SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin and Jason Schwartzman. Directed by Edgar Wright. 117 minutes. Rated M (action violence, sexual references and coarse language).
Well, not quite the world. Rather, vs the exes of the girl Scott Pilgrim has a thing for – so maybe the title should be Scott Pilgrim vs His World.
Based on a six year series of comics/graphic novels, with the author, Bryan Lee O'Malley collaborating with director, Edgar Wright, on the film, it is an entertainment for the 20 plus or minus age group who can identify with the characters and the situations, for whom Scott Pilgrim (and actor Michael Cera) could be surrogate figures.
This is a role that suits Michael Cera perfectly. He is more Michael Cera-like than usual, and that is saying something. He does always seem the same, though in taking an alternate role in Youth In Revolt, he showed that he really could do something different when required.
Edgar Wright, British director who enjoyed playing with zombie conventions in Shaun of the Dead, and police mysteries in Hot Fuzz (as well as a humorous trailer spoof in the middle of Grindhouse), tackles the graphic novel with exuberance and visual flair that has comic-style words all over the screen, has the characters performing as if they are in comic strip panels, not worrying about realism at all but creating Byan Lee O'Malley's world visually and letting rip.
Needless to say, any audience in an older age bracket needs to be warned that they are going to feel much older than they thought they did and some frustration tolerance might have to be exercised. But, this is a film of its time, of our time, of the culture of comic books, graphic novels, of computer games, of the instantly instant. (Wright is 31.)
And, that older audience that watches Scott Pilgrim, may be reminded of other comic book heroes. Back in the early 1930s, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman and his mortal incarnation, Clark Kent. In real life they were Clark Kents who were able to imagine Superman and experience some vicarious adventures. Scott Pilgrim is somewhat Clark Kentish, with Michael Cera look, hesitancy and rising diffident intonations.
Superman was truly a hero, a super-hero, vs the evil world. Scott Pilgrim is much more modest. He has tentatively begun a relationship with a 17 year old Chinese schoolgirl who becomes the biggest groupie of Scott's band (Clark Kent was a journalist, nowadays everyone young wants to be in a band). His band members are really variations on this theme, except for Kim (Allison Pill) who used to be Scott's girlfriend in school. There is also his gay room-mate, Wallace (an effective Kieran Culkin) reminding us that we live in a franker era on relationships and orientations. When Scott sees Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a refugee from New York to Toronto, where the film is set (and Michael Cera comes from), he discovers a fickleness in himself and sets his heart on Ramona.
His quest is not the elimination of evil, so he is not quite vs the world. Rather, he has to confront Ramona's exes in comic fights or musical competitions that allow him to be a hero and for the screen to highlight his kapow battles. (Superman, Brandon Routh, and Fantastic Four's Human Torch, Chris Evans, are two of his foes.) And, besides, the superheroes usually give up their love interest in life to dedicate themselves to their quests. Scott Pilgrim really wants Ramona Flowers.
So, many younger audiences and young adults will resonate with all of this and the film may become something of a cult movie. On the other hand, in thirty years time, movie watchers and social commentators may be wondering about 2010 sensibilities.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released 12th August 2010.