Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an underrated film. It was released in 2010 to little fanfare. For some reason, whether due to poor marketing, or other films at the time being larger draws, this classic didn't perform well at the box office. It however, has seen a resurgence in the home video market, elevating it to cult classic status. This is one of my favorite films of the last few years and when I discussed writing an article on it, everyone in my writing community wholeheartedly agreed. So what is it about this little film about a twenty-two year old from Canada that fights his new girlfriend's seven evil exes, so alluring to nerd culture? Well here are 4 reasons why I believe Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is a modern classic.
1. The Cast is Phenomenal
Michael Cera, who plays the titular hero Scott was born to play this role. Cera, who at the time was best known for his roles of George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, and Evan in Superbad, (side note: also two great works) kills it as Scott. He embodies the lost and apathetic character of Scott, who only starts to come into his own and fight for something that matters, Ramona, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Ramona is an enigmatic and interesting character with a troubled past and Winstead acts the part in a fun and unique way. The supporting cast here is also made up of heavy hitters. A few of the evil exes are Gideon Graves played by the always wonderful Jason Schwartzman, Todd Ingram played by Bradon Routh, who was great in Zach and Miri and also played Superman, and of course last but not least Lucas Lee played by Captain American himself, Chris Evans. The background cast is filled out by Anna Kendrick, Scott's sister, who at the time was just starting to become famous, Brie Larson, Scott's ex girlfriend, and Aubrey Plaza as Julie, a girl that is eternally bitchy to Scott. We can see here Plaza was channeling her inner April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation. Mae Whitman even reunites with Cera to play one of Ramona's exes. Whitman played George Michael's girlfriend Egg, I mean Ann on Arrested Development.
2. The Visual Aesthetics
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Scott Pilgrim is first and foremost a film based on a comic. The brilliant creative team behind this film understood and embraced this fact. As an audience, we know that it is a ridiculous premise for a story, so there was no point for the directors to keep it grounded in reality. This works to the film's advantage allowing it to toe the line between comic and fantasy. Films like 300 and Sin City did this in the past, but I'd argue not as effectively. When Scott is playing his bass you can see D's emanating from it, much like you would read in a comic book. When fights happen, it looks like the 60's Batman show. There is onomatopoeia everywhere, from POWS to SMMMACKS. This coupled with the gaming touches, like Scott's pee bar and stat bonuses, make for a visually appealing feast.
3. The Story and Humor
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When you get down to it, the story of this movie is absurd. Scott randomly encounters the literal "girl of his dreams" and is set to fight her evil exes. There is no time during this movie that one would say "I could see this happening." The film goes out of its way to show that it is a comic, through not only the visual elements as we discussed earlier, but by the virtue that it never takes itself too seriously. Edgar Wright, the film's director and co-writer, keeps the film light hearted and fun. For example when Scott defeats an evil ex, they explode into coins much like in a video game. Scott picks them up in one instance and laments the fact that it's not even enough for him to catch the bus home. There is a subtle balance of visual, dry, and witty humor. All of these things come together to create a movie that you don't want to put down once you start it.
4. It is a Love Letter to Gaming
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From the aforementioned Pee Bar shown above to the little cues, like fight screens popping up when Scott is challenged by an ex, this movie is dripping with video game references. Scott picks up coins and 1ups, like out favorite Italian Plumber, and fights like he's in Street Fighter II. There are even musical scores from The Legend of Zelda franchise pepper throughout the film. This required special permission from Zelda creator the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto and Wright even penned a letter to Miyamoto stating that "This music is like nursery rhymes to a generation." After a private screening of the movie, Miyamoto liked what he saw and gave his blessing. That's not the only Nintendo reference however. My favorite of the movie comes near the end, when Scott is heading to the Chaos Theatre for his final showdown. The Chaos Theatre reference is from my favorite game of all time Earthbound, so it is much appreciated. Every time I watch this film, I discover a new subtle nod to something in gaming culture.
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Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is a great film. It is one that I personally watch a few times a year and every time I see it, I fall in love with it all over again. Over time, I hope that it will be appreciated for the masterpiece that it is. It was truly a labor of love for all those involved in the project and it shines through in the final product. So if you enjoy gaming or anything in nerd culture give this movie a chance. Hell, even if you don't give it a shot. I think there is enough variety and humor to help anyone fall in love with it the way I have.