Film Reviews

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Video Game Geekiness with Canadian Nostalgia

In 2020, it was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ten-year anniversary since the film was released. This movie is based on an eight-part graphic novel series by graphic designer Bryan Lee O’Malley. Before the series was finished the series was turned into a movie that was released in the summer. It was filled with a lot of references to the Toronto area that didn’t even include going to the CN Tower but other noted locations.

The movie and the series are about Scott Pilgrim, a bass player in an indie band, who meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, but to be with her he has to defeat all of her past companions. His band is also competing in a band contest for recognition and money. He lives with his gay friend who he essentially bums free lodging from. But before he was ever going out with Ramona, he was going study with Knives, a 17-year-old girl who is also a groupie for the band.

The Exs are distinct from each other in fighting, personality and setup story to the Exs. One is a Bollywood, fire-throwing nostalgia fighter, a super-powered vegan, a pompous skateboarding actor, an angry leather-bound woman, two techno DJs and a rich American. They punch through walls, fly punch each other and have power-ups. When defeated they turn into a pile of Canadian coins. The ground is laid out in a shape of a person with nickel, quarters, dimes, loonies [$1] and toonie [$2]. Mostly in loonies because of its video game coin appearance.

The story is funny at times but the cartoonish graphic imagery and video game graphics are Capcom, Nintendo and manga-inspired. The screen sometimes would have a mishmash of illustrations from the graphic novel, the screen would cut in half to panels like a graphic novel and little animations would give backstory to the characters and assist the story forward. In the battle scenes, the video game life bars and video game item graphics made the movie very interesting and quirky. At times, the added on things on screen can feel bloated to the point that it could have been better to have an actual video game. Also, one special effect of Knives face turning into :0 with her real face blurred out was and still is freaky to look at.

Scott is fighting the final boss. Scott has a purple fire sword and the the final boss has a blue sword that glows pixel blocks.
Universal Pictures’ Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). Scott is fighting the final boss.

The humour comes from the over-the-top characterization the actors perform. Even Scott would is this irresponsible undriven aloof has a very distinct personality that explains his actions and motivations when he has motivations. A lot of the actors in the film went on to bigger things mostly MCU and DC universe movies. The characters are a lot like cartoon characters with zany manic behaviour. The story is even divided into segments like a video game. The directorial style is very frantic and energetic. It was directed by Edgar Wright who’s directorial style is very energetic and frantic. The story is more of a video game turned to life than a movie because of the story structure. Scott is not fighting one large known enemy but several villains to reach the big boss at the end.

The Vegan Boss dressed in white but a number three on his chest, has eyes that glow white with mist streaming out of it. He strums his guitar around lens flares.
Universal Pictures’ Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). Vegan Boss (#3) on his guitar.

The film was shot in various locations throughout Toronto. They go to Casa Loma, they hang out on Bathurst Avenue and, Yonge and Dundas. The background shots show Honest Ed’s when it was still around and all of the record store scenes were inside Sam The Record Man. Honest Ed’s was a large discount store that sold almost everything in the Mirvish Village area. There were record stores, vintage movie shops and once a large graphic novel and comic store in Toronto. Sam The Record Man was a large and eclectic music and movie store that sold every title even independent labels which was most likely why Scott was always there. These were two very Toronto stores well known for their history, store layout, contribution to the city and their exterior light design. But notably, the pizza shop was always Pizza Pizza. It’s the bright orange pizza parlour Scott is always hanging out in. And Second Cup, the coffee shop Scott’s sister works in. Too bad Sam The Record Man was turned into a Ryerson University Campus and the former lot of Honest Ed’s is now being made into condominiums.

The romance in the film between Scott and Ramona is very unhealthy because of the death battles. But the relationship between Scott and Knives is unhealthy possibly more so due to the age differences between them. The other characters point it out throughout the movie even making ultimatums between Scott’s relationship with Knives and their friendship. It’s partly the reason why Scott has some assistance from his roommate and bandmates to fight all of Ramona’s Exs.

The story doesn’t have much of an underlined story of self-discovery even though Scott visually vocalizes his loneliness and lack of achievements in this green screen dessert wasteland. Over time the story will never be a coming-of-age tale because even though it has two young people trying to find their way in the world it doesn’t have that much introspection to showcase inner growth. It’s a comedy with a lot of Canadian and geek culture references.


Trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Genre: Action/Romance
Year: 2010
Duration: 112 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Four out of five stars

All screenshots are from the film

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