Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ★★★½

Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino have a lot in common in the way they use pop-culture to make movies. However, they differ in the nuance of their obsessions. While Tarantino seems pre-occupied with mixing and matching very specific elements of his beloved films to create unique experiences, nonetheless he doesn’t play with fundamental aspects of genres. Even though he ends up elevating the material he uses in his collages, he respects the genre enough to leave it alone. In fact, he actually starts with a genre in mind, which is why Django Unchained is a western at its core, Reservoir Dogs is a gangster film and Inglourious Basterds is a war film.

On the other hand, Edgar Wright has never had such respect towards genre. He is not necessarily obsessed with lifting scenes and shots from films he loves; his interest lies in using tropes and themes the way a sculptor uses clay. That’s why Shaun Of the Dead is not quite a zombie horror, Baby Driver not quite a heist film and The World’s End not entirely an alien invasion sci-fi. He is a genre mixer-splicer-contortionist.

Therefore, an adaptation of a graphic novel that takes a literal approach towards contemporary pop-culture seemed like a perfect fit for him to get involved in. And as one might expect, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a highly-stylised concoction of tropes found in video games and anime told using a specific language of visual tools borrowed verbatim from comic books under which a simple story about dealing with one’s personal baggage is found. Understandably, a decision to make a film like this one came with a serious risk of alienating the audiences, which is what actually happened as it bombed mercilessly at the box office despite a positive response from film critics.

I am not exactly surprised at how Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was received by the general public as it can be easily dismissed as an infantile hodgepodge of nods towards various factions of geeks and nerds void of rhyme and reason. However, underneath its indulgent superficiality peppered with occasional crass comedy (most of which landed very well for me for some reason, I have to admit) lies a traditional character-driven narrative about growing up, understanding one’s mistakes and doing the right thing.

All in all, I count Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World as a triumph even in spite of the fact I don’t really care too much for its commitment to the graphic novel aesthetic. It’s a fun experiment with genre-splicing that fits well within Edgar Wright’s portfolio even though it stands absolutely no chance of ever being mentioned among his best work.

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