Film Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Graphic novels are all the rage in Hollywood. Every year since 1981, at least one comic book has been made into a feature movie. And it’s happening more and more – in 2011 there will be eight comic book adaptations hitting the theatres. Who said Hollywood’s running out of ideas?

The latest is one you may not have heard of – Scott Pilgrim. First released in 2004, there have been only six issues of the black-and-white graphic novel. It was widely well received, winning several awards, and developed a strong cult following. The film centers around 23 year old unemployed layabout Scott Pilgrim. He plays in a band called “Sex Bob-omb”, is still getting over a bad break up a year ago but finds himself dating a 17 year old high school girl, Knives Chau (“She’s Chinese!” Scott has to continually explain). But when delivery girl Ramona Flowers moves in, Pilgrim falls in love with her. Little does he know that if he wants to date her, he must battle to the death her “seven evil exes”. What follows is a fantastic Mortal Kombat style series of battles complete with level-ups, bonus lives and – of course – coins!

If you think that sounds far fetched – you’re right. Such is the nature of all comic books, I suppose. I’ve never really been into them, myself. I never collected them, I don’t think I’ve ever even bought a comic book. Except for Frank Miller’s Sin City series – and I bought them AFTER seeing the movie! But the beauty of comic books is that they force us to suspend our disbelief and immerse ourselves in a different world. They drag us through the story by our imaginations.

And on the surface, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a cookie-cutter Hollywood action-romance film. There’s the Ben Stiller-esque ‘ordinary bloke’, a love interest, a series of hurdles the hero needs to overcome, a brief crisis-of-confidence before an epiphany, an epic final battle scene and ultimate victory. There’s even a training montage at one point. But really this movie is SO MUCH more than that. There’s very cool special effects (complete with comic-book onomatopoeic sound effects like “Pow!” and “Thunk!”) and great martial arts sequences. It’s at times goofy, other times deadly serious.  I mean, it’s a LOT of fun. It’s very much in the spirit of Kick-Ass, with zany characters in danger, and you really find yourself cheering for them. But on top of all that, the dialogue is extremely tight. Funny, entertaining and very “geeky”, the language and style is very well done and rarely predictable.

But what makes Scott Pilgrim so great is that it’s a totally unashamed geek-fest. It’s packed full of video-game references, mostly the old-style arcade and console games. Even the theme tune from Zelda is recreated, and lots of the music has definite 8-bit overtones. Yahoo!Games has a summary of the video-game aspects here. Shortly after seeing this film I tweeted that it was “thousands of tiny geekgasms rolled into one giant geekgasm.” If you’re into comic books or video games, or if you were EVER into comic books or video games, you will love Scott Pilgrim.

Made for geeks, by geeks, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is easily the best film I’ve seen this year. Go and see it.