Writer-director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, not to mention cult television series Spaced, Edgar Wright is a comedy-writing hero to many. Which of course means that any forthcoming project from the funny Simon Pegg collaborator is going to be met with eager anticipation.
Having tweeted relentlessly about the film for months on end, Wright’s latest feature – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – is now here. But, although it has unmistakeable touches of the British comedy genius, Scott Pilgrim is very different to anything you might expect. For a start, it doesn’t star Simon Pegg.
Based on a comic book (aren’t most films these days?), Scott Pilgrim takes place in an invented world that exists somewhere between fantasy and reality.
When Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls for a girl that’s seemingly out of his league, she instructs him that in order to date her, he must defeat her seven evil exes. In true video game fashion, Scotty high-kicks, uppercuts and fast fist-fights his way through the movie, despatching foes one by one, end-of-level-enemy style, until they’re all finished off, he’s learned some valuable growing-up lessons and won the woman of his dreams.
Scott Pilgrim is best enjoyed through eyes that watch without questioning why. It effectively captures a comic book feel, cleverly weaving the computer game motif throughout -with coins dropping for every baddie done away with, stylised fighting and inventive visual effects.
Elements of magic realism add a really intriguing dimension to the film, making it feel fresh and original but the curious pacing, which drags through the first four fights then speeds through the next three, makes it feel an odd mix of tedious and rushed.
Michael Cera – so charming and funny in Juno – is less so here. He wrongfoots the audience early on and we are never sure how to feel about him. At the start, he seems cruel and ever-so-slightly sleazy, creeping the audience out and making it really hard to cultivate trust in – and empathy for – him as the film progresses. You keep expecting him to get his comeuppance and yet he never does. The film’s ending offers him slight redemption but the film’s problematic opening confuses our feelings.
Also starring Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman and Chris Evans, Scott Pilgrim is an interesting and imaginative comic book adaptation that is perhaps best regarded as most accomplished when seen as an innovative exercise in mainstream filmmaking. As far as entertainment value goes, it’s fair to say it struggles.