For about 20 years now we’ve seen video-games adapted to be movies and conform themselves to the movie-rules. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does it the other way around being a movie trying to be a video-game. And just to add something extra to it: it’s based upon a comic book.
The movie starts off with the Universal logo animation in 16-bit graphics including a downgraded computerized 8-bit tune, and then turns out to be, or what seems to be, a computer-game literally transferred to the big screen reenacted by real actors.
Scott Pilgrim is an unemployed 23-year-old bass guitarist in an up-and-coming garage rock band named Sex Bob-Omb and one day stumbles upon Ramona Flowers with whom he immediately falls in love with. But as soon as he and Ramona start dating her 7 evil exes show up challenging Scott Pilgrim to a fight to the death. He has to defeat them before he and Ramona can live happily ever after, or at least until the sequel.
Their relationship is as deep as that of Super Mario and Princess Peach. Why does he love her? We don’t know, we just have to assume there is something about her other than her ever-changing hair-color. She’s not really that pretty, or charismatic. She wanders around like some troubled person who has no joy in life. Yet he is crazy about her from the moment he sees her. But just like Mario went through 8 levels of battling the minions of King Koopa (or Bowser as he is also known) Scott battles his way through the evil exes who pop up one after another like video-game levels. The whole movie is filled with video-game elements including a 1-Up giving Scott the power to replay a level again after failing once.
This movie is certainly not for everyone and having been raised on video-games I understood what the director, Edgar Wright, tried to do, but in that process made a movie where the audience is pretty detached from the characters on screen. Wright incorporates a lot of video-game references and elements directly in the movie making it a weird experience. Scott, played by Michael Cera as his usual nerd-schtick, turns out to be one hell of a fighter and like in most video-games the laws of psychics have no control over him and his opponents. He’s punched into the sky and still lives after falling several yards. Opponents fly, have psychic powers or create giant CGI-monsters by playing a synthesizer. When defeated they burst into coins and Scott’s power level goes up. It’s stuff like this you’ll have to appreciate in order to like this movie. I can perfectly understand how people will dislike this movie when they’re just expecting a simple boy-meets-girl tale set in real life.
In his own idiosyncratic way Scott Pilgrim Vs The World works the way the old Batman series with Adam West worked. It’s a different reality, where everything is possible. Scott Pilgrim is actually the first video-game movie to completely work and the irony of it all is that it was never a video-game to begin with.