Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)—A Live-Action Video Game and Anime
In 2004, Canadian author and comic book artist Bryan O’Malley created Scott Pilgrim, a series of graphic novels about a part-time musician named Scott Pilgrim who falls in love with a delivery girl named Ramona Flowers. But before the two can end up together, he must defeat her 7 evil exes. The series was popular enough to become adapted to the big screen by director Edgar Wright in 2010.
The film begins in Canada, with Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera) being a bassist in a band named Sex Bo-bomb. He is dating a 17 year old high schooler named Knives Chau, but loses interest in her after becoming infatuated with Ramona Flowers after meeting her at a party. Meanwhile, Sex Bo-bomb joins the Battle of the Bands, sponsored by G-Man. On the first day of the event, Scott is attacked by Matthew Patel (played by Satya Bhabha), one of Ramona’s evil exes. Scott defeats Patel, and Ramona explains that if they want to be together, he has to defeat all 7 of her evil exes.
Scott defeats actor Lucas Lee (played by Chris Evans), band twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi (played by Shota and Keita Saito), Vegan Superman Todd Ingram (played by Brandon Routh), and lesbian ninja Roxy Richter (played by Mae Whitman), all while confronting his own ex, Envy Adams (played by Brie Larson). Ramona goes back to her 7th evil ex, Gideon Graves (played by Jason Schwartzman). Scott puts two and two together and realizes that G-Man is actually Gideon and prepares to fight him.
Initially, O’Malley was skeptical about a live-action adaptation, but was in desperate need of money at the time. Universal Studios signed on Edgar Wright to direct. Wright, who was writing the script for Ant Man at the time, stopped writing and began writing the script with fellow screenwriter Michael Bacall. The two wrote 2 scripts, with the second one being the primary script. When scripting the ending, Wright and Bacall wrote the original ending with Scott staying with Knives. However, both O’Malley and test audiences didn’t approve of the ending, claiming that it went against Knives’ character to go back to Scott. As a result, Wright and Bacall rewrote and reshot the ending, having Scott end up chasing after Ramona three months before the film was released. The final ending is Wright’s preferred ending, and many fans would agree. Ramona is like Scott in many ways, in that they are both sort of assholes that ruin relationships with others. Having the two end up together is actually a smart idea, since the two act as a mirror for one another.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010) has one of the most entertaining casts I’ve seen in a film. It has Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Anyone who loves comic book films would recognize these actors. I love watching them play versions of themselves that are the opposite of what we typically see on screen. For example, Chris Evans plays a douchebag actor, Brandon Routh plays an evil version of Superman, and Mae Whitman, who you might recognize as Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender, is a psycho ninja! While she didn’t get too much screen time, I really enjoyed Brie Larson’s performance as Envy Adams. She captures Envy’s bitterness and mean-girl, diva-esque attitude perfectly, while remaining extremely entertaining to watch. I wish we got to see more of her backstory, along with a more in-depth story of all the evil exes.
I loved the visuals of this film. It draws inspiration from both arcade and video games, along with Japanese anime. Wright intentionally made the film look unrealistic, as if it’s all part of a video game. The fights are beautifully choreographed and make perfect use of its anime-esque effects. I liked how they didn’t use a lot of close-ups and shaky cam, instead using mostly medium shots with long takes. Michael Cera and the rest of the cast trained with the stunt crew for 2 months to perform the stunts necessary, with Cera even getting kicked in the throat once!
The movie had a budget of $60-85 million and grossed $49.3 million at the box office, making it a box office bomb. This is a shame, since I think the production crew put in a lot of effort to make the film as good as it is. Edgar Wright even created several fake movie posters for Chris Evans’s Lucas Lee, many of them satirizing generic Hollywood action movie posters. Despite its poor performance, the film grew a cult following and eventually was the subject of analysis by many scholars for its transmedia storytelling. In 2020, Edgar Wright planned a 10th anniversary re-release of the film in theaters in 4K definition sometime in August. However, these plans were delayed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Instead, the cast held a live reading of the script over Zoom.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) is one of the most unique films to exist. While many praise Free Guy (2021) as the first movie that made use of video game visuals, Scott Pilgrim beat it by almost ten years. Much like Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was truly ahead of its time and deserves more credit for what it brought to the world of cinema.