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Notes On A Film: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Breaking my routine by talking about a film I have seen in the same week – I thought I should get in to the habit. The other reason is that this film has playing again and again in my head, providing me with continued joy after the credits rolled.

I’ve only read one of the Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley (see here) and, while I enjoyed a lot of aspects of it, I didn’t love it the way a lot of people do. However, I really loved the film, I can’t wait to have it on DVD so I can watch it again to get all the jokes, and it makes me want to go back and read the rest of the series. Does this make me a hypocrite?

The story is slender: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 23-year-old slacker in Toronto who is the bassist in a band, is immature and dumb but somehow endearing, who is chastely dating a 17-year-old school girl called Knives Chau as a rebound a year after the painful end of another relationship. He sees and falls for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Wanstead), an American, but doesn’t immediately break up with Knives, and discovers that he has to fight Ramona’s seven evil exes if he is going to date her. But the bare description of the plot isn’t what the film is about: it is a joyous explosion of visual delight streaming across your eyes and stimulating your synapses with wonderful information overload, leaving you giddy with happiness and fun.

Just about everything about this film is perfect for it: the cast, the humour, the computer game fight scenes, the plethora of jump-cut gags (like Scott putting a hat on when people comment on his hair), the silliness, the over-the-top-ness of it all. I’m sure the music was good, which is important for a film which is about a band trying to get a record deal and interacting with lots of musical types, but the sound at the cinema I watched it was really bad, so I can’t be sure. The great thing about the film is the way that it is able to capture the unreal sensibility that feels fabulously real: Scott has these fights that defy gravity, punching opponents into piles of coins, able to do martial arts even though he’s a skinny dweeb, flaming swords coming from his chest, but you don’t question it because Edgar Wright sells it so completely.

Wright is the perfect director for this: his kinetic camerawork, the ability to cope with humour and action and surreality and drama and conversation, adding caption boxes to explain aspects of the story, yet keeping it all real. The ghost of Spaced hovers in the background – the training on that series was perfect for this film. As Simon Pegg tweeted, ‘It is the closest thing you will ever see to a third series of Spaced.’ It’s so manically edited, Wright needed two editors on the film – they must have been exhausted – but it’s not because he’s trying to hide any problems with the film, but rather highlight the magic and hyper-reality of the feelings of the characters, as the computer game visuals reflect the connection to something more real for them.

I could list all of my favourite bits (Chris Evans as Lucas Lee and the trailers for his films; Brandon Routh as a vegan who has gained psychic powers through his dietary choice; Ramona fighting with a massive hammer; any of the fight scenes) but that doesn’t do the film justice. There are some weaker aspects – I didn’t get quite the same enjoyment from musical fight scenes as the computer game ones; I thought that the condensing of the story turned the focus entirely on Scott, meaning Ramona isn’t as fully realised as in the book – but that’s just the nitpicking of a geeky type. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is a funny, kinetic, exciting, even moving film about growing up and taking responsibility, told in the style of a computer game-addled brain. In a good way.

Rating: DAVE

[Explanation of my updated film rating system]

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