December issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 13 years ago

Adapting graphic novels for the big screen has proven to be a bit of a hit-or-miss business, with the last couple of years having spawned their fair share of both. For those of us let down by the tepidWatchmen, Scott Pilgrim vs The World provides some much-needed respite.

Set in the icy, unassuming suburbs of Toronto, Canada, the film tells the story of the eternally love-throttled Scott Pilgrim. Scott, played by the wonderfully awkward, wonderfully unimposing Michael Cera, embodies the traditional rebellious kid, caught in the perennial post-college, pre-job limbo. His daily activities consist of jamming with his unrelentingly loud garage-rock band, “Sex Bob-omb,” playing video games and attending ‘hipster’ parties with his posse. As fate may have it, it is at one of these parties that Scott runs into the girl of his dreams, the understatedly cool Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

Their initial relationship is of a Petrarchan nature, with Scott doting over his cruel mistress, who continually shuns him. Over time however, the two do come together, with wild-child Ramona falling for the normalcy that Scott has to offer. Lovely. However, in typically Hollywood fashion, the sunken baggage begins to surface in the form of ­— you guessed it — ex-boyfriends, seven in fact, aptly titled ‘The Seven Evil Exes.’

And thus begins the journey of young Scott who, like a modern-day Hercules is required to toil through his seven battles in order to reach the Promised Land. On his way he must lock horns with the fire-breathing Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), the narcissistic movie star/skater dude Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and the psychic vegan Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), finishing up with the mighty music producer, Gideon (Jason Schwartzman). Scott’s methods of vanquishing his enemies range from delightfully original to downright absurd, from reasoned debate to mixed martial arts!

The writing is superb, characterised by that dark, Arrested Development-esque humour that is becoming very popular in today’s comedies. This, paired with the refreshing use of special effects (a large portion of the movie is modelled on a video game!), truly gives the film a sense of wholesomeness.

Perhaps the most defining feature of the movie is its sincerity. Issues such as alienation and self-doubt are dealt with in a very honest manner, one that any adolescent could relate to. This gives the entire ‘video-game-trial’ a deep sense of universality.

All in all, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a film that touches the borders of brilliance, without crossing them. It is intelligent without being pretentious, funny without being crass, stylistically unusual without being kitschy and touching without being overly sentimental.

This review originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Newsline under the headline “Ex-cess Baggage.”