From the moment the pixellated 8-bit ‘Universal’ logo ushers in the beginning of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, you know this film will never win an Oscar – and it shouldn’t.
Not because it isn’t a work of cinematic brilliance (it is), but because Edgar Wright’s first feature since wrapping Police-based actioner Hot Fuzz is just too geeky for the masses.
The fact that early reports already show the film not setting box offices ablaze in the USA is no surprise since its up against most of the 80s action heroes in the form of The Expendables and a well-established children’s franchise in Toy Story 3.
The story is hum-drum enough: Scott Pilgrim, played by the Superbad Michael Cera, with High School over and no job tying him down has only the haunting memory of his ex-girlfriend breaking his heart to keep him down. He just so happens to be bassist in (almost…) the biggest band in Toronto : Sex Bomb-omb.
Enter 17 year-old schoolgirl Knives (yes, really) who breaks Scott out of his rut when they start going out, that is until pink-haired Ramona Flowers appears to throw a spanner in the works.
As it turns out Ramona has SEVEN evil exs, not boyfriends as she’s keen to note, who Scott must defeat to win her.
Admittedly on paper it makes as much sense as the first few hundred pages of Lord of the Rings, but what makes the film soar above the average comic-book adaptations is style.
Scott’s world isn’t quite the Toronto we (probably don’t) know, apart from geographically this is a world where a ringing phone causes the air to be brazened with the word “BRRIIIIIIING”, computer games teach you complex martial arts and defeated enemies burst into a shower of coins.
Music is a weapon and Scott’s band’s struggle to get a record deal from the illusive G-Man drives the story along, in between watching Cera being pummelled by various imposing opponents.
The seven-strong evil ex roster boasts some impressive names, such as Brandon Routh, better known as Bryan Singer’s Superman and Chris Evans, better known as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, and soon Marvel’s #1: Captain America.
Like any good comic-book villain each ex has their own evil powers, such as Routh’s telekenisis and mind-reading granted to him by being a ‘hardcore’ vegan, and fatal weaknesses which prove their undoing, of which a particular highlight is the downfall of evil ex #4 Roxie Richter (Mae Whitman) from some unusual contact.
Gaming plays as large a role in the film as music but the most surreal aspect of the action is influenced by Japanese Manga, with screen blurs, cinematic cut scenes and slow motion fighting moves in abundance.
Cera fails to shake his typecasting as the reformed loser Scott, but nonetheless makes you genuinely care about him, while being amused at his oh-so-typical teenaged awkwardness…at 22.
It’s Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay housemate Wallace who is gifted with the best lines, but like previous Wright work Spaced the film would only ever work as an ensemble piece. Luckily the cast compliment each other and those who initially seem one dimensional, such as frowning Sex Bomb-Omb drummer Kim Pine (Alison Pill) often hint at greater depth.
The film itself lives up to what it sets out to be, a story which could well mostly be going on in Scott’s head, and some very polished visual effects bring the audience into the virtual world convincingly, at times making you long for 3D.
For those who enjoyed recent comic-book curve ball Kick Ass this is a sensational follow-up watch, and for those even slightly familiar with any of the plethora of references featured it rewards a little suspension of disbelief hundreds of times over to provide a fantastic fun summer film.
James Michael Parry
Pictures: Screen Rant, Filmofilia, The Faster Times