The Underrated: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

In 2010, I was introduced to the Scott Pilgrim series. As a self-proclaimed nerd in his early 20s, I instantly fell in love with it and its commentary on hipster life, nerdishness and maturation in the digital age (even though the series began around the time hipsters were first becoming a thing and ended around the time millennials were doing the same). And while I wish there was a bit more...color in the series--many of the characters are white Canadians, although, given the location and niches the characters were involved in, I get it--the series spoke to me.

Scott was a normal dude who bossed up and fought for what he loved--the Technicolor-haired Ramona Flowers. The nerdy tropes were, in reality, kind of a secondary thing to excellent storytelling. We got to watch this band (literally, the main characters are part of a band named Sex Bob-omb) of characters grow and evolve, becoming better people (mostly) by the end of the sixth book. I won't spoil anything, but one of the main characters becomes even more comfortable with who he is than Scott does. Plus, the way the series was illustrated was top-notch, with many callbacks to films, songs, and video games.

So, you can imagine my elation when I found out that there would be a film adaptation of the graphic novels directed by Edgar Wright (the guy who directed some of my favorite films such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) with Michael Cera in the role of Scott. I mean, even though Cera's pretty much been pigeonholed into George Michael Bluth-esque roles since Arrested Development, he's kind of the GAWD of these type of roles. Without Cera, America wouldn't have pushed so hard for Jesse Eisenberg to be the U.S. answer to Cera.

Okay, not really. Cera and Eisenberg are two completely different actors who fill similar, but different, niches. And, whatever you do, don't mix up the two. But, I digress, since we're not here to talk about whether or not Cera would've made a better Lex Luther or if Eisenberg would've been a better Paulie Bleeker (answer to both of those is "probably not").

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, named after the second book in the graphic novel series, was released on August 13, 2010 domestically. Made on a production budget of $60 million (after incentives), the film made $47.6 million during its box office life. Because of this, the movie is considered to be one of the biggest flops of 2010 (even with its cult status post-box office). In's "Fanboy Slugfest," Pilgrim comes in last, even while ranking in the top 25 for film scores on the year. But, did Scott and his friends deserve the unwavering wave of "meh" they were met with? As a fan of the film, I'd say "oh, hells no. GTFOH! The film was friggin' amazeballs!" As a critic looking at the film as objectively as I can, I'd still say no.

One of the critiques I often hear about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is that people didn't get it. Well, that and "people hate hate hipsters" (and, around the time of the film's release, hated seeing Michael Cera's face appear in films--especially hipster-friendly films). Truth be told, I understand exactly where they're coming from.

It's a musical-esque film with rom-com elements where video game battles (and references) end up replacing dance numbers. Additionally, because people saw video game references and garage bands out the ass, many moviegoers instantly thought "oh, it's a geek movie." That's not necessarily true, as the film was less "geek" and more hipster nerd-meets-garage musician. The film, at times, literally broke the fourth wall and was full of references that only fans of the series would get. For instance, when characters were introduced, stat cards popped up next to them.

The characters weren't all-out likable. In fact, some of them--hi Knives--people downright disliked. But, you couldn't help but like them and empathize with them over the sheer amount of fuckery that went down around them. It's not every day your Battle of the Bands is interrupted by your bassist and some random ex-boyfriend hitting super combos on each other.

See what I mean?

Because of the romantic dramedy elements, some may've disliked this. There were probably even some "oh, I can't fully cheer for him" moments. I mean, we love our loveable losers, but Scott, let's be honest, was, at times, an asshole. At one point during the film, he was like Terrance J's drunken bender phase in The Perfect Match (I saw it after watching Brad Jones Midnight Screened it. God, is that a horrible movie or what?). Even while he redeemed himself--and got the girl away from the evil loser--in the end, he still had some of those asshole qualities to him--even though they were more unintentional than anything by the end.

I'd like to liken Scott Pilgrim, in hindsight, to the batshit crazy epic WTF-fest that is Deadpool--except we didn't see Michael Cera's schlong in 3D and Ryan Reynolds didn't learn the bassline to Final Fantasy II. And, no. It's not just because both are comic book adaptations. Stick with me a bit before you try to burn my house down.

If only... (Image credit: Manalmostwithoutfear, Marvel, and Bryan Lee O'Malley)

Both films are niche films that cover a lot of bases while still being painted with broad strokes by uninitiated members of the audience. Both films, in some ways, knew they were films (although, with Scott Pilgrim, this was less obviously stated) and had fun playing with the conventions of the medium. Both utilized unlikeable-but-intriguing Canadian-born characters and made audiences empathize with them and want to see both Scott and Wade/Deadpool kick the crap out of all competition. And both films, when you remove the batshit-crazy visuals, are stories about the human condition (especially the idea of love and the amount of bullshit a person will go through to regain "The One").

Oh, and Deadpool director Tim Miller's team at Blur Studios worked on the visuals for parts of Scott Pilgrim. Can you tell? Sure, it's only the Ninja Ninja Revolution scene. But that's got some pretty deep meanings in the entire movie.

Grasping at straws aside, these films've got a lot more in common than one may think. So, why did Deadpool eviscerate competition while Scott got dickpunched by box-office returns? Simply put, it was released at the wrong time. Yes, the marketing strategy behind it was balls-to-the-wall. But, in 2010, audiences just weren't really ready for a quirky, action-packed, video game-centric romantic dramedy based off a not-so-mainstream comic book property full of hipster-friendly references and convention-breaking. That's pretty much the long and short of it.

So, is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World worth checking out? Yeah. Films of this innovative capacity only come around once in a while. Because of the wackiness and risks taken in it, you could make a rudimentary argument that Deadpool became a thing. Then again, Ryan Reynolds is just a GAWD when it comes to Deadpool-centric situations, sooooo...yeah. But, again, check the film out. If you're interested in a good story with quirky-yet-engaging characters and crazy action sets, you can't go wrong with this Pilgrim., can I get my Real Life Movie Reviewer card?! I just made a Gene Shalit-esque pun.

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