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June 26, 2015

VGFlicks: Scott Pilgrim VS. The World (Part 1)

Scott Pilgrim VS The World review
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

(Here’s a contest: Try to find as many references to music of the past 40 years as you can in all parts of this review. The references are mostly to rock music, old and recent, but can include songs and artists of other genres. Keep a list. If you find 100 references or more, you can consider yourself very knowledgeable in music. References can be song titles, album titles, band names or famous lines from songs. Good luck.)


Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a movie about romance, rock, life, sex, comics, music, friendship, video games and fighting to the death. But, most of all, before being a movie, it was a comic book in six volumes. And before that, it was a song.

With the film’s release in 2010, it also became a video game, appropriately enough. The series had a large fanbase even before the film came out, and the film directed by Edgar Wright made many people wish they could read the comics. I hunted down the six volumes of the series so that I could read them… I found the first four. The fifth and sixth books couldn’t be found anywhere. Aw, damn. Still, it gave me a chance to read the story of Scott, and this also allowed me to compare the books to the movie. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do here: I’ll review the movie, but I’ll frequently compare with the first four books. I noticed that Edgar Wright tried to be as faithful as possible, cramming as many plot elements from the comics as he could into this 112-minute epic. Did he succeed? Let’s see.

P.S. Major spoilers. I suggest you watch the movie first. I'm gonna be revealing every major plot detail.

Left to right: Scott Pilgrim, "Young" Neil Nordegraf, Kim Pine,
Stephen Stills. Right to left: Who cares.
We open on the land of the ice and snow. Toronto, in Canada, to be precise. The movie begins, as direct as it could be: Scott Pilgrim is dating a high-schooler! For reference, Scott is 22 at the beginning, and turns 23 sometimes during the comic. And the girl he’s dating, Knives Chau (played by Ellen Wong), is only 17. She’s very much a teenager. And she’s very much a teenager in love with Scott. He’s not dating her out of pity or anything; it’s just that he wanted a simpler relationship for a while. It’s… complicated. Anyway, the movie also opens on Scott rehearsing with his indie metal garage happy grunge band, Sex Bob-Omb. Joke aside, I have no idea what’s the genre they’re playing, and very few people seem to know. Scott is the bassist (and back-vocalist) in this band, where he plays alongside Stephen Stills (The Talent; played by Mark Webber) on electric guitar and main vocals, and Kim Pine (Alison Pill) on drums. Oh, and also there’s their #1 fan, Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), who lets them rehearse at his house. And he goes to every single one of their concerts.

Their style is so very electric it creates sparks.
Scott goes to the door when he hears knocking, and lets Knives Chau in. She promises to stay quiet, sits on the sofa in the living room, and the band resumes rehearsal. The loud music leaves way for some hectic (and almost seizure-inducing) intro credits. When Sex Bob-Omb stops, Knives is speechless. It doesn’t matter how much they rock, or how much they suck; she adores their music. Gee, I suppose she’s gonna be competing with Neil for the role of #1 fan… They rocked her like a freaking hurricane. She leaves Neil’s place with stars in her eyes. Once their rehearsal session is over, Scott, Kim and Stephen discuss, and of course Knives comes up in their discussion.

Heh. I had the same expression of awe when I first listened to Dream Theater.

He should ham it up a bit. That would be closer to the comics Scott's hothead
tendencies. But what we got was still fine, so why should I complain?
Now, I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to discuss something: Michael Cera. Look, he’s quite the polarizing actor in Hollywood, with people who don't mind that he’s always playing this awkward, shy geek who can prove to be quite a dick when provoked. It happens for actors to suddenly end up constantly playing similar roles, and as a result they become associated with these roles. However, some consider Michael Cera as a one-note actor who really can’t play anything else. What’s more, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World came out just around the time a lot of people were getting tired of his “shtick”. As for me, I never really had an issue with his roles. I should also note that his role in this movie is more action-oriented. Sure, there’s still a whole lot of teen drama, but there are also battles and many other things you don’t find in other movies Cera starred in. I think he does a good job here! I suppose he should overreact a bit more (like the Scott from the comics) instead of underreacting, but that’s just a small issue. He’s got 99 problems but this role ain’t one. Besides, Brian Lee O'Malley is the one who suggested that the role be played by Cera.

