Dir: Edgar Wright. US. 2010. 112mins


Fully embracing the media-saturated, videogame-centric worldview of its ineffectual early-20s hero, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a fizzy blast that may not offer many lasting rewards but certainly generates an impressive headlong rush along the way. Director Edgar Wright’s hyper-stylish follow-up to Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead displays his rapidly evolving visual panache, even if this action-comedy suggests a slackening of his interest in emotionally complex characters.

Scott Pilgrim allows Wright to continue his penchant for parodying film genres while simultaneously making top-notch replicas of the movies he’s mocking.

Opening domestically August 13, this Universal release will be heavily supported by a hip twentysomething crowd that’s well acquainted with Wright’s and star Michael Cera’s previous work. But the question remains whether this fanboy-friendly entry can expand beyond its base, especially with the more mainstream comedy The Other Guys opening a week earlier.

Heartsick garage-rock bassist Scott (Cera) instantly falls for the cute Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but their blossoming love affair faces a serious obstacle in the form of her seven evil ex-lovers, who come to battle him one at a time. He must vanquish all seven if he is to keep Ramona.

Based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s acclaimed graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim allows Wright to continue his penchant for parodying film genres while simultaneously making top-notch replicas of the movies he’s mocking. Coming-of-age romances and comic-book/kung-fu films are the targets here, and Wright stages Scott’s series of fights with Ramona’s exes as bravura, over-the-top allusions to the frenetic, gravity-defying confrontations in videogames, staving off repetitiveness with humour, inspired choreography and impressive effects work.

But despite the film’s engaging visual strategy – which beyond its references to videogame design also fluctuates between different aspect ratios and heightened states of reality – Scott Pilgrim pays far less attention to its story’s emotional through-line. Cera plays a variation of his familiar ironic-dweeb persona, and although his deadpan delivery helps ground the film’s fantastical tone, his studied detachment undercuts audience interest in Scott’s pursuit of Ramona. And where Wright’s zombie-comedy Shaun Of The Dead managed to balance laughs and scares with real heart, Scott Pilgrim tends to treat its characters as human equivalents of the shiny avatars in videogames, able to do astounding physical feats but unable to convey much soul. 

Production companies: Marc Platt Productions, Big Talk Films, Closed On Mondays Entertainment, Dentsu

Domestic Distribution: Universal Pictures

International Distribution: Universal Pictures International

Producers: Marc Platt, Eric Gitter, Nira Park, Edgar Wright

Executive producers: Ronaldo Vasconcellos, J. Miles Dale, Jared LeBoff, Adam Siegel

Co-producers: Joe Nozemack, Lisa Gitter, Steven V. Scavelli

Screenplay: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Cinematography: Bill Pope

Production designer: Marcus Rowland

Editors: Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

Music: Nigel Godrich

Main cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Johnny Simmons, Mark Webber, Mae Whitman, Ellen Wong