In 2010, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” shocked me. Not because of Edgar Wright. If there’s any director out there that knows pop culture, it’s Edgar Wright. It’s more so how much Edgar Wright understood the idea of pop culture and how absolutely annoying the idea of nostalgia had become. It’d somewhat become a monstrosity of awareness, sarcastic catch phrases, and smug gate keeping. While “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is a wonderful film filled with laughs, and some excellent performances, it’s also a polemic about how much pop culture has replaced actual culture. While a lot of others saw it as a great action celebration, I saw it as immensely cynical. It’s also why I love it so much.
How else can you explain the narrative’s utter disdain for the main character? And how else to explain why pretty much everyone also hates him, including his own sister, who (literally) goes out of her way to avoid him at every turn. Truth be told while my favorite movie of the year in 2010 was “Black Swan,” the movie I’ve seen the most since then has been “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” Director Wright (with ace editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss) manages to build such a mountain of nostalgia, video game ephemera that manage to improve what is basically a hybrid of action, martial arts, teen dramedy, and a musical.
With the help of artist Beck, Wright is able to construct a colorful, bold, hyperactive, and action packed barrage of brilliant action sequences. All of which relate to Scott and what he has to conquer in order to win the heart of Ramona Flowers. With Matthew Patel (Am I wrong for wanting my own demon hipster chicks?) Scott is forced to endure his ability to dance, for Todd Ingram, Scott learns for the first time how good his Bass skills are, for the Takayanagi Twins, Scott has to be in synch with his band mates for the first time ever.
And with G Man, Scott is basically facing a more successful reflection of himself; even if G Man is also abusive and manipulative. I admittedly never read the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels (I love his art style!), but Wright manages to accomplish squeezing in the central story and alluding to a lot of what’s happened before and after Scott wins Ramona. It’s an uncertain ending even when Scott redeems himself, because Scott is still prone to resisting change and doing the right thing and is almost always fine with doing whatever can best benefit him.
Even though a lot of what happened with Clash at Demonhead and Envy Adams depicts her as someone who crushed Scott’s heart, there are also large implications that Scott also didn’t help improve their relationship. It’s possible he even tried to hinder Envy’s success in the face of the struggles with Sex Bob-Omb. The thing I love about every character is that no one is really ever black or white. While they can make questionable decisions here and there, no one is ever really nasty, in the end.
Kim had her heart broken by Scott, Knives was dumped by Scott for another woman sans apology, and Wallace spends much of his time tolerating Scott who literally lives off of him. Even Envy, who is depicted as kind of cold to Scott, is obviously someone who inadvertently meteorically rose above him thanks to her talent and presence on stage. It’s something Scott obviously resents to the bitter end. Ramona is even a woman who was once kind of nasty and spends a lot of her time in the movie attempting redemption like Scott.
While a lot of fans noted how dull she seemed during the narrative of “Scott Pilgrim,” Ramona subverts a lot of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl tropes to hint at someone who is complex and much more interesting than that. She’s a girl who spent much of teen years pretending to be someone else, and when we see her she’s really no one else but Ramona Flowers. Once Scott discovers that, he doesn’t take issue with her exes so much as he does with the fact that Ramona isn’t special. She’s just a simple girl who has seen it all, and isn’t in the narrative to change Scott’s life.
She’s just there to exist, and Scott pulls her in to his private turmoil. So much of Edgar Wright’s repertoire has been celebrated over the years, and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is definitely one of his more overlooked masterpieces filled with so much commentary, and substances hidden beneath excellent pop punk rock music, amazing direction, and banner performances by an all star cast.