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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Film (2010). Universal Pictures presents a Marc Platt, Big Talk Films and Closed on Mondays production. Directed by Edgar Wright. Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, based on the Scott Pilgrim series of Graphic Novels (2004-2010) by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Cast includes Satya Bhabha, Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Brandon Routh, Keita Saito, Shota Saito, Jason Schwartzman, Mae Whitman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ellen Wong. 112 minutes. Colour.

A young bassist based in the City of Toronto must defeat the "seven evil exes" of his new partner in order to recover from his own romantic history [see Paranormal Romance in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

"Are you legitimately moving on or is this just you being insane?" asks Stacey Pilgrim (Kendrick) of her 23-year-old brother Scott (Cera) when she hears he has begun dating young, beautiful and still-at-school "Knives" Chan (Wong). "Can I get back to you on that?" Scott answers, before spending the next two hours of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World never quite getting around to doing so, notwithstanding some desultory hugging-and-learning contrivances at the film's finale. Co-writer and director Edgar Wright, responsible for the playful boys-will-be-boys Parody of Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2008), cited the Italian Comics adaptation Diabolik (1967; vt Danger: Diabolik) as aesthetic inspiration for Scott Pilgrim. "There's that Italian influence, a sense of completely unbridled imagination," Wright told Time Out magazine in January 2013. "They don't make any attempt to make it look realistic."

Wright's brand of surrealistic pizazz combines to entertaining effect with the shōnen-Manga structure inherited from Bryan Lee O'Malley's series of Graphic Novels but the visual flourishes do, in the end, begin to wear a bit thin. Scott Pilgrim's "achievements" are captioned onscreen by words such as "Pow!" or "KO!" during fights or moments of social confrontation, or punctuated by the syntax of the Videogame – "Scott has earned the power of self-respect!" – or by using the sequential victory conditions of an Interactive Narrative to dramatize Scott's acute status-anxiety, but many reviewers felt that the gag-oriented approach failed to accord Pilgrim's Inner Space as much significance to viewers of the film as it did to readers of the comic-books. A supporting cast including gay roommate Wallace Wells (Culkin), successful ex-girlfriend Natalie "Envy" Evans (Larson) and acerbic drummer Kim Pine (Pill) seem to do most of Scott's growing-up for him while he bumbles through one opportunity for personal growth after another, continually mistaking his own self-absorption for some form of meaningful vulnerability. "I think we should break-up, or whatever," Scott tells Knives sometime before she encourages him to leave town with new-love Ramona Flowers (Winstead). The coda to the film was rewritten to accord with feedback from test-audiences familiar with the culmination of the sixth and final Scott Pilgrim Graphic Novel Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (2010) – this was released during the film's period in post-production – but the alternative ending seems incongruous to the dramatic shape of the film.

O'Malley said in interviews that while the influence of Anime such as FLCL (2000-2001) on Scott Pilgrim is certainly present, its extent may have been overstated: Manga had not yet achieved widespread popularity in North America when O'Malley began writing the books in the early 2000s. The instructional Parody Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga (Biggu Komikku Supirittsu October 1990-May 1992; rev Pulp May 2001-August 2002) was, by O'Malley's own account, the biggest stimulus to his creativity, and O'Malley's own influence on the film (for which he served as script-consultant) is visible in how often the adaptation uses social Satire to produce Humour. Pilgrim first defeats Ramona's quasi-piratical ex Matthew Patel (Bhabha) at a Bollywood-style "battle of the bands" contest and then incites Hollywood star Lucas Lee (Evans) to over-extend himself in a skateboarding challenge before tricking performative vegan Todd Ingram (who is dating Scott's own ex-girlfriend) into drinking deep of the forbidden fruit of dairy. Flowers herself advises Scott to touch her fourth ex Roxy Richter (Whitman) behind the knee, on Richter's weak spot, before he and the other members of rudimentary garage-band outfit Sex Bob-Omb – "We are Sex Bob-Omb and we're here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff!" – defeat Japanese keyboard duo Kyle Katayanagi (Shota Saito) and Ken Katayanagi (Keita Saito) in an amp-versus-amp noise-off. Scott uses his "1-Up" (see Regeneration) to defeat "big boss" Gideon Graves (Schwartzman) at the second attempt, and thereby sets Ramona "free" to choose him. There are many amusing moments in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World but the unreality of Scott's milieu sometimes sits uneasily with its satirical ingredients and the superficiality of Scott's ongoing solipsism is insufficiently empathetic to carry the film, despite excellent performances from the cast.

The title "Scott Pilgrim" derives from the song of the same name from the album Predicts The Future (1997) by Canadian band Plumtree, and much of the film's Music, designed by producer Nigel Godrich and musician Beck Hansen, is note-perfect mimicry of particular modes of pop. Two soundtrack albums were released for the film adaptation and one for the accompanying Videogame Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (2010). The six issues of O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim comic-books were first published in black-and-white Digest format (August 2004-July 2010) by Portland-based Oni Press and later re-released in hardback by HarperCollins with colouring by Nathan Fairbairn (August 2012-April 2014). The film failed to meet its budgetary outlay at the international box office. [MD]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 02:56 am on 12 August 2022.