Movies That Everyone Should See: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”

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After dipping into the classics well last week, I wanted to come back this week with something current. Something decidedly less heavy. Maybe a little more fun.

I decided on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”.

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Based on the series of graphic novels by Canadian author/artist Bryan Lee O’Malley, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is a unique film, full of style and charm, directed by Edgar Wright of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” fame.

The star of our show is the nuerotic Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera. Pilgrim worries about his hair, gets nervous around girls, changes his tshirts every five seconds… much like your typical, average, every day young adult. There are times when he demonstrates boatloads of confidence, and others when he’s a shrinking wallflower. He shares an apartment with his gay roommate, Wallace Wells, and has a younger sister, Stacey.

Scott plays bass in the band “Sex Bob-omb” (A cross between “Bob-omb”, a character from Super Mario Bros. 2 and the Flipper song “Sex Bomb”). The other two members of the trio are friends of his from high-school… the drummer also happens to be one of his ex-girlfriends. Sex Bob-omb’s gigs provide the movie with much of it’s music. They have an punk/indy-rock sensibility, and their performances help power the film. With music provided by Beck, Sex Bob-omb provides a sizable portion of the movie’s cool.

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The movie opens with Scott dating a high school girl. Her name is Knives, and she’s only 17 (Scott is 22). The two of them talk, shop, and spend time playing video games, but at this point it’s still totally innocent. Scott seems to be merely enjoying her infatuation with him. It doesn’t stop his drummer from ragging on him about their age difference, however. The rest of the band (Scott has an understudy in the form of “Young” Neal) is happy to accept her, though, as she’s the band’s biggest fan.

After dreaming of a girl on roller-skates, however, Scott begins to lose interest… You see, even though he dreamt of her first, she’s an actual person.

Scott actually gets to meet the literal “girl of his dreams”.

He just glimpses her in a library at first, but later runs into her at a party. Throwing caution to the wind, he nervously approaches her and awkwardly makes small talk.

She’s unimpressed.

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“I’ll leave you alone forever now…”

Pilgrim is undeterred. He asks around and learns that her name is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and that she works as a delivery-girl. He places an order just so that he can see her again. He manages to convince her to go out with him (she agrees so he’ll finally sign for his package and she can leave) and the two actually hit it off. They wind up sleeping together (actually sleeping) and soon are officially dating.

Of course, Scott still needs to break up with Knives, but he has bigger problems than that…

It’s revealed that if Scott wants to continue dating Ramona, he will need to defeat her “Seven Evil Exes”.

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A different ex of Ramona’s attacks him at every turn. They’ve actually banded together now to form a league.

Each of the “Exes” attacks differently, creating a string of unique battle scenes. Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) sings and dances, Bollywood style. Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) sends a horde of his stunt doubles. Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh) has mystic powers due to his Veganism… resulting in a sci-fi battle complete with telekinetic powers and Men In Black type police. Roxanne Richter (Mae Whitman) brings weapons into play, in a scene that’s “Kill Bill” meets Bugs Bunny. The Katayanagi twins engage in a battle of the bands against Sex Bob-omb, summoning constructs which battle each other above the crowd. The ultimate battle against the head of the league, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) takes place on an elevated platform with flaming swords, calling Star Wars to mind.

Each battle has a different feel, different inspirations, and different action. It keeps the movie changing and varied and interesting throughout. The battles defy gravity, with the participants speeding at each other and leaping through the air, throwing martial arts combos and super-powered punches. Video game scores and effects flash, and defeated villains burst into showers of coins.

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The string of battles that Scott endures lead to the final, epic confrontation between him and the leader of the League of Evil Exes, Gideon Graves. Graves, in addition to being the most powerful ex, and the founder of the league, is a club owner and record exec who has offered Sex Bob-omb a contract. They (with Neal replacing Scott) play for him now. In order to defeat Graves, Scott will need to untangle the relationship mess between himself, Ramona and Knives, win back the support of his band, and confront his own, inner demon.

Director Edgar Wright has crafted an ingenious film that’s perfect for its time (which is still NOW, seeing as it’s less than two years old).

It’s not just the fighting scenes keeping the movie invigorated and full of style… the entire movie is shot in a frenetic, ADHD style. It changes settings, opponents, and supporting playes as frequently as Scott changes his t-shirts. It constantly interjects exclamatory graphics lifted straight out of 8-bit video games. KO! Written sound effects, sliding split screens, text overlays, background images, superimposed graphics, sudden voiceovers, and even cartoons. The movie also juggles and mixes genres. At times it’s a romance, at others, an action film. But it’s also a comedy with touches of sci-fi and a dash of Bollywood tossed in for good measure.