Not quite the new Modern Family.
To add to the awkwardness, Scott lives in a small apartment with his homosexual roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin). Keep in mind that Scott and Wallace share the only bed they could possibly put in the apartment’s main room. And they share it even when Wallace brings someone home. …A lot of action takes place in that bed. None very important to the plot of the movie, thankfully. But we frequently get shots of Scott in bed, with Wallace next to him… and another guy next to Wallace. By the way, almost everything in the apartment belongs to Wallace. Take a guess which one of the two has the more successful life. Wallace didn’t get all that money for nothing, you know.

Sigh. She's younger, yet she's the more mature of the two.
She even has a JOB! ...Oh how I envy her.
Back at the apartment, after Scott tells his roommate that he is, indeed, dating a high schooler, he gets a call from his sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick). Oh yeah, did I mention Wallace texts messages faster than his own shadow? Scott’s sister drops numerous bits of plot-relevant information (just what you’d expect from the first few hours in a video game), explaining among others that Scott dating Knives is kinda wrong, that he really needs to get over his breakup with a certain girl (who went on to become world-famous with her band), and stuff like that. It’s like a cutscene; pay attention to it only if you find any interest in the story.

On the next day, Scott goes get Knives at her Catholic school, and the two leave towards the arcade. They show a surprising degree of teamwork, especially when playing a two-player game. Next we see them at the music store, and yeah, before you ask, Scott is still frustrated over that failed relationship with Envy Adams, singer of The Clash At Demonhead. Just in case the repeated mentions of her name don’t make it obvious, she’ll have an important role later on.

That night, Scott dreams of himself, alone in a desert… still wearing his winter gear… and crying that he’s all alone. After which this owner of a lonely heart sees a pretty girl (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) pass by on roller skates, saying he isn’t actually alone… And he wakes up before this turns into a wet dream. Poor guy, can’t ever get lucky.

Silly Scott, there are no deserts in Toronto.

That next day, Scott goes to the library with Knives, and then he sees her. That girl from his dream. Pink hair, goggles, roller skates, a bag with a star on it. Such an iconic look cannot lie, doesn’t lie. Neither can these hips-Okay, my mind’s racing towards dirty again…

A look to dye for.

So Scott rehearses with his band some more, though his mind is somewhere else, and then the group (plus Neil) goes to a party held by Julie, Stephen’s on-and-off girlfriend, who I can only describe as a swearing bitch. Sorry. Here’s another way to put it: she’s as nice as a tiger with rabies. With a collar that shoots lasers. After the apocalypse. And radioactive. On the way to the bathrooms, Scott sees Michael Comeau (who apparently knows everyone. Including you.), and asks him about that pink-haired girl. It’s his lucky day, apparently, as she’s at that party.

Well, Scott, better change your flirting techniques-
Wait, what's a light switch doing so high up there?
He looks for her, finds her, tries to flirt with her using a piece of video game trivia… and fails spectacularly. Sorry Scott, you can’t always get what you want. Still, he follows her until she leaves the party, then asks around about her. This way, he learns that her name is Ramona Flowers, that she’s American, that she found a job as delivery girl for, that she’s single at the moment, and that she has a dark past. Of course, Scott doesn’t let himself be discouraged by this. He feels that deep inside, he is made for loving her…

And of course, once he confesses his crush on Ramona to Wallace, Scott gets some very important advice from him… and Stacey, because Wallace texted her. He better dump Knives if he wants to date Ramona. (Seriously, Wallace types faster than his own shadow, even in his sleep? Is there a thing he can’t do? …Aside from women, that is?) Oh yeah, and Stacey sends out a mass text about this. Just in case Scott doesn’t get in enough trouble already. On the next morning, Scott orders something off and starts waiting for this dream girl. Yay for product placement allowing for a romance to bloom!

Wouldn't be the last time it happens.

