2010s

Published on August 10th, 2010 | by Padraic Coffey

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Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

After helming two massively successful home-grown hits with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – send-ups of the zombie and cop film, respectively – British director Edgar Wright made the transition to North American cinema with 2010’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, producing what is probably his finest work to date. An adaptation of the graphic novel series by Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim slightly outstays its welcome at just under two hours in length, but packs in an enormous among of visual flair and wit in that running time.

The eponymous Scott (Michael Cera) is the socially awkward bass player for (in his own words) “terrible” Toronto rock group, Sex Bob-Omb. Though half-heartedly maintaining a sexless relationship with high-school student Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), Scott becomes enamoured with a new arrival to the neighbourhood, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), while preparing for an upcoming ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. However, attempts to engage Ramona are hampered by the arrival of her ‘Seven Evil Exes’, who challenge Scott to fantastical battles for her affection.

Scott Pilgrim proves, just as the much more solemnly-toned Road to Perdition and A History of Violence had done beforehand, that comic book adaptations need not stay within the realms of the superhero movie. With seamless editing, the film evokes the look of a graphic novel throughout, occasionally moving between aspect ratios and superimposing written sound effects onscreen. The film deliberately mimics the excessive style of video games for its many fight sequences, calling to mind everything from ‘Donkey Kong’ to ‘Tekken’. On top of this copious amount of eye-candy, there are moments of startling visual beauty, such as night-time set scene at some public swings.

Bar the action sequences, Cera rarely strays from the amiable misfit persona he showcased in Juno, Superbad and television’s Arrested Development. In supporting roles are ‘alternative’ culture stalwarts Aubrey Plaza and Jason Schwartzman, while Kieran Culkin (brother of Macauley) regularly steals scenes as Cera’s gay housemate, Wallace. As one would expect from Wright, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is chocked full of scatological humour in the vein of his previous oeuvre. Indeed, despite being Wright’s first American film, there is a distinctly English-feel to many of the comic asides. Perhaps the Canadian setting plays some part in this, given Queen Elizabeth II is still head of state there.

Released the same summer as Iron Man 2 and Twilight: Eclipse, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World failed to recoup its budget at the box-office. Nonetheless, its audience has widened significantly on Blu-Ray/DVD. This seems fitting, as – from its quotable dialogue to its indie soundtrack, featuring contributions from Beck and Metric – Scott Pilgrim displays all the hallmarks of a cult classic in the making.

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About the Author

Padraic Coffey is a freelance writer and film critic who currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He has written for the Sunday Independent, Ireland's largest circulation newspaper, and Trinity College, Dublin, ranked in the top 100 best universities in the world by the QS World University Rankings in 2014. Additionally, his film criticism has appeared on Volta - Ireland's first VOD website - as well as sites such as Taste of Cinema, Film Jam and Head Stuff.



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