Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

“Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.”

If you were to take one-half 90’s video game, one-half comic book, and one-half unrestrained fun, you’d get today’s movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Or, at least, that’s what I was expecting going into the movie. In a lot of ways it completely delivered what I was expecting. There’s no question that I should have LOVED this movie, and in most respects I did. Unfortunately, there was one giant unavoidable turd that really dragged my enjoyment down. I loved the film’s the bizarre pseudo-reality, blending videogame logic with otherwise fairly mundane reality. I loved the supporting cast of characters, which somehow managed to blend completely normal and down-to-earth chraracters, quirky indy-movie character types, and uncanny, straight from a video game characters, all in a cohesive cast. I loved the music. I really loved the visual  aesthetic. But, I absolutely HATED Scott Pilgrim. I really found him to be, for 95% of the movie, perhaps the most irredeemably worthless protagonist in cinematic history.

The movie is the story of the titular Scott Pilgirm (Michael Cera), an unemployed 22 year-old from Toronto. Scott is the bassist in a not-particularly-good three-piece band, and he shares a studio apartment so crappy that he and his roommate sleep on the same mattress on the floor. Scott is a miserable, whiney, depressing, unconfident, codependent, emotionally distant, child. In spite of this, for some undiscernable reason, all the girls want him. I mean, I guess he’s in a band, but he’s the bassist. At the beginning of the movie Scott is dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) all his friends make fun of him, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested in the relationship. Apparently he’s still all broken up from being dumped over a year earlier. All this changes when he first dreams of then meets rollerblading delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he successfully convinces her to go out with him, but then discovers that he must fight her seven “Evil-Exes” in fantastic video-game style battles to the death.

As I sit here writing this review I can’t help but feel a little bit sad. I really wanted to love this movie. I did really like this movie. I even think that this movie might grow on me on future viewings. That said as I watched this today, I found myself not liking the movie as much as I thought I would, about half way through I figured out it was because Scott Pilgrim is just a terrible person. He mopes and whines, he’s terrible to his friends, he’s terrible to his sister, and he’s terrible to the girls he dates, which is all of them. I guess I was also partly jealous of him. He gets the girls, he gets to have an awesome adventure, and he doesn’t seem to deserve it. By the time I got to the end of the movie it became obvious that a lot of his weaker traits were intentional parts of the character, to give him something to overcome, but it takes way too long for him to get to this point, and like I said above, he’s sort of irredeemable, and thus, by definition his major achievement in character growth isn’t enough to overcome my dislike for him at that point.

The more I think about this, the more that I’m disappointed. I’m sure that it sounds at this point like I didn’t like this movie. But that’s not the case.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is actually a really good movie. The premise is so creative, and it’s all so well executed. One of the tags I find myself using the most here on OM|ED is “visually striking.” I love it when a movie has a distinct visual style, or is just pretty to look at. That’s certainly the case here, I’ve never seen a movie that looked like this, and it’s all done incredibly well. I don’t even want to criticize Cera’s performance as Scott. If anything, he probably deserves credit for being good enough that it took a while for me to figure out how much I disliked the character.

It’s odd to try to sum up my thoughts on this movie. On the one hand it’s brilliant, creative, beautiful and fun. On the other hand the titular character is an pathetic knob. Looking at it, though, the former does overcome the latter. I think that the next time I watch this; I might be able to get over my distaste for Scott Pilgrim. Now that I know where he’s going, I think I might be able to look past the sniveling weenie in the role of hero, and enjoy the greatness in everything else. If nothing else, the fact that I do intend to watch this one again some day proves that it is worth watching, but I’m really sad to say that I can’t say that with a lot of enthusiasm.

[Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) – Directed by Edgar Wright – Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references]

OM|ED Rating: Worth Seeing