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“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is a movie that feels completely unique and original. It’s funny, fun, fast paced, and highly entertaining. It takes all of the angst and drama involved in teen relationships and makes an action comedy out of it. The movie is loaded with excellent music, most of it woven directly into the narrative. It’s a visually fascinating movie, using video game and television conventions at will. It’s a genre bending mashup for the smart phone generation, where the lines between video games, movies and music are blurred.

It was a disappointment at the box office, but quickly found an audience on DVD and Blu and it’s already considered a “Cult Classic”.

It’s definitely a “Movie That Everyone Should See”.

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68 thoughts on “Movies That Everyone Should See: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”

    • Thanks! I appreciate the support. I have to confess I’m a little leery as to how this one will get received here, and I already had someone tweeting against it on twitter, LOL.

      But I like it a lot, myself! Thanks for the kind words, nice of you to post up! :D

  1. Now I want to see this movie now. I shunned it earlier because of all the hoopla advertising that surrounding the film that I thought that the movie would suck, because of the over promotion of it. You have peaked my interest on this one.

  2. I love this movie. It’s just balls-to-the-walls fun from beginning to end. One of the few recent movies I immediately knew I had to have in my collection, and immediately had to turn all my geek friends and musician friends onto.

    That being said, it’s definitely not, IMO, a MTESS. Many people will not get most of the jokes, music gags, inside homages to specific computer games, etc. Pretty much anyone who isn’t a gamer will probably not be as entertained by the style and overall reality-bending feel of this film. There’s a reason it’s a “Cult favorite” and wasn’t a popular success. Some great films just aren’t for everyone. I cant imagine my Mother liking this film, nor do I really think she “Should” see it. In my mind it’s more like “Rocky Horror Picture Show” … a film which I love way more than is good for me, but which I wouldn’t recommend to many people.

    • Interesting.

      You had me going there for a second and then crossed me up! “Caught me leaning” if you will.

      Obviously I’d put it forward as a MTESS (Cause I did) because I think that its highly entertaining, unique, memorable, etc… I certainly wont ignore cult films as we go through this process, and in fact, Rocky Horror is actually a good example of a movie that may one day make the cut as well.

      My criteria here isn’t necessarily “Movies with the broadest appeal”. Nor is it “Movies with thematic or Cinematic importance”. There’s only so many “To Kill a Mockingbird”s out there. Instead, to me, the selection criteria has always been – what movies should people have under their belt if they want to have a well rounded, complete, current, film watching resume. If you want to stand in a crowd of movie geeks, and say hey, I can hold my own in this conversation… these are movies you SHOULD have checked off, or I’m looking at you sideways.

      Personally, I actually think my Mom would enjoy it, and I would recommend it to her. She likes to keep up to speed and well informed about current movies, too. Maybe I’ll test it out and loan it to her.

      To me, Movies arent like music, where its ok to close the door on new things at a certain point. There’s always goping to be new styles, trends, stars, films, etc. And that’s part of what makes it great.

      • I like to think that Scott Pilgrim is a MTESS because it encapsulates modern pop culture. It’s almost like a mini landmark or time capsule!

        Which makes me a little scared, as I’m wondering how well it’ll age.

      • I think it’ll age just fine, because like you mentioned earlier, it’s very of its moment. So people can always look back at it as a movie that reflected its time.

        It’ll always have value in that regard.

    • I disagree with your assessment of a lack of mass appeal. Rather, I submit that this movie is more of a “something for everybody” sort of scenario.

      I am in no way a gamer. For example, I had no idea that “The Clash at Demonhead” was a reference to an old NES game until my brother had told me as much while watching the film for the first time on my DVD. My lack of knowledge in this, and other equally unknown references, in no way diminished my enjoyment of SPvTW as a whole.

      As Fogs mentioned in the review, multiple genres are spliced together to great effect. I’ve never bee of the mind that all jokes need to be gotten before overall enjoyment can be achieved. A great example that comes to my mind or this would be the old Animaniacs cartoon series, in that the adults enjoyed it because they got many of the jokes and the kids enjoyed it simply because it was funny.

      Much of the music is, at the very least, catchy, very well integrated and executed, & and at the most stands well on it’s own as great music in general. My aforementioned brother is a long-time musician of local note and truly enjoyed the numerous layers involved in the various songs presented. A favorite line of his (and mine) was “all our shows are secret shows”, as he was feeling a reality in that statement that few can.

      If nothing else, the geek in me is mildly amused that this is a chance to see Superman (Routh), Captain America (Evans), & Punisher (Thomas Jane) in the same movie. That’s just a great bonus to an already great movie.

