Not so long ago, in the mysterious land of Los Angeles, California, Edgar Wright was writing a screenplay. Fresh from the transatlantic success of his previous film Hot Fuzz – a movie so quotable that friendships have been made purely by dropping a heavily accented ‘for the greater good’ into casual conversation – Hollywood approached Wright to write and direct an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s cult graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim. With O’Malley heavily involved in the writing process, Wright’s film, now titled Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, was released in 2010 to a favourable critical reception – and then it sank like a Christmas number one through the January charts. To this day, Scott Pilgrim is Wright’s lowest grossing film, making just $47 million world-wide against its $85 million budget.
So, another film that critics enjoyed and audiences were lukewarm to, the sky’s still blue, what’s the big deal, I hear you ask? Well, the truth is, I have a real soft spot for Scott Pilgrim and it always saddens me when I bring it up in conversation and get blank stares. So here’s the hot take you can all overreact to: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is Edgar Wright’s best film. Yes, Hot Fuzz is more consistently funny and yes, Baby Driver is more visually arresting, but Scott Pilgrim wins on heart. It blends that coming-of-age sense of sentimentality with anarchic, slapstick humour and it’s all wrapped up in a fantasy world that lies between the comic book store and the penny arcade. It was one of the first movies I saw with a group of friends and the experience was perhaps the best one can ask for from a piece of art: the feeling that it was made for you.
“whenever I return to those snowbound Toronto streets, I can’t help feeling all warm and fuzzy”
I re-watch Scott Pilgrim at least once a year and, much like Wes Anderson’s finest work, I find every frame is crammed with subtle gags and asides that you can only really enjoy by watching again. Without fail, something new will make me laugh or smile every time I watch it. That’s not to mention the film’s superb flow of one-liners. From, ‘if your life had a face I would punch it’ to ‘gelato isn’t vegan?’/ ‘it’s milk and eggs, b****’, choosing just one would be unfair. Wright’s unique approach to visual comedy is, of course, present and correct as well. Scenes are split à la comic book panels to add another dimension to character interactions, and onomatopoeic phrases burst and streak across the screen accompanying kicks and blows in the fight sequences. Yes, it’s cartoonish, but it commits entirely to its visual style and as a result it still looks punky and positively eye-popping to this day – like an 8-bit Kung Fu Hustle.
Speaking of plinky video game synths, the soundtrack’s eclectic mix of slacker and garage rock, lovesick teenage balladry and crunchy, retro-arcade bass is a joy to listen to and works surprisingly well as an album in its own right. Beck’s contribution to much of the original music is just the icing on the Indie cake; his forlorn crooning on the instrumentally-lush “Ramona” the perfect background to both Scott’s lowest moment and his greatest triumph. If my time spent reading, watching and indeed writing criticism has taught me anything thus far it’s that isn’t cool to unironically love something, be it a film, an album or worst of all, Undertale. Yet whenever I return to those snowbound Toronto streets, I can’t help feeling all warm and fuzzy. So aloofness be damned because I do love this movie and, if my gushing over it could serve any purpose, it will hopefully persuade you to seek it out, insert a coin, and let it work its magic on you too.