Film Review: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is video game surrealism

In Cinema on August 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

Super Special Weekend Update!

I hope on making these “Super Special Weekend” updates a common fixture on the blog. Saturdays or Sundays is when I will discuss the latest in film, music, art and literature.


For the first time since “Toy Story 3” (also known as “Lee Unkrich goes to memory lane…and destroys it”) I went to our local Regal Cinemas and saw a film. The film I saw was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. And it was AWESOME.

Did I like/not like it?

Well, the day after I saw it my wife and I bought the soundtrack. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know then I don’t know what will. Oh, and the fact that I said in the previous paragraph that “it was awesome.”

What did I like/dislike?

This is a toughy. Not because I disliked it (quiet the contrary) but because I liked so much of it. There’s the likable protagonist, the strong supporting cast, the amazing music and the fact that the film was smart and meaningful without hitting you over the head with it. In the end though, it was the films surrealism that won out.

How was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World an act of video game surrealism, though?

It was surreal in the way that people who have grown up on video games experience the surreal: We expect to be the underdog. We expect to save the princess. We expect to battle through dungeons to fight bosses. We expect swords to burst out of our chests when needed. We expect to receive XP after doing something totally awesome. We expect enemies to drop useful items after being defeated. We expect of ourselves that, no matter what, we will triumph – even if it takes us a long-ass time.  This is natural. This is how many of us were raised. Plus, we always can always use our 1 UP bonus if we fail the first time, right? (A 1 UP bonus is the equivilient to gaining an extra life that one can use in the event of a characters death).

For those who have not yet seen Scott Pilgrim, all of the “things” we expect (that were previously mentioned) do, in fact, occur in the film.

I say “video game surrealism” because video games are what many of us grew up on (and continue to play). Veteran gamers will also interpret many of the events in Scott Pilgrim as on-screen homages to various games. For instance, many of the fight scenes echo Mortal Kombat. Scott’s (Michael Cera) “quest” throughout the film echos Final Fantasy. The band battles themselves are something out of Rock Band or Guitar Hero. The band that Scott Pilgrim is a member of (“Sex Bob-omb”) is itself a reference to the bob-ombs of Super Mario Bros. 2. The final boss battle (in which Pilgrim fights the devilishly arrogant Gideon Graves) feels like the viewer is watching a modern interpretation of the Legend of Zelda. Instead of the “Master Hand” however, the protagonist has to fight a sword wielding Jason Schwartzman.

In fact, at least two fight sequencs feature live-action characters wielding 8-bit armaments. What could be more video game surreal then that?

Scott Pilgrim's band "Sex Bob-omb" battles the Katayanagi Twins during a rock-off. Note the visible sound waves. They're super cool and super effective. Photo c/o Universal Studios.


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