Grosse Pointe Blank. Back to the Future. The Dark Knight. Three films that I could watch on repeat – again and again. I left Scott Pilgrim vs the World wanting to go straight back in for another round. The titular character, played by Michael Cera, is a 23-year-old with no job, who splits his time between playing bass in the raw, energetic indie band Sex Bob-omb (the music played by the actors themselves), maintaining a U-rated relationship with a Canadian-Chinese high school girl (the adorable Ellen Wong) and mooching off his flatmate (Kieran Culkin), with outrageously apt comic timing and delivery.
It isn’t long before his quirky existence is disturbed by the arrival of the exotic American Ramona Flowers who is quite literally the girl of Scott’s dreams. Their burgeoning relationship precipitates in Scott having to battle in turn with each one of her seven (yes, seven!) evil exes who have banded together to control Ramona’s romantic life.
If you have ever wondered what a computer game version of real life would look like then this movie smashes the answer through your brain with an invigorating mix of the subtle and slapstick. Those familiar with Edgar Wright’s work will see the hallmark cultural references and character interplay that stood out in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Whether you are a hardcore gamer or not, many of the stylised battles will be immediately familiar as resembling those of the popular games of our youth.
Michael Cera has often been criticised for allowing himself to be typecast as a bit of a wet blanket, but he brings inner steel to this role as Scott – an inoffensive, amiable everyman who conceals a cunning mind that skilfully manipulates those who underestimate him. His love interest, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, balances being effortlessly cool with maintaining a girl-next-door-with-oversized-sledgehammer-in-her-purse image. The rest of the cast include several ‘promising young things’ in steady roles such as Anna Kendrick and a scene-stealing Kieran Culkin as Scott’s wry, gay, playboy flatmate – both are terribly underused.
However, this film isn’t really about the acting, which takes a backseat to the outrageous, videogame action and machine-gun dialogue. This is, in part, supposedly due to the faithful adherence to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s script – at least according to friends who have read the series. If, like me, you haven’t (damn Waterstone’s and their slack delivery service), fear not – though some of the story does not transfer to the big screen quite as well as one would hope, the film does not suffer too much. The set pieces and combat sequences are superbly choreographed, such that the viewer feels every hit or note within the movie, aided by the excellent special effects on show. And it goes without saying that watching this anywhere but the cinema is to miss out.
Another area where the film really stands out is in the soundtrack, which is a perfect selection for the film, allowing you to be immersed in the emotional themes the film plays on. This is in no way a backhanded compliment as the music augments the quality of the film. The only shame is that another 10-20 minutes to develop the story and characters would have eased the transition between the two different media. Nevertheless, this is a difficult feat for anyone to perform and the film certainly lives up to the stellar reputation of the graphic novels. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is an exhilarating rush of positivity – the perfect start to the new college year.