Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuss) sets himself a difficult task with his latest project. In an age where comic book adaptations adorn our screens at every turn, the honeymoon period is quickly coming to an end. Kick-Ass tried to do the very same, injecting hipster sensibilities into the preexisting formula, failing early on to carve a substantial niche for itself. But in the mysterious wilds of Toronto, practically anything is possible.
Drawing from the pulsating series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is the jilted bass guitarist of Sex Bob-omb, a group in need of a break. Still cradling his childhood and the memory of the one girl to ever break his heart, Scott begins seeing 17 year old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). In the year since his last serious relationship ended he’s left a trail of romantic destruction in his wake. The introduction of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is no different, causing him to yet again lose interest in his current paramour, falling instantly and irrevocably in love. Unfortunately her 7 evil exes aren’t too enthusiastic about the new pairing.
Where Kick-Ass employed tired conventions of teenage angst and hyper-realistic violence without recourse, here multiple elements across as many unlikely genres create a vivid and other-worldly quality. The very nature of these additions form an altogether frantic pacing, initially overloading the senses before enveloping all who come before it. Minor issues exist in the moments left simply to the characters, jarring in their deprivation of background stimuli and an ending lacking in simplicity.
Wright deftly juggles a form of smug indifference and self-awareness, forming a world where in spite of their faults the residents are unquestionably likeable. Rather than simply conforming to the given stereotypes of modern youth they revel in it. Acknowledging their failings with equanimous foresight and celebrating the very same, adds simple and effective depth to the proceedings overall.
Cera, having proved himself to be an unlikely but enigmatic lead in Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist essentially channels the same abilities. He may appear to be passive but rarely is he less than formidable. The remaining cast fit comfortably around him, never falling into the background nor overshadowing him.
Where the roles do not feel like the most comfortable of fits are the exes themselves. Entertaining to a point, each are insubstantial in the threat they pose. With every sequence the action increases exponentially yet it is the opponents themselves that dull them even if it’s for the briefest of moments. Such shifts assuage much of the damage yet they continue to exist.
Never overstepping its bounds, Scott Pilgrim manages to subvert a genre in need of change, a fact that studios should consider with any future projects.