2010 was a really strange year for me. Back then I was in high school and while my time there was definitely mixed to say the least, it wasn’t exactly the easiest time for me to be a nerd. I didn’t have much confidence in myself and thought that the games, movies, and shows that I liked were strange and unnatural. While I was watching movies like Shutter Island and The Social Network, my peers mostly watched the latest Transformers movie or the standard blockbuster of the day. My high school was incredibly focused on athletics to the detriment of the arts (aren’t all high schools?) and the few nerds that I could talk with about nerd ephemera didn’t always line up with my general likes and dislikes. That’s why I think it was important that I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World when I did.
I was in a hotel room in Philadelphia on my birthday, spending a nice vacation away from school. My dad was in a separate room while my brother and I were trying to figure out what to watch on the hotel’s on-demand service. I saw that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a movie that I desperately wanted to see but wasn’t able to during the summer, just released on DVD and VOD that day, so we decided to watch it. From that day onward, it became one of my favorite movies for a whole variety of reasons.
Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall’s script is wonderful. Wright’s direction oozes personality and style. The use of musical and special effects blended together seamlessly. The action was always well choreographed and the gags almost always landed. The cast, upon retrospect, is full of talent that would become Hollywood mainstays, like Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kieren Culkin just to name a few. Plus it almost serves as a perfect adaptation of the comics, and at points surpasses it.
There are some major potholes it stumbles into every now and then, like blitzing through most of the fight scenes and forgoing most of the side characters in favor of focusing on the central dynamic of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) and Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) will-they-won’t-they relationship. Also, the movie’s original ending leaves out a lot of great moments and scenes from the graphic novels. Despite those moments, I don’t think that any movie can or ever will be perfect, but Scott Pilgrim is such a thoroughly entertaining ride that it hardly matters if it stumbles here or there. The final product is still wonderful.
But I didn’t want to wax poetic about one of my favorite movies for its tenth anniversary. It’s easy enough to get a hold of and is frequently shown on TV, so if you haven’t done so already, just go out and do it. It’s Edgar goddamn Wright. No, instead what I wanted to do is really talk about the film from a more personal perspective. It’s easy to talk about why a movie is good or bad, but it’s a lot harder to admit to yourself, and to others, why you care so much about a movie.
In 2010 I was 16 years old and come November I will be turning 26. Usually, this is the perfect time for a person my age to have a quarter-life crisis, trying to find out what their purpose in life is and to commit to some kind of a general path in life. In fact, that’s the central conflict that Scott runs into. Scott, at the start of the movie, is unable to enter adulthood, going so far as to date a high schooler despite being in his early-mid 20s. The man can’t grow out of being a teenager and doesn’t accept responsibilities. He doesn’t really have a job and he barely pays for rent at his place. It’s only because of his roommate Wallace (Keiren Culkin) that he’s not destitute. He would much rather hear about meaningless school gossip, play video games, and play in a small band than every try and take control of his life.
I feel like that’s a fear that every Millenial has. Are we able to function and survive on our own? This is probably a thought that most people, not just Millenials, have to come to terms with as they get older. They’re an adult now and they have to enter the world of… well, adulting. Get a job, have a stable income, find a place to live, and hopefully, if the cards are right, find someone to fall in love with and have a family. Coming of age movies are nothing new. We’ve seen them dozens, if not hundreds of times, and to varying effects. Toy Story 3 is probably the most effective coming-of-age story I’ve ever seen that is so powerful it hits anyone with the same ferocity regardless of how old you are, gender be damned.
Scott Pilgrim provides that same message but to nerds. Not only are there frequent references to video games, comic books, and general nerd franchises, but it always presents them in a way that audiences are able to connect with them in a way that feels wistful and nostalgic. Seeing Scott wander a dream world listening to music from The Legend of Zelda connects to nerds in a way that no other song could possibly do. It’s a commentary that lets the gamers and nerds know that this movie is for them. And it doesn’t shy away from the truth because of it. It tells a message that most nerds may not want to hear, but they need to hear it.
Scott is not a nice guy. Sure, he may be our main character, but he isn’t a good guy by any means. He’s selfish, lazy, indecisive, and hurts others because acting like an adult is hard. Instead of breaking up with his high school girlfriend Knives (Ellen Wong) when he meets Ramona, he doesn’t tell Knives cause he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s a lie. Scott doesn’t want to tell Knives he’s no longer interested in her because he doesn’t want to be an adult and have that conversation. It’s actually brought up several times that if Scott wasn’t trying to defeat Ramona’s evil-exes to date her, he would probably be another villain. For as much as we may like to think of ourselves as good people, there’s always a good chance that we may be a jerk or insensitive asshole to others around us without even realizing it.
