The NTP crew can’t watch baseball every night, even with MLB Network and three channels of ESPN. Sometimes we need a break. Some of those times we catch a movie. One of those times, the movie was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Given the rise in popularity of video games and comic books over the last thirty years, the cross-pollination of the two was inevitable. Add in Hollywood insatiable quest for the movie rights to the new hybrid and you get “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”. We’ve seen movies based on comic books and story ideas lifted from video games before, but this is the first movie that *is* a video game. Director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) takes Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-part graphic novel and creates a cultural testament to the 8-bit generation, complete with music from The Legend of Zelda, end-of-scene Boss fights, Pac-man history, and a healthy dose of PG-13 punk rock. How much you enjoy this film is directly proportional to how many hours you spent sitting in front of a TV with an Atari or an NES or a Sega Genesis. Frankly, we found it entertaining as hell.
I’ll admit I was the one pushing to see this movie. It had me from the opening credits – which I can’t even describe without giving away the gag. As Matt said, we spent a whole lot of time in front of 8-bit consoles, and watching villains explode into coins is enormously satisfying. Several times the movie hit exactly the right, “This is what life would be like as a video game” note. You’d go on an adventure, you’d finish a challenge, and you’d have a boss battle. That’s the way it works. This motif recurs throughout the film. Either you buy in or you don’t. I bought in to it in a big way.
The basic plot of the film centers on Scott Pilgrim, your average 22-year-old Canadian slacker drifting through life. He’s nominally dating a cute high school student, doesn’t seem to have a job and plays bass in a fledgling punk rock trio, Sex Bob-omb. (The name is a tribute to a minor baddie from the Super Mario Bros. series, and gives you a good idea of the universe this film inhabits.) Then he sets eyes on Ramona Flowers, the alterna-girl of his dreams. Literally. Of course, there’s a catch. In order to be with Ramona he has to defeat her seven evil exes, who’ve joined forces to stop Scott. Cue the boss fight music; it’s on like Donkey Kong. Say what you will about the film’s blissful ignorance of reality, but at least it’s an original premise. We haven’t seen this story told a hundred times before.
I knew going in that it was going to be different. I haven’t read the graphic novels, but the trailers gave enough away that you could tell this was an original treatment. The plot is slightly incoherent, and occasionally even a little beside the point, but having played many video games that move you from level to level, the progression is instantly recognizable. The “cut scenes” move the story forward, but the action is the main focus. The use of comic book and video game style graphics in just the right places make this easy to accept. If you’re not willing to embrace the quasi-reality style, this movie won’t work for you.
There is a very large leap of faith required by the viewer to accept “Scott Pilgrim”. As Dave mentioned, the opening credits set the tone but if you can’t sit back and accept what’s coming, you’re not going to enjoy the movie. Over the last 20 years advances in CGI technology have really allowed directors to experiment with how to tell a story. Graphic novel adaptations Sin City and 300 would not have been as compelling without their amazing visuals. “Scott Pilgrim” falls very much into this category. It’s a stylized, 8-bit treat for those of us who remember staying up late to play Super Mario Bros. for hours on end. With all sequels and re-treads being pumped out by Hollywood, original and well made movies should be applauded and encouraged, especially if they’re as fun and well done as “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”.
On a completely arbitrary scale from 3 strikes (This movie is headed OUT! of theatres) to 4 balls (Run, don’t walk to your multiplex), this film earns: 3 Balls!