      I have recommended this movie to nearly everyone I can, with great success, including my own mum. The most common response received has been “how did I not see this before now?”.

      I should say that prior to seeing this movie in theaters on opening night; Michael Cera had not been involved in anything of interest. Choosing to see it mostly due to being something of a fan of Edgar Wright, I discovered that Cera was a brilliant choice as Scott because he fits the character so well. The entire cast was chosen well and provided some serious “A game”.

      • Totally agree that you dont NEED to have any of these tidbits under your belt to enjoy the flick. As you point out with the Superman/Cap/Punisher point, though, if you do have them it adds something.

        Glad you concur. Dak. I thought this was a bit of a boderline entry and then everyone had my back pretty strongly on it. I think it would have broad appeal because its well done, visually appealing, full of great, contagious music… Absolutely.

        Thanks for joining in the discussion with a comment Dak. Always love to hear new voices here!!!

  3. Never heard of it before the movie came out but it quickly became my favorite movie of 2010 by a mile. Love the wit the style and humor and Wright was the perfect person to bring this to the big screen. That Brandon Routh just cracked me up and the Vegan police just had me rolling on the floor. Many just talking about this makes me want to see it again right now:)

    • Heh. Awesome, hope you do watch it. I know I enjoyed watching it yesterday for viewing number 658! Lol

      It is a funny movie, it is full of wit. I think it’s awesome.

      Thanks for stopping by and joining in!

  4. This movie is the Sex bob-omb. Quite simply. It’s everything about modern pop culture rolled into one. Scott Pilgrim is a sparkling example of a flawless comic book to movie transition. Mostly because Bryan Lee O’Malley was so heavily involved in the film thanks to Edgar Wright.

    The cast are perfect. They feel like they were made for their Scott Pilgrim characters. I truly *heart* this film.

    • There we go Jaina.

      I’m just going to copy/paste that comment into my replies when all the haters come through. LOL.

      I knew this one would really score big with some folks, glad you’re one of them!! :D

      • I couldn’t not be. In fact, I think this is due a rewatch this week. Lord knows I’ll have time :D Might as well make the most of the time.

  5. YES! I Love This Movie! I’ll scream it from the rooftop. It’s such an underrated movie for all the reasons you talk about just to explain how great it is. When I saw it in theaters I didn’t realize how many people were going to shy away from it until I saw how almost empty the theater was. I expected more teens/young adults because of the unique aspect of using video game effects in the story, but I guess there just wasn’t enough action and originality for a mainstream audience who would rather watch something along the lines of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” & “Project X”. But hopefully with everything you have said, it will get some of the people who haven’t seen it to check it out, if not it’s their loss.

    • Niiiiice. Put Amanda solidly in the “Enthused about the choice” column. :D

      (Trumpeting a little over here!)

      That’s one thing I will say though Amanda, I did see the “Flop” coming on this. Definitely not deserved but I knew the appeal would be too limited.

      That said, when I did see it, I was amazed with how much I liked it. I really love this one now. Glad you do too! :D

  6. You are officially AMAZING! Edgar Wright became a hero of mine when he directed this. This film is actually in my top 10 as well haha. It’s just so damn entertaining that I get lost in its geekdom. All those subtle references in it to video games and films like The Thing, Flash Gordon, The Warriors, Danger: Diabolik, Phantom of the Paradise etc., just make me giddy. It’s too unique NOT to see. Nice surprise to see this Fogs! Good job.

    • Ha! I try and keep you on your toes Blain. :D

      Gotta switch it up, it’s a wide range of films that I like, and I think everyone else should have that kind of well rounded exposure, too. I’m not about to turn this series into “Classics Corner” or anything, even though there’s nothing wrong with classic movies…

      Gotta keep the variety going. :D

      Meanwhile, glad you approve, glad you like this one. It’s one of my favorites to come out of the last few years, that’s for sure!

      • Amen. And that’s precisely one of the many reason I keep coming back to your wonderful site. And I forgot to mention how brilliant the score and music for this film is. Nigel Godrich’s subtle allusions to classic video game music and film scores is brilliant, not to mention the varitey of the song selections and band music. Love it.

  7. Despite some of my friends’ opposition to the film, I very much enjoyed Scott Pilgrim. You’re right – it definitely works well for the smart phone generation, blurring music, film, video games, and technology in general. It’s entertaining and funny and original. It’s a lot of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film throughout. Nice review, Fogs!

    • Sweet! Appreciate that!

