Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Another month, another movie review. I’d heard a fair amount about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World before seeing it, and it turned out most of it was true. This is a comic book / video game story without much character development, but very entertaining and funny. Perfect for anyone who’s played games even casually.

There’s not much in Scott Pilgrim that’s a surprise after seeing the trailers. Scott meets the girl of his dreams (literally) Ramona, has an awkward time getting a date with her, then has to defeat her seven evil exes. Scott is played by Michael Cera and is the same as pretty much every other Michael Cera character out there, which is basically fine.

The movie leans pretty strongly on stereotypes for some of the humor. Scott’s first girlfriend is the superenthusiastic Knives Chau who goes to a Catholic high school. Ramona’s first evil ex is Matthew Patel, who does a sort of Bollywood-esque dance during his fight with Scott. Scott’s roommate is gay and…well, actually, he has a good line about how Scott was worried about him “gaying up the place”.

Fortunately, that’s not really the point of the movie. Instead, every few minutes we get another video game, comic book, or classic movie reference, from the Fairy Fountain music from Zelda to one of Scott’s nemeses punching him through the wall being shown as two “panels” side-by-side. There’s also the classic floating words for effects, as seen in the commercials; I liked them in the commercials but they were a bit much sometimes in the movie. I don’t think I would have wanted them absent entirely, though.

As I said, the character development is pretty much nonexistent. According to a friend, the original comic series is a lot better in this regard, making the movie all flash and no substance. This is probably true. But again, I didn’t go into this movie expecting a lot of character development and a great story. I expected video-game-comic-style entertainment, and I got it. Again and again. Our little theater in Berkeley was cheering and laughing at the movie. It just feels fun, and you can measure how much of a nerd you are by how many of the video game references you specifically recognize.

You have to suspend disbelief for basically the entire movie, and about almost everything at some point. There are a lot of comic-book-style transitions, where there’ll be talking about something and the conversation will jump to hours or even days later. There are continuity things, where everything will get knocked over and then be back up because Scott needs it. And of course, you have to accept that getting punched through three walls doesn’t actually kill Scott outright.

It’s really not that bad once you’re in context.

The music, while generic, is not bad. It’s all sort of Guitar-Hero-y stuff, since Scott’s in a band (“The Sex Bob-ombs”). My favorite battle sequence was actually a musical one, though, in which the Sex Bob-ombs face off against the Katayanagi Twins and their awesome electronic keyboard music.

So again, it’s just fun, kind of like a gamer’s action movie. It’s worth going to see if you’ve ever read a comic book or played a few video games and liked it.

Separately, some people might notice I never posted an Inception review. For those who don’t know, Inception was directed by Chris Nolan, the same person who did Memento and The Prestige, as well as the two recent Batman movies. I think those first three are all great (the only Nolan movies I’ve seen). Inception isn’t so surprising, but it’s great to think about, and (as usual) Nolan’s attention to detail is stunning. It’s both action and mind game, like The Matrix but more smoothly intertwined. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth seeing pretty much no matter what, unless you only like romantic comedies.