"We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff": 7 deep truths of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
"Scott Pilgrim is the first movie to articulate our popular culture."
---Guillermo del Toro
"From the opening 8-bit Universal logo (and matching MIDI theme) to a frenetic finale in which Scott brawls with Ramona's last ex, evil music producer Gideon (Jason Schwartzman, hopping down a faux pyramid à la the one from Q*bert), Wright creates an A/V whirligig to mirror teens' ever-connected day-to-day existences, a state of being in which eyes and ears are perpetually trained on cell phones, iTunes, the Internet, HDTV, and/or game consoles. His film's flash is, ultimately, as central to the proceedings as is Scott's plot-driving odyssey toward awareness of self . . . " ---Nick Schager
" . . . if Scott Pilgrim ends up as important a film as Breathless, it's only something we'd know about decades down the line. But let's just say I wouldn't be surprised. It unquestionably will be, and already has been, dismissed on similar terms as Godard's breakthrough film - a silly film for young people - but it's really quite astounding." ---Scott Nye
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may well be my favorite film of the year. Some reasons why:
1) Because it successfully foregrounds technique over content. In Walker Percy's novel The Moviegoer, Binx Bolling describes two different forms of a search. One is the old-fashioned way of reading deep into books, what he calls the "vertical search." The other he happens upon more casually, when he takes a walk in his neighborhood and pays attention to his environment--the "horizontal search." Eventually, he finds that he prefers the horizontal search to the vertical.
In a similar way, Scott Pilgrim obliges the critic to shift the analytical emphasis from content to form. Instead of obliging the viewer to focus on the usual dull pseudo-realistic presentation of a story, Scott Pilgrim expands horizontally in one's mind as an oblique network of allusions and techniques. The movie demands that we view it differently, as if we are following director Edgar Wright's subversive imaginative play on a screen.
2) Take, for instance, Ramona's Evil Ex number 3, Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh). He has attained psychic powers due to his vegan diet. As he says, "I partake not in the meat, nor the breast milk, nor the ovum of any creature with a face." His eating habits somehow give him the ability to levitate, play a wicked bass, and throw Scott Pilgrim through walls, but then Scott tricks him into drinking some coffee with half and half. After Todd violates his diet, the Vegan police arrive (in a Smart Car, no less), cite two other violations in his Vegan diet (including the fact that he ate chicken parmesan), and then deprive him of his powers. The entire scene struck me as a perfect example of the increasing legislation of diet nowadays, whereupon we like to increasingly associate one's food choices with virtue or higher Laws. Anybody who has gone out with a vegetarian learns to anticipate the fascist implications of every meal.
4) When Scott runs up against Evil Ex number 2, Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), he encounters the movie star in the midst of a film shoot at Casa Loma, a favorite Toronto landmark. As they do battle, the scene seems to meditate on the nature of celebrity hero-worship. After Lucas threatens Scott, he reacts in a dreamy voice with "He's famous and he's talking to me." Even after Lucas punches Scott, Scott still asks for his autograph.
5) Wright has a mania for replication. Soon after Evil Ex Number 1, Matthew Patel, suddenly sprouts a gang of dancing demon hipster chicks for no apparent reason, Lucas summons his crew of body doubles to fight Scott as he wanders off to get some coffee. Increasingly, the 7 Evil Exes resemble Godlike figures with magical powers.
6) Naturally (?), the ultimate villain is Gideon Graves, a record executive played by Jason Schwartzman who wears thick-framed glasses reminiscent of his Max Fischer character in Wes Anderson's Rushmore (1998). Can a director legitimately semi-resurrect one of the great cinematic characters and allude to him indirectly? Has any director ever done that before? Even though Wright claims that Graves was meant to refer to the Phil Spector-esque character in Phantom of the Paradise, just the hint of Max won me over.
7) And what of the film's whiplash transitions that Guillermo del Toro likes so much? Its use of words on the screen that evokes the verbal play of Citizen Kane? Its many video game references that are, according Wright, always at least 15 years old? Wright's cinematic influences? The film's extraordinary fidelity to Brian Lee O'Malley's comic? Are the 7 Evil Exes obliging us to think of The Seven Samurai or Snow White? When Sex Bob-Omb sells out, are their thin ties and suits a nod to the early Beatles? How does one begin to analyze Wright's nuanced use of different colored hair? What of the Kurosa Ikiru-esque scene out in the snow on a swing? When Scott crumples a cup in his hand, is that an allusion to Jaws when Hooper crumples a styrofoam cup to mock Quint? There appears to be no limit to Scott Pilgrim's gleeful hall-of-mirrors hyperdrive referentiality.