      Your friends don’t like it huh? I’m actually getting a bunch of negative feedback, too. Thankfully they’ve constrained it to twitter, so far, lol. They’ll show up soon I bet.

  8. When you already have a cult following for the source material, it’s only natural for the cult following of the movie adaptation to be smaller. Which is a shame. Though they decided to take out most of book 5 from the movie’s plot, it was absolutely, without question the right thing to do. And that’s why I think this movie is fantastic. The decisions made were perfect in that they were distilled stylistic elements directly from the comics as if the books were used directly as story boards. Yeah, sure, the story wasn’t as devastatingly heartbreaking (and then incredibly rewarding) due to the lack of book 5 material, but the movie made up for it by changing the epic closing battle and throwing around that kinetic energy you mentioned. It kept up that light tone, even in the midst of emotional acrobatics. Hey, as The Watchmen adaptation proves, you can’t keep everything because pacing is everything in a movie.

    Also, Mary Elizabeth Winstead looks almost exactly like Ramona Flowers. It’s eerie. Same goes for Culkin / Wallace.

    • You know, strangely… even though I’m a comic book fan, I never really read any of these. Probably because artistically, they come too close to manga for me, and that’s not a style that’s ever appealed to me. I should go back and check them out though, I do love the movie.

      And you’re right too about Watchmen, that would have proved better with some editing. Although, I actually like the Ultimate Cut (the one that’s almost 3 hrs long) the best, because when they mix the Black Freighter stuff in, the movie is so bleak… it’s even better. LOL

      Cant attest to Culkin or Winstead bringing the characters from the page to life… but they were both great in the movie!

  9. Now here’s a pretty expensive film I can get behind! I always hated that this didn’t do very well. Perhaps the humor is way over the general movie going audience’s head. I dunno, but this was one of the very best times I’ve had at the movies.

    • Hahhah… yeah. Dont think we should scrap this one for UNICEF funds. :D

      But you’re right Markus, this one is a blast. I thought it was hysterical and fun all the way through… glad you agree!

  10. I wanted to like this movie, but ended up hating it.

    Not sure why.

    Maybe because I’m sick of watching Michael Cera play himself in every movie he’s in.

  11. I’m not a fan of this movie at all. First off, I hated both Scott and Ramona and didn’t care about their relationship at all. That right there was a crippling blow to the film, since I found myself not caring throughout most of it. I also didn’t find the film very funny at all. A lot of the jokes fell really flat, and I didn’t think I ever did more than chuckle at the jokes that did work. I also found the crossing of genres didn’t work particularly well. It just felt like a random bundle of stuff. It reminded me of what Tarantino does in his films, but without the care and control Tarantino brings to his projects.

    And yet with all that said, there are some things I like. Most of the exes were cool, especially Chris Evans, and the action scenes are really well done.

    So on the whole, very good review, I’m just not in the camp of people who love it :P

    • Well, you’re not alone, there’s a lot of people who dont care for this one. As soon as I tweeted this link I got three or four “Are you kidding?” type responses. LOL. NICE!

      Honestly? I’m not the hugest Ramona fan myself. She’s got a ton of baggage, she’s way too low key, she’s hot but not all that… I personally would have stayed with Knives! Or tried to get back Envy!

      That said, between the infectious stylings, the great tunes, and the humor (which worked really well for me), I wound up a big fan.

      • I actually prefer what Wright does than what Tarantino does. Wright is not afraid to go way out there for something even if it doesn’t connect to some people. He has this fearless abandon to him that’s completely fresh to me while Tarantino seems to be getting way too complacent with his stylings these days.

      • I guess his last couple have been a bit “toned down”…. I dont know if I’d go so far as to say “complacent” though…

        We’ll see… Django in about 9 months, now.

      • And I can’t wait for that film. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tarantino to death but I haven’t felt that spark in me that Tarantino has stepped forward as a filmmaker.

  12. I found this film quite watchable (I won’t mention what my wife thought of it, though), but nowhere near what my son thought of it. It’s just about his favorite movie. I do have growing appreciation for Mary Elizabeth Winstead, however (she’s one of the few things that made ‘The Thing’ remake from last year watchable. Perhaps, it’s a generational thing concerning this movie (that, and I’m not a gamer as my son is). Well done article.

    • Yeah, let me start by saying pretty much nothing could get me past my problems with “The Thing” remake, LOL, although MEW was fine…

      It might be generational. I’ll readily admit to growing up with video games as a big part of my life, (although not so much lately) so this really did strike a chord with me that it might have missed in people who aren’t gamers.

      I can see that….