Dating itself is another struggle that people face. We live in a generation now where superficiality is the word of the day. We try to figure out what our profile picture should be on dating sites. Single people are always looking for others on countless apps, yet so many of them are focused only on what’s on the surface. When a problem does arise between two people dating or casually seeing each other, it’s so easy to just ghost them or block them on social media. Wipe away the problem, never address it. Addressing a problem is a difficult business and so many people just don’t want to cross that barrier. “Dating should be fun! It leads to sex, and sex is awesome! Why should I have to deal with the complications that arise from dating when I could just move on to another person without baggage?” Scott feels that way, and I can bet that his opinion isn’t an unpopular one.
Okay, that part may be me projecting a bit, but the fact still stands. Humans naturally don’t want conflict. We want to take the easy way out.
But Scott has to deal with something that he just can’t ignore in the movie. Oh sure, he can punch his problems and win Ramona’s heart, but that doesn’t work at the end of the day. Scott is able to defeat all of the evil-exes and when he tries to fight for Ramona for his own desires, he loses. Scott gets killed and Scott learns that fighting and working for selfish desires is a meaningless effort. Scott is only able to save the day and beat the big bad when he owns up to his flaws as a person. He is selfish, he is lazy, he always looks out for himself first and not the feelings of others. Scott is not a good person. But Scott admits that at the end of the movie. And that’s okay.
One of my favorite relationships in the movie, as well as in the comics, is the one between Scott and his band’s drummer, Kim Pine (Alison Pill). Kim is very cynical and doesn’t put up with anyone’s bullshit, Scott included. Kim always took Scott to tasks in ways that Ramona never did. Kim and Scott also had sort of a thing back in high school that Scott claimed was nothing, but it resonated with Kim for years. The movie glosses over it, but Scott hurt Kim in a way that Kim never forgot, never forgave. And yet she still cares about him despite herself, despite her better judgment. And in the end, he acknowledges that he hurt her and he’s sorry for it.
You know, it’s really hard for a person to admit when they’re wrong. It’s something that all of us have had to deal with. I’ve been wrong about many things. Some of them may have been minor, like why on Earth did I give Parasite a 7.5 last year. Others are much more important and larger. And over the past month, I’ve been personally coming to terms with the things that I’ve said and done when I was younger. I wish that I can rectify those mistakes, but some of those are things that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. And I’m okay with that.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, to me, isn’t just a stylish action movie. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a movie about maturing from adolescence into adulthood. Not just in the typical ways that we see in Hollywood films, like gaining independence and sticking up for your own values and beliefs. It’s about accepting and understanding your own personal flaws and working to overcome them. You can distract yourself from the issues and focus on a singular goal that really doesn’t help you, like beating up supervillain exes, or you can accomplish the much harder task of facing them head-on. Scott saves the day not through strength or determination, but with the power of self-respect
As tough as it is to admit it, I identify with Scott on several levels. Sometimes in areas that I wish that I didn’t. This isn’t a self-loathing pity party that would be right at home in Neon Genesis Evangelion. This is just a fact. In fact, I would argue that we all identify with Scott on some level. We don’t want to admit our own wrongdoings and still pretend that everything is simple, easy-going, ignorant of the problems facing the world. As long as we’re personally happy and content, then what does it matter how anyone else feels. At that point, you’re just another evil-ex waiting to happen.
I wanted to write something about this movie since August. I debated on whether or not I would just writing a fawning feature about my love for the movie and why it still ranks as one of my favorite films. But then something happened in August. I got a full-time job. I’ve been working there for nearly a month and I love it. I can safely say that I have reached adulthood and a point in my life where I am happy. Maybe not 100% satisfied with everything at the moment, this is 2020 after all, but still generally pleased with where I am at the moment.
Make no mistake, I’m not leaving this site. I know the above paragraph may give off that impression, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m still gonna write for Flixist. You’re gonna have to cut off my hands before I stop writing and
subjecting delivering you to the quality content that you deserve. But after watching the movie twice in the past two months, I can’t help but realize my opinion on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has changed. I still love it, but for completely different reasons now.
Go back and watch some of your favorite movies. You may be surprised at how you view them in an entirely different light now.