Scott Pilgrim vs The World was released back in 2010 and was directed by Edgar Wright who at the time was best known for directing the British comedies Shaun of The Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). It bombed at the box office taking $47.6m worldwide for a film that cost a reported $60m to produce. It think it fair to say that it was critically panned by many in the mainstream press but has found many devoted fans since.
The film is based on an original comic book series created by Bryan Lee O’Malley. The story centres on a geeky, socially awkward, 22-year-old called Scott Pilgrim played by Michael Cera who had a long history in television before appearing in films like Juno (2007) and Superbad (2007). He is taking a lot of crap for dating a 17-year-old girl called Knives Chau played by Ellen Wong who attends a Catholic high school. Pilgrim is in a so-so band called Sex Ba-bomb and lives with his confidently gay room mate Wallace played by Kieran Culkin.
He has a dream about a purple haired girl who magically turns up at his door one day to deliver a package he ordered over the Internet. Pilgrim becomes obsessed about this girl who he learns is called Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and finds a way to go out on a date with her only to learn that he must first defeat seven evil ex-boyfriends in combat before he can win her heart.
The film has a confident, distinctive style that opens with the Universal Studios logo and music as if being watched on an old-school games console. It plays out like a classic computer game from the 1990’s. The games that came to my mind were Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros. Each of the seven ex’s are effectively an end of level baddie who Pilgrim must defeat to move on the next stage of the game. Each baddie progressively becomes more difficult to beat. The battles are accompanied by twoks, bamms and pows that appear as captions on screen that took me back to Adam West’s Batman. With every victory he wins bonus coins and as he grows as a person he unlocks new powers.
Michael Cera is well cast as the quiet nerd who struggles with how to break up with Chau while obsessing over his new dream girl. However, the real star of the film is Winstead as Ramona who gives a very confident performance and easily overshadows Cera. She imbues her character with a veil on confidence that we learn over the course of the film is a cover for her insecurities and past errors. There are plenty of opportunities for the supporting cast of evil ex’s to go over the top and my favourites were Chris Evans as the ego-centric film star Lucas Lee and Brandon Routh as a vegan bass player of Pilgrim’s ex’s far more successful band.
There’s no getting away from the sense of wish fulfillment that pervades this film. The idea that Scott Pilgrim and Romana Flowers could end up together seems unlikely and the ability of Pilgrim to become a superhero and defeat all comers is a comic book nerd’s wet dream. This is what is at the heart of the films lack of success at the box office. If you of the classic gaming generation or share the same awkwardness as its eponymous hero then you will probably buy into this film 100% and absolutely love it. If not, then I completely understand why it could be the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen.
The biggest mistake that Universal made with this film was spending so much money on it. It probably always had a niche audience but I assume the Studio gambled it could be a massive hit if it struck the right notes. Obviously it didn’t.