  13. I’ve never been very big on video games, so I had been warned that I might not like this film. But I saw it anyway and enjoyed it well enough. The video game references were either universal enough that I understood them, or hidden in such a way that they didn’t distract me.

    While I wouldn’t personally put it on my list of favorites, I can definitely understand why this might be a “must see”, if only because it is so different than everything else out there.

  14. Scott Pilgrim to me is a victim of something that’s symptomatic of the hypocrisy of geek culture. The genre fans who want to see movies like Scott Pilgrim get made whip themselves into a fervor over hype; then they download it instead of paying to see it, and studios get frightened of making movies that aren’t based on toys or games or TV shows. And then those same geeks roll their eyes when Michael Bay announces the next Transformers movies. This is a film whose core audience betrayed it in a big way.

    Which is a shame, because it’s great. Wright just crushes everything he sets out to here, from the whiz-bang stylistic touches that turn the movie into a reasonable facsimile of a video game, to the performances, to the humor, to the human story undercutting the absolutely, utterly, unabashedly ridiculous story about evil exes and leagues and extra lives. And nothing about it ever feels repetitive or dull; it has, in essence, infinite rewatch value. You can come back to it a hundred times and still find new things to love about it.

    • Wellllllllll…. I dunno. I mean, I think its almost a case of the studios listening to a very loud, minority voice. Movie Geeks/Comic Book nerds are big into the net, os they’re able to cause a lot of fervor, a lot of hype. It just doesn’t always translate to the general public. There’s been a few comments so far about how the appeal of the movie is limited, and I have to admit its a valid point. It’s got a very narrow market. But because that market is so vocal in the places where studios look for public sentiment, I think they might have oversold themselves on the potential…

      I’m not sure it all boils down to piracy, or how much of a factor that plays.

      I’m just glad it didnt really ruin Comic-con. Because after this and Sucker Punch (both with big SDCC pushes) flopped, studios began pulling back. It was still awesome, regardless… we’ll see what this year brings.

      Aside from that, glad you like this one too. I really do enjoy it, I think its crazy good. LOL

      • From what I remember Scott Pilgrim did get the hell pirated out of it by the people who should have been lining up to see it in a theater. It’s a limited-scope film, sure, but that’s why I’m saying the target audience let it down. If movie geeks want projects like Scott Pilgrim to get the greenlight treatment, they need to hit the theaters and spread good word of mouth about them instead of damaging their BO take and doing nothing of value to make the film look attractive to people outside that demographic.

        It is most definitely crazy good. It’s one of those movies that I watch if it just happens to turn up on HBO or something. I’ll basically drop what I’m doing just to check it out.

  15. Man, I’ve never seen this movie…YET. I’ve always wanted to, tho. I love Edgar Wright. He is my favorite director/writer. UGH, how can I be a fan and NOT see this movie. I know, I know. Stop giving me that disappointment stare. I can feel it. LOL

  16. Hmm… gotta admit I am surprised by this selection. Not that I don’t like the movie, I do, but I know a lot of people don’t “get” (or at least appreciate) what this sets out to do. I had a lot of fun with it, especially being a big fan of video games myself. It was one of 2010’s more underrated releases, I think.

    • It’s cool, it’s a change of speed pitch, no doubt about it.

      I definitely tend to make selections that balance each other out a bit. Not that this movie is the anti-Citizen Kane or anything, but I definitely didn’t want to do anything classic or anything heavy. I want to keep a wide variety of movies in play.

      I understand the hesitance… in fact, I expected a lot more of it than I got. I think the people who really didnt like it just tended to stay away in general. :shrugs:

  17. The video game soundtrack for this movie was awesome. I ended up buying the entire graphic novel franchise and enjoy that ending a little better, but the movie mostly held true to the series. I don’t like Micheal Cera anymore, but he was good in this. Definitely a new cult movie.

  18. Saw it, liked it(some time ago now). Even “she who must be obeyed” lifted her head from her book long enough to enjoy it. Seem to recall flashing on elements from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Kick-ass female protagonists, magical swords and the like. People had trouble accepting that movie too, don’t know why, just too different I guess. But “Pilgrim” is by no means an MTESS! Just too light, airy, aimless fun conception for the lofty ranks of MTESS! Take it from the cranky old fart in Classics Corner!

    • Fair warning. Signing off on a reply “cranky old fart in Classics Corner” doesn’t help support a position against a movie like this. LOL. Makes you sound like a cranky old fart.

      Light Airy and Fun will certainly not be a disqualification for this series. At all. I appreciate films like that and need them to balance out the heavy stuff.

      They just need to be good, memorable, and have a degree of pop culture value…

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