What would a movie look like that is tailored to the Nintendo generation and that is set in the Toronto hipster scene? It would look like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and it is my second favorite movie of all time. It came out in 2010, so I am not worried about spoiling much. It is hard to believe that it has been ten years already! When it arrived in the theaters, I saw it five times. That is only a couple viewings short of what I give to your typical Star Wars release. Something about it captivated me. While I do not consider myself a hipster (maybe a Catholic one?), I do feel firmly within the boundaries of the Nintendo generation. I am not Canadian, though nothing against our neighbors to the north. I have a great uncle that lives in British Columbia. The real reason I was so entranced by it was because it is about a character, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), who fights for love. It is a simple concept with a hilarious yet endearing wrapping.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is directed by Edgar Wright, and if you want a more full explanation as to why I think he is brilliant, see my review of The World’s End. In short, he does not waste time in his films, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may be his masterpiece. A brief illustration can be found in the scenes following Scott’s first encounter with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the woman that captures his heart. His pursuit of Ramona is complicated by the fact that he is already dating the much younger and perkier Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). This conflict causes him a bit of consternation, and he mopes through the next few scenes as he longs to be with Ramona but does not want to go through the difficulty of letting Knives down (been there, buddy). Instead of watching Scott be sad for endless, pointless minutes establishing what was already evident, Wright using a series of cuts that show that Scott’s mind is elsewhere, while also moving the story along from scene-to-scene. This short section of the movie is so good, you could almost just watch it to understand not only what is going on, but to also get Wright’s style overall.
When I mentioned earlier that Scott fights for love, I meant that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World presents that idea quite literally. When it becomes evident that he and Ramona are destined for each other (and after somewhat artlessly ending his relationship with Knives), he is alerted to the fact that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order for them to continue to be together. He comically does not take them seriously at first. This all changes when his band’s (the unfortunate but funny Super Mario Brothers reference, Sex Bob-omb) gig is interrupted by the first evil ex, Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha). Their brawl, and the subsequent ones with the next six, form the backbone and self-realization arc for Scott’s character. They are also treated as levels in a video game, and I found this concept to be one of the coolest and most imaginative ideas for a film that I can remember seeing. He even collects an extra life along the way, which comes in handy when he is killed by the final “boss,” Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World presents some real life issues in a creative way. When Scott has to break up with Knives, he complains, “But it’s haaaaaaaaaaard!” Life is like that, though. God did not build us for comfort. The things that are worth pursuing, like Ramona for Scott, are not always going to be obtained easily. Like salvation, sometimes you have to overcome the demons we encounter, and they are not to be taken lightly. Scott’s roommate, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), put it best when he admonished Scott by saying that if he wants something bad enough he needs to fight for it. Of course, our faith tells us that there are other ways of fighting than with our fists. Still, you can at least applaud Scott’s determination.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a sweet story, though not necessarily kid friendly. There are some themes that are not exactly in keeping with Catholic teaching, but they are treated in such a way as to be funny and light hearted. Overall, the point of the film is Scott’s heroic quest, and that should be celebrated.