And there was hype. The viral marketing leading up to this film–mostly from the director’s Twitter account–was pretty remarkable, especially the interactive trailer. People who had never read the comics, let alone heard of them, were intrigued by the pseudo-indie vibe. You’ve got the guy who directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in the director’s chair, as well as a phenomenal young cast led by Michael Cera in the titular role. It was guaranteed to be “an epic of epic epicness.”
While it does capture the current ironic zeitgeist of the nerdy hipster world, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World turns out to be little more than your typical “insecure guy falls in love with strong-yet-flighty girl” film filled with pop culture references. Last year’s (500) Days of Summer is a great example, as is Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and just about anything Cameron Crowe or Woody Allen has ever done. Scott Pilgrim adds nothing to the genre apart from having comic book- and video game-flair (i.e. there aren’t any 1-Up lives or video game fight sequences in Annie Hall.) Is it unfair to compare the film with previous genre favorites? Perhaps. But, to use a fast food metaphor, after you’ve tasted In-N-Out, it’s hard to go back to Burger King ever again.
The story follows Scott Pilgrim, a self-conscious bass player in Toronto who is longing for love. Belittled for dating a high schooler and currently jobless, he lives with his gay roommate in a tiny apartment and spends most of his time perusing music stores or practicing with his band, Sex Bomb-Omb. One day he sees Ramona Flowers, a mysterious pink-haired he learns is from New York and looking to start over in Canada by working for Amazon.ca. Their courtship slowly begins as Scott pursues Ramona and encounters her Seven Evil Exes (they have a league, after all). Turns out that Scott must defeat–literally, as in fight-to-the-death–each evil ex in order to date Ramona.
Scott takes plenty of beatings, but one by one, defeats each of the exes using ingenuity and a surprising competence in martial arts. Yet by the end of the film, I had to wonder, is Ramona a woman really worth fighting for? She’s aloof, sarcastic, fickle, and mostly devoid of character. There are few moments where it appears like she’s actually interested in Scott, much less head-over-heels in love. I have to wonder if Scott is blinded by his own immature vision of love, that the (literal) girl of his dreams is the right one for him.
(Spoiler Alert!) Perhaps this is connected to the ultimate moral of the story–self esteem. Scott loses in the final battle while using a flaming sword called “Power of Love,” yet finds victory with the sword labeled “Power of Self-Respect.” Scott learns to be honest, to confess his own faults to the people in his life and begin to take responsibility for himself. There’s a part of me that can applaud this reasoning. Many people learn responsibility and form their identities only on the far side of heartache and turmoil. Scott’s turmoil is just more clearly manifested in elaborate martial arts displays. However, unlike (500) Days of Summer, where the protagonist doesn’t end up with supposed girl of his dreams and thus learns from his mistakes, Scott chooses to continue to pursue Ramona, despite her desire to start afresh. Again, I ask, is this a girl worth pursuing? I’m unsure. We simply don’t know enough about Ramona by the end of the film to make a clear decision. It’s a risk Scott is clearly willing to take.
In all this, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a frenetically-paced ode to the ADD video game generation. Filled with ironic humor and hipster undertones, it’s a comic book film that is both geeky and cool. It’s not for everyone–I liked it, didn’t love it–but if you’re a part of its cult demographic, you’ll surely fall in lesbian…I mean…love…with Scott Pilgrim.