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Can a movie be ahead of its time? and extremely dated? Can a film unite an ensemble of future blockbuster stars and critical darlings and yet fail miserably at the box office? Can a movie be mind-blowing and mesmerizing, but arguably miserable at its core?
There’s one movie that happens to have all that very complicated stuff in it, as well as a really nice watch in its own right. 11 years ago, maverick author Edgar Wright delivered a dazzling rom-com unlike anything comic book fans had seen before: Scott pilgrim against the world.
Here’s Why You Need To See This Cult Classic On Netflix Before It Leaves 15 Sept.
Adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, Scott pilgrim against the world tells the story of a bassist in his twenties in Toronto, played by Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim’s life is currently more dramatic than usual as he struggles to ditch his 17-year-old girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), to make it work with his other girlfriend, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and fending off an army of vengeful exes from Ramona.
With kinetic pacing, relentlessly ingenious staging, sharp visual humor, and a genuine fondness for millennial pop culture (especially arcade video games), Scott Pilgrim is essentially Tekken via John Hughes. It’s a film that fully deserves its cult classic status — and one that equally deserves to be grilled for its complicated legacy. It remains fast and fun after all this time, although really watching the central character threatens to kill the party.
At a glance, Scott Pilgrim resembles a two indie aughts comedy whose soul was sucked into the body of a colorful genre blockbuster. The plot is accessible, about a wiry, indecisive prick who places himself between two women out of selfishness. A subplot about the rags-to-riches success of Scott’s mediocre rock band speaks to the more realistic interests and concerns of characters who aren’t Scott. And as absurd as things get – from Jackie Chan-esque boss fights and vampire backup dancers to the most memorable the Vegan Police – Scott Pilgrim doesn’t completely lose sight of its very human characters in a very real Toronto.
In the hands of another filmmaker, Scott Pilgrim may have looked more like other late 2000s teen movies. It would be mostly “cute,” akin to something like: Nick and Norah’s never-ending playlist. But Wright is ramping up the caffeine sensitivities he’d only previously teased with his zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead and police satire Busy hassle, to unleash unbridled, hyperactive chaos.
The plethora of comics-inspired titles and images on screen, some cleverly diegetic, speak to the instincts of Scott PilgrimToday’s audience of second and third wave millennials — the younger group more attuned to the internet than any generation. One could argue that TikTok’s reigning sardonic humor, an exclusively youthful canvas defined by abrupt editing and non-stop remixing, owes much to Wright and the rhythmic chaos of Scott Pilgrim.
Wright is far from the first artist to combine different flavors to great effect. But because of his unique execution, Scott Pilgrim has no equal. Which is why it’s a shame Scott Pilgrim is such a horrible guy at the center of it all. It’s a relief that the film rightly roasts its lead actor for his actions; even drunken roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin) speaks sober truth, saying, “You should break up with your fake high school girlfriend.”
That the narrative thrust and denouement of Scott Pilgrim lies in the same man’s sense of self-esteem, feels uncomfortable, as if it is an implicit validation of his character. Scott is too weak to be a human rights activist, but his behavior is no less toxic than that of such individuals. He actually Ramona and Knives doesn’t earn, and how he treats them both is reason enough to ask how much gas is in this story’s tank.
Start a conversation about Scott Pilgrim in a room with people, and you might hear horror stories about a man who likes to think of himself as Scott or someone who likes to cling to women and call them Ramona. If any of these stories end in a happy romance, color me shocked.
But how people act isn’t the movie that inspires their behavior to blame, ever. On its own merits, Scott Pilgrim is and was a special work by a special artist who has followed the righteous journey of a cult hit.
It bombed the box office and succumbed to The expendables. But while consumables spawned sequels, it was Scott Pilgrim that lingered in our pop-cultural imaginations and endured the usual cult hit routes: word of mouth, home video, and now streaming. (A killer video game that just added to the movie’s mythical stature.)
That the overcrowded cast of millennial celebrities Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson (who is a dead sexy rendition from Metric’s “Black Sheep”), Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Allison Pill, and more is just another impossible feat of this strange film.
although Scott pilgrim against the world has scents of repulsive themes, it remains the work of a master craftsman. It’s a demonstration that comic book adaptations don’t have to be soulless and uncreative, but can be fresh and colorful.
Scott Pilgrim is that rare film in which pop culture-ridden brains produce no work of lesser or derivative imagination. Instead, it remixes its influences into something unique. And even if the main character threatens to doom the film, Scott Pilgrim‘s creative mind provides tremendous replay value.
Scott pilgrim against the world is now on Netflix until August 15.
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