Good to see you're following the rules, Scott.
Oh, he also gets some kind of e-mail about a fight to the death, something that mentioned evil exes, and a duel, or stuff. Nothing of interest, really. On that same day, he’s on a date with Knives yet again, but he really seems out of it. When he is about to suggest that they should break up, he finds himself unable to finish his sentence.

The day ends on them at another Sex Bob-Omb rehearsal, where Stephen announces that they’re gonna participate to the Toronto International Battle of the Bands. I wish them good luck, though they need talent more than they need luck to win this one. On the next day, Scott receives his package from, delivered by Ramona herself, and he manages to convince her to hang out with him.

"You're literally the girl of my dreams!"
"I'm not attracted to people who make puns."

Well, in Canada, we know how to stay cool.
That evening, as they're hanging out, they talk, and for a moment it seems like they could be great friends, but nothing more. You’d end up wondering what’s love got to do with it. Plus, this is April, and it’s still freaking snowing. Don’t laugh, some towns in my province still had snow in MAY this year. I’m not kidding. That is the price to pay when living in Canada… So, the two go to Ramona’s house, using Subspace to do so.

For those unfamiliar with the original comic, Subspace acted like a pocket dimension, a portal of sorts that could let you cross “three miles in fifteen seconds”, as Ramona says. I don’t know what it means, we’re learning the metric system here, not the imperial. Subspace highways are apparently a common traveling method in the Scott Pilgrim-verse, in America at least; in Canada, they’re almost empty. Oh, and part of a Subspace highway passes through Scott’s head, and since it’s related to the subconscious, some people can have some of their thoughts displayed there… which is a good thing only if you don’t have any secrets you want nobody to learn about… In the comic, Subspace is very important, but in the movie it’s very downplayed, leaving out many elements that could be interesting. Then again, this movie is 112 minutes long… So yeah, just throwing it out there that in the Scott Pilgrim-verse, you can literally have someone on your mind.

I <3 this scene.
So, Scott ends up at Ramona’s house. This date wasn’t quite a disaster, but very few Americans see that much snow in April. Except in Alaska, of course. Scott asks Ramona for a blanket, and she goes to get one; but she takes a while, so Scott explores the house and sees her in the middle of changing. One thing turns into another, and before you know it, they’re in bed, kissing passionately, loving, touching, squeezing each other. Still, in the middle of making out, Ramona decides she doesn’t want to have sex with Scott just yet. Surprisingly, Scott doesn’t mind; just being in bed with a girl his age is fine for him. He really needed that love. Just there, with his new muse, enjoying the proximity. He’s gonna have a chance later. Hopefully. They slept together, but they didn’t… uh… “sleep” together. …I’m not clear, am I?

Sorry. The pervert hidden deep inside my subconscious
wanted this picture in the review.

On the next morning, Scott invites Ramona to Round 1 of the Battle of the Bands that evening. Also, she gives him her phone number, Scott, now you can call her maybe? And of course, Ramona comes to the Rockit, where the battle will take place. There, she meets Wallace, Stacey… and Knives, who’s still enamored with Scott. He still didn’t break up with her. Whooops. When he realizes things could get real ugly for him, Scott runs backstage at the speed of sound to get ready for the battle.

Floating panicky text in three... two... one...
Stephen Stills is in the middle of a nervous breakdown (you’ll find he’s like that before every show; stupid stage fright, if I didn’t have it myself I’d make fun of him), Kim and Neil take it cool, and Scott is trying to make sure neither Ramona nor Knives find out that he cheated on them with the other. A task made infinitely more difficult now that Stacey Pilgrim is sitting near them. Crash and the Boys get on stage and start playing (under Wallace Wells’ snarky remarks). They prove to be… relatively good, if only their songs were more than a minute long. They must be the only band on Earth that can fit 100 original songs on a single 80-minute CD. After they’re done, Scott sees Knives about to reveal that she’s dating Scott. No time to waste, Sex Bob-Omb has to play NOW. It’s time to be burning down the house! …Er… the Rockit. Sex Bob-Omb starts playing a song about a garbage truck… and being dirty…

…and that's when a weirdo blasts through the ceiling, screaming “MISTER PILGRIM!”, flying towards Scott.

When they say "a remarked entrance"...

See you in Part 2!