrator and it would have been good to see how they handled that in the film. It’s additionally annoying because they kept in the dream sequence where Ramona travels through Scott’s mind, this is a reference to a deeper plot line from the graphic novels, but is underutilised/explained in the movie.
I will add that they do talk about it but only in a throwaway line which just raises further questions and the character never explain themselves further, no matter how much I shout at the screen. To explain though for those who are still unsure what I am talking about, Ramona can travel through a dimensional pocket of space (called Subspace) which just so happens to coincide with Scott’s unconscious mind. In the movies she uses it as a shortcut when making deliveries for Amazon. She claims she can go about three miles in 15 seconds which begs the question why is she the only person taking advantage of Scott’s mind….someone should use the thing. I am glad they kept it in though firstly because it eases us into the idea that this world isn’t like our own…it is Canada after all. And also because they got to make a heavy handed comment about how she’s his dream girl.
There is a scene where Scott asks a bunch of people about Ramona, that is strikingly similar to a scene from the movie Mean Girls (with Lindsay Lohan).
I feel it fits in well with the whole hipster/millennial feel of the movie, that the first evil ex and therefore the entire concept of the League of Evil Ex’s are introduced via email. And Scott deserves all the physical punishment he receives throughout the movie for skimming it.
Jumping back to the visuals again, and something that Wright does well in The Cornetto Trilogy (and seriously check it out!), are small visuals you could totally miss, a good example is that early on in the movie Scott is wearing a jacket with a big X patch on it, and this is just one of the visual hits towards the evil Ex’s in the movie, likewise they will often appear with an X and/or a number indicating which order they are in the movie, for example the third Ex, Todd (played by Brandon Routh) has a t-shirt with a massive number 3 on it.
Most of the visual elements in the story are just that, something for the audience to see and enjoy but it makes no real impact on the world presented in the movie. And with the exception of the super casual reference to the magical space which Ramona uses to travel the movie has been relatively grounded in reality.
It’s a credit to the director and visual effects team that they managed to make Michael Cera look like he could handle himself in a fight.
Speaking of fighting, each fight scene was a visual treat, my personal favourites being Matthew Patel (played by Satya Bhabha) the first evil Ex, who is just awesome and stylish, super flamboyant, and can summon demon hipster chicks followed by the amp vs amp music battle with the Katayanagi Twins (played by Shota Saito and Keita Saito) which was visually more impressive as well as being really fun. Sadly, that’s the most interesting thing from those characters and sadly they were not more fleshed out.
I also really enjoyed the fight between Scott and Lucas Lee (played by Chris Evans) which was fun, if a little more mundane that some of the other fights. Having said that, he did punch Scott about twenty feet or so away right into a bloody castle…so yeah that’s pretty good. But what do you expect from a pretty good actor and a pretty good skater. The highlight of this fight however, was when Lee’s various stunt doubles started kicking Scott’s ass. My biggest problem with this scene though was that Scott technically didn’t really win the fight he just goaded Lucas Lee into doing some ridiculous stunt that killed him. I think they went this way with it mainly because even suspension of disbelief isn’t enough to make me believe Michael Cera could take Chris Evans in a fight.
So I’ll be wrapping up in just a minute, but something I wanted to touch on, is Scott a good person? He certainly has a redemptive arc throughout the movie, but right at the end he meets Nega Scott, who is supposed to be the antithesis to Scott, but he is described by Scott and appears to be for all intents and purposes, a nice guy, so what does that mean? Is Scott a bad guy?
I also like that the subvert expectations by not having Scott and his Nega counterpart fight, they just talk and bond like bros, possibly suggesting that Scott is such a narcissist that he can only really love himself.
So that’s it, I quirky, engaging and funny movie with amazing visuals, great movie and a strong cast of characters, this all adds up to a well earned 9/10 for Scott Pilgrim.
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