Director: Edgar Wright
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A couple of questions are raised going into Scott Pilgrim Vs the World which, as with almost every other film these days, is based on a graphic novel.
The first is whether director Edgar Wright can parlay the success he found with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz into his first shot a proper Hollywood feature. That’s not to say that he’s necessarily taking a step up here, because anyone familiar with his zom-rom-com and cop spoof will know they're two of the very best films of the last decade, British or otherwise. But it is the first time he’s made a film with a fairly substantial chunk of purely American money, and Hollywood will be watching to see if he can pull it off.
There’s also the question of whether the film’s star, Michael Cera, can finally shake off his Juno/Superbad likeable nerd persona and deliver a sufficiently different and truly interesting character and performance.
Cera plays the titular Scott Pilgrim, who at 22 is something of a slacker, in a band and dating a high school girl called Knives Chau. But when he sees new girl in town Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at a party he falls for her hard.
What takes this to a level beyond that of the standard teen rom-com is that, in order to date Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. That’s evil as in they want to kill him, and defeat as in fight to the death.
It all takes part in a world that, though more or less real, is part comic book and part video game. With its quirky scene transitions and on-screen graphics and text, it could easily tip over into arch and irritating but Wright quickly establishes the world and sets the rules for what is to follow, and there shouldn’t have been a moment’s doubt that he could handle it expertly.
And what does follow is every bit as insane as the premise suggests. Everyone appears to have superpowers, so the characters can soar through the air as they battle, and withstand atomic blows in the process. It ends up playing like a much funnier and far less bloody Kill Bill, with each of the fights offering something different, more original or more comical than the last as Scott ploughs his way through the hordes to face the final showdown with Gideon (Jason Schwartzman).
As for Cera, it’s not a complete departure but it’s a step in the right direction, playing a character who’s still reasonably sweet but also self-obsessed and a bit dim. Taking part in numerous fights scenes obviously helps Scott stand out from the usual Cera shtick, and he even gets to display an unseen darker side while still remaining funny.
Of the seven evil exes, Chris Evans and Brandon Routh make the biggest impacts, the former as a smug actor, while Routh (who played Superman in Superman Returns) provides big laughs as a psychic vegan.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is bouncy, demented and packed with so many fun characters and moments that it becomes difficult to pick a highlight. It’s one of the most fresh and inventive action comedies of the last few years, and one that can proudly position itself beside Kick-Ass in terms of sheer entertainment value.