2010 is shaping up to be the year that indie comics took over the comic book movie genre. Earlier this year Matthew Vaughn’s KICK-ASS blew our fucking minds away with its semi-realistic/comedy take on superheroes. A month later, THE LOSERS was released and although it ended up being slightly above mediocre, it was a better effort than THE A-TEAM. In a few months, the similarly themed RED will be released and based on the trailer it looks decently interesting. Amid a lot of insane buzz (mostly… actually entirely from the comic geeks), Edgar Wright finally unleashed SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD this past weekend. Any misgivings I had about Wright being unable to pull off a film without Simon Pegg were totally unfounded. Like John Hughes before him, Wright has successfully managed to gather all the cultural aspects of our youth generation and create a cinematic work of art that defines this generation.

Based on the independent comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is about 23-year old Canadian Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a slacker and bass guitarist for a band called “Sex Bob-omb.” He ends up meeting the girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. However, in order to win her, Scott has to defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes, all of whom are trying to kill him. Each fight between Scott and one of the exes is presented like a video game end-boss level with on-screen visual cues such as KO’s and 1-ups displayed on the screen.

Those familiar with Edgar Wright’s films will notice that SCOTT PILGRIM is a bit different in style from his past efforts. Unlike his past films, this one isn’t a spoof of any established genre and Wright is working off of someone else’s source material. Although the film contains exaggerated and fantastical elements just like in SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, Wright pushes conventional boundaries much more in this movie. Part of this stems from the source material necessitating a particular look and style, but I think Wright goes even beyond this and gives us something totally unique. You can tell the movie is aimed directly at today’s youth generation. In fact, some might say that’s what handicaps the movie because unless you’re in tune with today’s pop culture, you may not “get” this movie. I sort of agree with this argument, but I find it hard to believe that anyone of any age would not at least find SCOTT PILGRIM to be a somewhat entertaining distraction. I actually noticed a very elderly couple sitting a few rows behind me when I left the theater and at least you can say that they sat through the entire movie so there’s something to be said for that.

As I said before, what separates SCOTT PILGRIM from other teen movies is Edgar Wright’s unique visual style. He gives it a signature look that elevates the movie beyond your conventional teen movie. Aside from the obvious superhero element of the movie, the film plays out like a comic book in the manner that the characters are introduced (little to no backstory other than the few tidbits you need to identify the characters) and how each battle between Scott and one of the exes is like an issue of a comic book series. Wright even injects comic book word transitions between scenes and visual accents that appear onscreen to highlight the action or a character’s moves. However, the film is probably going to be more compared to a video game and the movie is certainly set up to feel like one. The battle with the exes are like video game boss levels and when an ex is eliminated, he turns into coins. We also see 1-ups appear on the screen and point totals as well as life meters. I dug the hell out of all of this. I grew up playing video games and reading comic books and I still do so seeing all this shit was nostalgic for me. Wright clearly made a movie for us geeks and the fact that he got to spend a lot of Universal’s money to do it is all the better.

I was initially worried that Edgar Wright might not be able to pull off another success without the comic genius of Simon Pegg. I like Michael Cera and all and I’ve dug a number of his films in the past, but I wouldn’t dream of classifying him anywhere near the same category as Simon Pegg. With SCOTT PILGRIM, Wright has proven that what makes his movies funny is attributable to his comedic talents just as much as it is to Pegg’s talents. SCOTT PILGRIM is hilarious and it’s the kind of comedy I have been itching to see for a long fucking time (thank you DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS and THE OTHER GUYS for totally failing at this). Cera brings his signature dry sarcasm and wit to his character, but its now finessed by Wright’s writing. All the characters possess the same kind of humor, which is accentuated by the hyperkinetic, almost comic slapstick visual humor. Ellen Wong as Scott’s high school girlfriend, Knives Chau, was one of the standouts in the movie. She’s Scott’s devoted girlfriend who gets dumped by Scott for Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Ramona Flowers character. She’s a groupie for Scott’s band and although she becomes a little too obsessed with Scott, I felt sorry enough for her for getting dumped that I ended up liking her more than Ramona Flowers. Another standout performance is Kieran Culkin’s character as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace. Culkin brings a bitchy gay sarcasm that’s funny without becoming annoying.

My one criticism of the movie, which was echoed by a friend of mine, is that the battles with the exes get a little tiring toward the end of the movie. The film’s centerpiece is the battles, but I felt that 7 battles was a bit too many (despite one of them being 2 exes in 1 battle). Besides my gripe, however, each battle was pretty cool and each was totally different from the other. I can’t single out a favorite one, but what I enjoyed about them was that each required Scott Pilgrim to use a different strategy to beat the ex. The battles are straight up a mixture of comic book and video game with a little alternative rock mixed in. By the way, you will barely recognize Brandon Routh (Superman) as one of the exes, but he’s one of the cooler looking exes with a very interesting power that serves as a snarky comment on vegans.

Something you may notice during the movie is the use of retro technology. Although the film is meant to represent today’s youth, the technology used by the characters is older. For example, Scott Pilgrim uses AOL to check his email and he’s the only character who doesn’t possess a cell phone. The characters also use older Macintoshes and play old Nintendo games (NOTE: There is a LOT of Nintendo references here). I think this is a great way for Wright to prevent SCOTT PILGRIM from becoming dated, especially given how contemporary the movie is supposed to be. One of my big worries anytime I see a movie that depends too much on the use of smartphones, of-the-moment web designs, and other Web 2.0 technologies is that in a few years, the movie will look too dated to audiences. Wright circumvents this by using older technology and that’s something I would like to see more of in other films.

Should you see SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD? Hell fucking yes. Yeah, its absurd (there are vegan police in this movie and you can knock the highlights off of someone’s hair by punching them out), but it’s one of the best romantic comedies I have seen in awhile. For all of its visual flair and humor, SCOTT PILGRIM has a lot of heart and its not cheesy in any way. The relationships in this movie are also not simplified like you see in most romantic movies. They are complex and appropriately so. Characters break up and get together for the wrong reasons just like they do in real life. Most importantly (at least for me anyway), Cera’s Scott Pilgrim is a far from perfect hero. He doesn’t do everything right and for that you identify with him more and with the movie as a whole.

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