Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

by Eric Melin on August 13, 2010

in Print Reviews

Watch the Scene-Stealers On-Camera Review with clips from the movie here.

See why “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” came in at #7 on the Top 10 Modern Magic Realism Movies list here.

Overloaded by lightning-quick information via social media, text messages, and an unlimited supply of TV and computer screens that never seem to shut off, the teens and young adults of today are a different breed. Now they finally have a movie that serves as a giant metaphor for their experiences.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” places its young characters in a world of magical realism—it is full of widescreen cut-scenes, player power-ups, and running scores that appear onscreen. The thing is this: Nobody acts like anything weird is going on. In other words, the reality of Scott (Michael Cera) and his indie-rock loving friends is that their lives have become videogames.

scott-pilgrim-fight ceraWith his adaptation of the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, director/co-writer Edgar Wright does more than tell the story of a love-stricken kid who has to man up and fight the evil exes of the girl he’s fallen hard for (Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Ramona). He makes a statement about how references to all kinds of media are woven in to the fabric of teens’ daily lives in ways that are almost indistinguishable.

This means that when animated word balloons pop out of characters’ mouths or someone gets an “extra man,” the director is not necessarily criticizing the way modern media is consumed–or even that it oftentimes has come to define some people. He’s more clever than that. Instead, Wright is using comics and videogames to tell his tale in a language that is easily understood by its audience.

Wright has always been a whiz at loving homages, having directed the zombie spoof “Shaun of the Dead” and the transcendent buddy-cop action tribute “Hot Fuzz.” So it’s no surprise that the first two-thirds of “Scott Pilgrim” are bristling with kinetic energy. (If this movie doesn’t get a nod for film editing at the Oscars next year, it will be a crying shame.)

scott-pilgrim-romona-fight winsteadQuick-witted comebacks and nonsequitur slapstick are also blended perfectly with the emotional states of the seen-it-all-and-don’t-care crowd. It all seems like a logical extension of who they are.

Even when the meticulously designed CGI fight scenes begin, it still feels natural; like it’s what his friends expect of Scott once they learn of his affection for Ramona. The defeat of each of Ramona’s exes signals a level completed.

Certainly co-stars such as Anna Kendrick, Ellen Wong, and Kieran Culkin don’t get much screen time to flesh out their characters, but the actors do a lot with a little. The same goes for Winstead, who projects a mysterious air of confidence up until the perplexing final act.

Cera, for his part, plays Scott with the right amount of cocksure cluelessness for the first half of the film and is refreshing. As Scott falls deeper in love with Ramona, however, Cera reverts to many of the shoulder-shrugging mannerisms of his other films.

scott_pilgrim_lightsaber ceraO’Malley’s comic series had not been finished by the time production started on this film, so Wright and co-writer Michael Bacall had to pen an ending to the movie before the last graphic novel was created. Unfortunately, it shows.

The only spot where “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” truly falls down is at the end. After 90 minutes of visual inventiveness, the last 30 are a bit of a letdown in that department, but additionally, Wright doesn’t seem to know what he’s trying to say. One character turns on a dime, another develops a sudden ability to forgive and forget, and the finale just fails to live up to the imagination of the rest of the movie.

Some people will undoubtedly say that Wright’s film is all style and no substance. They are missing the point. In “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” the style is the substance. Everything is a pop-culture reference because everything in these kids’ life is a pop-culture reference. It’s just that we as an audience are now let into the world they created for themselves.

You can reminisce all you want and complain about how there aren’t any John Hughes-type movies for this generation, but as surreal and strange as “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is, it will likely be remembered as the first shot across the bow for anyone trying to realistically portray young people today.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 travis August 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

Super juiced!


2 Elina August 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

i actually liked this movie lol it was funny as hell


3 dbmurray August 15, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Solid rock fist down for me. I would tell you why, but that would require getting into substance.


4 Eric Melin August 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

Substance is good. Interested to hear your take, Dave!


5 Alisha August 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

One of the best and most entertaining movies I have seen in years! Maybe that makes me an ADD twenty(thirty)-something, but I loved it and I am sure I will be watching this one again and again and again.


6 Eric Melin August 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Yeah, it throws a lot of info at you at once (hoping for an editing Oscar nomination)! I’m excited to see it again and see how it plays knowing how to interpret all the visual stuff going in–wondering if it will enhance the story or not.


7 Kenny August 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I think of Superbad, Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim as fine and novel attempts in the canon of teenage films. These are a new breed of films that have their own distinct style but are just as significant as certain Hughes films.


8 dbmurray August 17, 2010 at 10:17 pm

You said it! :o )
“Substance is good.


9 Ash August 25, 2010 at 8:03 am

I really don’t agree with the reviewers interpretation: and it has inspired me to read what other people thought. When I watched it, I just thought it was a hyper-dramatization of a love triangle/quadrangle/whatever. The characters execute power moves like a video game – but thats just to make it more fun. To me the important thing was their emotion and motivation.

Trying to get the girl can definitely seem like an immense, all-or nothing, do or die moment. In an age of repressed urges, metrosexuality and general anesthetisation – it was cathartic to see a nerdy indie rock geek beat the fuck out of his girl friends exs.


10 Eric Melin August 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

I actually agree with everything you said. The point I was trying to make was an overarching one–the stylistic choices Wright made to tell the story are right in line with the way that this generation consumes and interprets media. He projected that onto their story. It’s a bold move, and one that will really resonate with certain people!


11 Buz September 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

Ack! The first reviewer who I’ve read thus far who attempts to review it properly, in context of it’s intended audience! I like.


12 Eric Melin September 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Buz- I thought that might be a good way to talk about it (go figure)–glad you dug it! Either way, I think the film works, and sometimes I think those with a bias against all the generational stuff were determined to hate it anyway.


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