Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright
Stars: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a genuine pleasure every time I watch it. It’s starting to make me feel old and reminisce about playing in bands in my college years. And the third act still always strikes me as a bit scattershot. But the cast is so great, and the editing is so fun. It’s just a blast and I still think it’s a miracle that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World exists at all.
I’m an 80’s baby, so Scott Pilgrim vs. The World really speaks to me in a big way. The older I get, the more I recognize my own irrational, stupid behavior in Scott. I love that this movie continues to grow with me beyond all the nostalgia it layers in for specifically my generation.
The way it brings so many different cinema tropes together into one cohesive whole is astounding, and I have a feeling in 20 years we’ll be looking back on Scott Pilgrim as an unsung genre picture that heralded a new era of filmmaking (my podcast co-host and I often refer to it as “Kinetic Cinema”) and became a template for things to come. You can see its influence across blockbusters from Kingsmen to the Marvel movies.
Edgar Wright is a master of shot and sequence construction; a wizard of visual comedy. He may very well be my generation’s great genre filmmaker, which calls to mind Carpenter for me and is perhaps an indication of why I like his movies so much.
And until this viewing, I think I would’ve told you Scott Pilgrim was my favorite of his movies. Not necessarily his best, but my favorite. I saw it in theaters three times, including once at the drive-in (oddly paired with the Carnahan A-Team movie), and must’ve rewatched it upwards of 15 times on DVD after it came out. It’s a mash-up of everything I love, from live music to fight choreography, from Zelda sound effects to a who’s who of Young Hollywood’s best (the cast only seems more incredible the bigger all their careers become), this puts 80’s and 90’s pop culture in a blender and churns out the best punk rock-kung fu-comic book-love story we didn’t know we wanted. And yet, on this viewing it felt a little bit languid and overstuffed. There’s about 20 minutes leading up to the finale that feel a bit exhausting. And I think it’s something to do with the insane pacing of this movie.
Every time I watch Scott Pilgrim, I feel like I’ve watched a 2.5 hour movie. And I’m pretty sure it clocks in under 2 hours. There is so much happening, and every scene transitions rapidly into the next one, sometimes seamlessly, that you feel like you get a really long, full story in a very brief amount of time. That’s something I would like to applaud, as I think most movies could use more character development and yet a bit less on their run-time, but the volume of stuff and emotion here is enormous, almost spilling over the edges as we move into the 4th, 5th, and 6th Evil Ex’s. The only thing that keeps it from falling apart is the sheer velocity of it. The movie sort of screams along at the speed of sound, the engine overheating and the wheels flying off of it until only the frame is left and comes grinding along the pavement to an abrupt halt.
I still think it’s a fantastic film and an amazing achievement that marks a big shift in visual storytelling, especially in English cinema. But I almost always feel that yawn come on when it feels like there’s no escalation left and we’re just humming along at peak velocity, waiting for it all to finally descend. Perhaps trimming an Ex or two would’ve been helpful, I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps I shouldn’t be criticizing the man I just called my generation’s John Carpenter.