Scott Pilgrim, a rock and roll hero in his own mind, meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. To win her, Scott must use a skill set one can only learn from video games and comic books to succeed.
In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Scott (Michael Cera) is thrust into mortal combat with seven lovers from Ramona’s past, six deadly street fights lighted by flaming swords, set to blaring pop rock and dripping with video game nods and winks. Stuck in a state of perpetual adolescence, Scott plays in a band named Sex Bom-Omb, goes on dates that consist of playing Dance Dance Revolution and tries to impress girls with his knowledge of Pac-Man history.
Only in a movie so deeply affected by video game logic can that possibly work. But Scott Pilgrim vs. the World works.
State of the Art Hi Definition Graphics: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a spectacular looking film. It’s visually rich, with fast cuts that aren’t obnoxious, computer generated effects that don’t overstay their welcome and fantastic fight scenes. Some Scott versus boyfriend battles are better than others, but all of the film’s CGI-laden brawls are memorable. The movie does an impressive job of matching the books, sometimes down to the panel, resulting in a visual presentation that serious Scott Pilgrim comic book fans will appreciate.
Ex Number Two: Of the six brawls in which poor Scott Pilgrim finds himself, it is against ex-boyfriend numero dos, Lucas Lee that stands strongest. It’s the funniest, thanks to a well-fleshed out character and a perfectly smug performance by Chris Evans. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is laugh out loud-worthy well beyond that fight—one that incidentally diverges smartly from the comics—and right from its opening scene. Wright does not disappoint in delivering another great action comedy.
Video Game Logic (Or Lack Thereof): Those of us who play Street Fighter or read X-Men comic books won’t blink at the bizarre laws of the Scott Pilgrim universe. Almost everyone has some unexplained super skill, born from their knowledge of video games or their vegan diet or whatever, all of which feels like some massive in-joke. Non-nerds may be confused by the laws of physics in Scott Pilgrim’s world—”Where’d he learn to fight like that? Why’d that guy turn into a pile of coins?”—but video game aficionados won’t have an issue with its off-kilter logic.
Full Of Get: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World flirts hard with showing its nerd cred, getting dangerously close to “trying too hard”—”Hey, I learned how to play the bass line to Final Fantasy II!”—but it’s also laden with less obvious references. You’ll get ’em.
A Great Cast: Kieran Culkin almost steals the show as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells. Alison Pill turns in a perfectly sour Kim Pine. Ellen Wong nails Knives Chau. Mark Webber looks like Stephen Stills come to life. Satya Bhabha is a kinetic Matthew Patel. I already confessed my love for Chris Evans. Look, almost every character feels ideally cast. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Romana Flowers is a bit flat, but deadpans the right way and is very believably crush-worthy. So… what about Michael Cera?
Cera (Pretty Much) Pulls It Off: I’d think it nearly impossible to pull off the Scott Pilgrim of the books, who is happy-sad-energetic-and-pathetic on a single page. But—and I really like Michael Cera because of my fondness for Arrested Development’s George Michael—Cera turns in a solid Scott. He occasionally devolves into the character he’s already played in a handful of movies, but he’s surprisingly more likable than the ink and paper version of Scott the romantic slacker.
Sudden Death: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a bit of a storytelling mess. It’s actually perfectly fine that there’s not much of a story here. Totally cool. It’s the cramming together of it all, six books, seven evil exes and a broad cast of sidekicks, that’s bothersome. Things get a little congested right around the time that Brandon Routh shows up as ex-boyfriend Todd Ingram, with the rest of the film feeling just too damn hurried.
Who Cares: In the end, I never really felt invested in Scott or Ramona or Knives or who ends up with whom and that was kind of a drag. We’d already gotten to the good parts well before the movie ended.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film filled with dazzling flash and not much substance. And that’s OK. It’s an insanely entertaining two hours worth of kick-ass kicking of arse and adorably sweet romance, all of it delivered while wearing its geek on its sleeve. It’s not Edgar Wright’s best film—what can match Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz?!—but it’s as funny as anything he’s ever done.
Better still, it’s a smart, cool and even occasionally heartwarming fantasy that’s kind to its source material, respectful of its audience. Perhaps best of all, it’s a good enough video game movie that I don’t feel the need to end this review with a video game reference of its own.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was directed by Edgar Wright and is screening now. Kotaku attended a screening of the film provided by Universal Pictures. Savory popcorn and a refreshing Coca-Cola Classic were also provided, but I paid for my own Raisinets.
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