Film A Week 17: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

The summer is simmering and closing in with the summer film season kicking in full swing with Iron Man 3 opening this weekend and wowing audiences around the world. Unfortunately, some summer features do not get the love they deserves despite trying their damnedest to appeal to the widest audience possible. These are known as summer box office bombs. They have potential to be great and widely acclaimed, yet fail to reach that pinnacle. They can be critical darlings or just god awful. Today, Film A Week is taking a look at one of this bombs in the form of the story about a guy getting the girl…by defeating her seven evil exes.

Yes, apart from that sad introduction, this one is a fun one for this series. Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fascinating film that manages to create a spectacle as well as a fantastic that even I was surprised to see so well done in a film that balances the limits of visionary wonder and the simplicity of a Fox Searchlight indie hit. Of course, if one has seen the trailer, Scott must win the heart of Ramona Flowers by taking on and battling her seven evil exes yet I hate to spoil all this feature for you all.

BUT FOR THOSE NOT IN THE KNOW!

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives in the magical land of Toronto, Canada and has a cool Asian high school girlfriend named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and his band named Sex Bob-omb. Pilgrim suddenly sees the manic pixie dream girl named Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in his slumber and says “Screw Knives! I want her!” He breaks up with Knives and plays with his band at a club when an emo pirate shows up, so he kicks his ass. Ramona says “Date me if you must, but kick the crap out of all seven of these guys. You eliminated one. Bravo!” Her exes consist of actor Lucas Lee (Chris Evans aka Captain America), bass player Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh aka Superman), bisexual ninja Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman aka Ann from Arrested Development), the Katayangi Twins (Shota Saito & Keita Saito) and Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Scott pursues and fight s all of of the first four, gets tired and can no longer deal with the pain of his love of Ramona, albeit selfish love of her, and quits. His gay roommate Wallace (Kierian Culkin) says “Fuck that noise. Get her, fall in love, and move the hell out”. Scott gets his balls back to realize “WAIT! I should be fighting for me, not her. I never knew I could appreciate myself till now. I am an idiot.” So George Micha…I mean, Scott kicks Gideon Graves’ ass. Scott gets Ramona (which is some bullshit because he should have kept Knives, but more on that later) and they live happily ever after.

Okay, I lied for terrible humor. Scott Pilgrim always resonated much deeper than what it was letting on. Before we get to the true review, some personal analysis. I am putting my heart and pain on the line for entertainment. When I first saw this feature, it was after a very painful breakup. I was excited as hell to see this movie and was one of the first movies I ever felt truly hyped about. Sure, I was pumped for The Dark Knight or even Spider-Man, but this one I put energy into as a nerdy guy that I am. I read the entire series within a week and bought the video game, but then it happened. My ex ran into the room, said it was over, and I was there barely hanging onto to myself. Translation: I was basically Knives Chau and Scott Pilgrim all at once.

See that smile? That was her before Scott Pilgrim kicks her heart in the ass. Knives Chau, best character in the film and novel series to me.

I went on a vacation to a place where couples roam free and manage to go to a cheap theater to watch this film. If cinema is an escape, then this movie helped fill the void. After my personal destruction, I realized what the film was trying to convey.

Essentially, Scott was fighting for his own selfish wants and not his needs. Scott needed someone like Knives Chau who loved Scott for exactly who he was. He needed that sense of young love and curiosity he lost along the way. Ramona just stumbled in and Scott thought she was the dream. Scott needed to realize she was a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’. When he gives up in the movie, he sees it may not be worth it. Near the end, Scott reveals he cheated on Knives for Ramona. With this, Scott learns he needs to fight for the ‘need’, not the ‘want’, yet the need is now ‘himself’. I realized the ‘need’ I had left, but I still wanted the ‘want’ which was our relationship. I realized that in the end, the ‘need’ I had is now myself and to focus on what I want to achieve rather than get what I want. Essentially, we all must learn to love ourselves before we truly move on. Scott learned the power of self-respect and wounded up moving on in life.

On the Knives front, Knives also learned that as much as she loved Scott and was doing everything in her power to regret what he did, she could not bare to with him by the end. She blamed Ramona for Scott’s flaws, yet came to see the true Scott. In the end, Knives says that she will be fine, tells Scott that he worked to hard for Ramona and kisses him goodbye. To myself, this represents the moment at the end of a breakup where you realized “We had our fun, we had our problems and troubles. It may be over, but we together longed for the need to go on without each other.” There is debate whether or not Scott should have stayed with Knives or not. I say, in a perfect world, yes, Scott and Knives would be happy and fall in love with a successful marriage. The world shown in Scott Pilgrim is not a perfect one, so him getting Ramona is the ideal choice because the world is not a wish granting factory (Thank you, John Green’s The Fault in the Stars for that one) and the world in reality is not perfect.

For take on the film aspect, here is Jesus Figueroa from Film A Week’s second home, thisfunktional.com

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The humorous take on emotional baggage carried from relationship to relationship in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the world” takes a comic book/video game feel. Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, comes across as mysterious and sassy with punk-rock hair colors and take no prisoner attitude. Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera, comes out as the never-give-in hero who has fallen for the fair Ramona. The battles with the ex boyfriends, who all have powers, brings out a side of Scott that test his mettle.

Finding the importance of not only finding strength to fight in what’s important, but also finding the strength to fight for yourself, Scott discovers an inner strength to defeat even the strongest of opponents. The path is filled with obstacles which Scott struggles with but eventually finds the fortitude to persist on. Being enamored with Ramona seems to give Scott super human powers. The awkwardly charming Scott Pilgrim may have an enormous battle but after war changes his approach to life and in return his admiration for Ramona Flowers.

Cera is brilliantly bizarre in the portrayal of Scott Pilgrim giving his character a likability that gains admiration from the audience. The battles are fantastic and Cera does not look as though he would be able to defeat any of the ex-boyfriends but somehow he does. Overall, an intensely thrilling adventure that would have made a fundamentally sound video game experience. Full of great adventures and cute women, the film appeals to the younger audience while making it entertaining with stylistic fighting and a unconventionally romantic storyline.

Scott Pilgrim is a marvel and a true gem that deserved to be loved, and luckily,  it did. After bombing at the box office, it went on to gain a cult following on video and even hit the midnight screening circuit. Like Jesus, I enjoyed this film as well. The story of the film is quite hard to swallow, but once you get sucked into the surreal nature of it all, it becomes a wonderful ride. The use of imagery and sounds inspired by video games creates a unique world that The Grid from Tron: Legacy dared it could be. Wright’s keen eye keeps the film entertaining and interesting, giving the film a quick pace without boring the audience.

Michael Cera is at his best by stepping up his game in the acting front to deliver a solid performance as an awkward man who has yet to realize his full potential. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona delivers the pain of the character expressed in the novel series and carries on being more than the dream girl we’ve come to expect. The evil exes of the film are fun with the true highlights being Chris Evans as the notorious acting douche Lucas Lee and Jason Schwartzman having a blast as the ultra rich hipster Gideon Graves. The supporting characters are great as well with Kerian Culkin’s performance stealing the show and Ellen Wong as the emotional wreck of destruction that is Knives Chau making us both want to fear her and give her the biggest hug in the world.

Scott Pilgrim is one of my all time favorite films, and it is not that hard to see why.

Next time, Film A Week continues Take Back the Summer Cinema Month with a film about Summer. It is story about boy meets girl, but one should know upfront that it will not be a love story, but a story about love. Film A Week must endure (500) Days of Summer.

Film A Week 18: (500) Days of Summer

Saturday, May 11th
Part of Take Back the Summer Cinema Month

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