08 Aug 2017
4 min read
Director Edgar wright creates a fast-paced, energetic and youthful world in Scott Pilgrim vs the World
The very first shot of the movie— even before the credits roll—prepares the audience for what lies in store for them. An 8-bit Super Mario-esque version of the Universal Pictures’ globe causes the audience to understand immediately that the movie is going to have a video game vibe to it. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), our protagonist, falls for the new girl in town, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but to be able to date Ramona, Scottmust defeat her seven evil exes in battle. And to add to that, Scott is involved with a young high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). It’s the ‘beat the bosses to rescue the princess’ formula to which is added additional interesting, minor story arcs.
In order to thoroughly enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs the World, the viewers need to suspend their belief of what is possible and what is not
The movie also makes use of the sensibilities that define Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novel, on which the story is based. Wright stays mostly true to the comics—the scenes are peppered with characters firing off lines laden with wry humour, as they navigate the quirky landscape of O’Malley’s creation. Indeed, most of the first quarter of the movie feels like it came straight from the comics. The use of text boxes, onomatopoeic comicbook sound effects and comic strip-like panels further add to Wright’s ability to use such visuals to create scenes and atmosphere. In one of the skits, the camera simply pans through Scott and his witty, gay roommate Wallace’s room, where every item is labelled with the owner’s name; and it soon becomes clear to viewers that everything important, useful or ‘better’ belongs to Wallace.
However, Wright adds his own layers and textures to add to the appeal of the original indie-doodle-manga styled graphic novels—to create a cinematic world that captures the imagination of any young person inclined towards geek-culture. The video game aspects especially come to the fore during the fight sequences, all of which begin as arcade-style button-bashing fighting games and end with the loser’s being turned into a heap of coins; there are also instances of subtle nods to video games, such as when Scott gets a ‘pee-bar’ when he heads to the restroom. Wright also fills gaps in the sequences with ample pop-references and visual gags, such as when Scott takes decisions with the spin of a tiny carnival wheel in his head.
Scott Pilgrim is as quirky as it is unpredictable. One moment you’re watching the Sex Bob-omb in a band competition, and all of a sudden a mystical fight with ‘demon hipster chicks’ dancing to a Bollywood tune breaks loose. Or suddenly—mid-conversation—the vegan police show up to strip the psychic powers of a vegan-turned-rogue with their ‘de-veganise ray’. It’s a surreal world where anything can happen. So in order to thoroughly enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs the World, the viewers need to suspend their belief of what is possible and what is not.
What stands out, or in fact, doesn’t, is Wright’s use of CGI in building the world inhabited by Scott and his buddies. Instead of creating a spectacle out of the effects he employs, he uses the effects to enhance the spectacle. The computer-generated bits of onomatopoeia, the effects whizzing past the screen, or the emotive doodles that add depth to a certain mood, all recede to the background, as all the action happens upfront. For the viewers, after a certain point, the unfamiliar effects actually help create something that’s both unique and familiar.
What Wright does exceptionally well is keep everything moving. The director’s fast cuts earmark the whole film, but even when the characters aren’t moving, the camera is. The film is shot at an an electrifying pace—one reference is quickly tagged by another, one repartee quickly dampens another, and one gag instantly outdoes the other. And so on.
The movie is so fast-paced at times, that its audience must be on the same wavelength as the creators to get the full effect. The story doesn’t wait for the audience to get the joke or the gag, but simply moves on to the next wrinkle. You blink and you miss what’s before you—and yet that seems to be the point of it all. There are so many references thrown in, and the sets are created with such an eye to detail that repeated viewings make for a much more rewarding experience than your first go around.
Regardless of the care and intelligence with which the movie has been made, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is but a spoof. But unlike Wright’s other works it is not a spoof of any specific film genre. Rather the film satirises the idea of who today’s generation are supposed to be. And despite all the absurdities portrayed and the absurd methods used to portray the generation, the film still comes across as honest and truthful. Because form meets function in the best manner here: the film is as idiosyncratic and energetic as the generation it represents.