SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD: Teenage Angst With A Dash Of Video Game Culture

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: Teenage Angst With A Dash Of Video Game Culture

The life of a teenager is never an easy one. Surviving high school and starting college life can be quite a weight on the shoulder of youth. The worst part of being a teen is when you are actually around 22 years of age and do not want to grow up. Transitioning from school into the real world is a very daunting experience for many.

Sometimes becoming an adult can seem frightening. Romance is becoming less about love, but more about responsibility. Dating is no longer something you do, but an important part of your life. Scott Pilgrim vs the World tries to explore exactly this feeling. It throws in some fighting, skateboards and a lot of video game references for good measure. Does it manage to blend it all together?

Metal Gear Pilgrim

The story is a rather simple one. 22 year old Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler in the distant land of Toronto, Canada. He hangs out with his band mates Kim (Alison Pill), Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). They are trying to escape responsibility of the real world. One day, he meets the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He soon learns that dating her comes with a price. He must defeat her seven evil Exes to prove his worth so that he can keep dating her.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: Teenage Angst With A Dash Of Video Game Culture
source: Universal Pictures

At its core, Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a romance and coming-of-age story. Scott is 22, but does not want to grow up at all. He is part of a small band, does not have a job and quit college. Pilgrim is never painted as a good person, and Michael Cera was perfect casting. He looks and talks like a person who has no idea what he is doing with his life. At the same time, you can hear the fact that he does not care that much about his lack of direction. He is living one day at a time.

The cast in general is fantastic, as they do represent the characters from the comics. Even small roles receive great performances and stand out. The make-up department put a lot of effort into this film. Every character resembles their comic book counterparts. One can see how much love and respect Edgar Wright has given to the source material when creating this film. What is also interesting is the way some aspects get updated. Some characters get minor updates that give them more personality. One example is Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) that got one of the most interesting visual makeovers. The small addition of a leather jacket gives his “douchebag” nature more focus in Scott Pilgrim VS The World.

The Legend of Pilgrim

A simple story has a lot of life by embracing the culture these characters live in. Throughout Scott Pilgrim VS The World we hear sound effects or references to video games. Such a simple addition actually allows for the film to not be a story, it is a representation of a generation. Many Millenials grew up with video games, TV shows and film in some form and it is part of modern culture. This is not something Scott Pilgrim VS The World created, but rather an element of the comic series. Unlike the comics, the film has more options to play around with. Fights have life bars, or use sound effects that resemble classic video games.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: Teenage Angst With A Dash Of Video Game Culture
source: Universal Pictures

Visuals are a key part of this film. Small additions, such as animated backstories through comic panels, add a certain flair. Also, Wright’s skill in visual comedy shines quite a bit. A lot of the imagery compliments jokes or character moments; Scott is a bumbling fool at times, and his actions get highlighted through sounds. Some scenes even pay tribute to other media, such as an entire scene being a tribute to classic TV comedies.

Scott Pilgrim VS The World works thanks to Wright’s direction with the project. His usage of motion and transitions makes Scott Pilgrim VS The World stick out among many other comedies. It also enforces a lot of the themes: transitioning into adulthood shows itself through the jump from one scene to another. Even if transitions are easy, the harsh reality that follows slaps a person in the face. Same is with Scott, as every time we go from one scene to another, it seems as if problems keep piling up. It is about taking responsibility and sometimes that involves hurdles piling up.

Resident Pilgrim

One of the fascinating parts about this film is how effective the romance angle is. Unlike (500) Days of Summer’s approach at the tribulations of first love, this is love gone wrong. Meeting that girl that seems perfect, but you know is trouble. You fall so hard that you end up making quite a few mistakes on the road. Scott’s journey in this film is about learning his responsibilities the hard way. He chooses to date a high schooler because it seems safe. Then he falls for something much more complicated. Unlike him, Ramona is fine with change and does it often. The simple act of her changing the colour of her hair says quite a lot about her. Pilgrim’s reaction towards this change highlights their conflicting personalities.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: Teenage Angst With A Dash Of Video Game Culture
source: Universal Pictures

As great as the references and visual jokes are, the true core lies in these characters. You root for Scott even if he makes some rather questionable decisions. You actually like most of the evil Exes, because they have great personalities. The most evil of them is also the most charming of them all. A film can only run so long, so the twins completely got sidelined. Yet, it still offered a great short musical sequence that did offer a fun sequence.

By the way, did I mention there is quite a lot of music in this? If I did not, the music is great in this film. Scott is in a band, so we get them singing a lot of unique songs. A major story arc involves Scott’s own ex-girlfriend. She is famous thanks to her band “The Clash at Demonhead” and back in town. One of my favorite moments is the use of the song “Black Sheep”. The singer’s “Oh yeah!” is integrated into a conversation through which it ends with a perfect punchline. Envy Adams (Brie Larson) is in general a stand-out performance in this film.

Conclusion: Super Pilgrim 64

In the end, Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a great action comedy with a rather interesting look at romance and teen culture. It is an exaggerated world, so some things may come out of nowhere, but it works well. The general humorous tone of the film masks a much darker look at romance- it is about heartbreak and how the consequences of our own actions catch up to us.

Sometimes they affect people around us, and we have to grow up with it. Sometimes we get the girl and others we are stuck with the consequences of our decisions. It should not work as well as it does, because it is all over the place. Somehow, it works on every level and is a high recommendation for any film, comic or video game fan.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.
Joseph is an Austro-American media and communications student currently living in Austria, who grew up with film most of his life. Having won a new appreciation of cinema as an art form and as an industry, he aims to learn as much about it as he can.