Scott Pilgrim vs. MY FACE

By Shamus Posted Sunday Aug 15, 2010

Filed under: Movies 72 comments


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World can’t possibly be as tremendous as it seemed yesterday afternoon. Looking around, everyone else seems happy to call this a great movie. Sitting in the theater, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was a legendary movie, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Back to the Future or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

You should not trust my opinion on this. Movie Bob liked it enough to call it the best movie of the summer…

…but he managed to escape the theater without coming to the conclusion that this was some sort of explosive game-changing triumph.

This movie is aimed more at 20-somethings of generation Y than a long-married gen X’er like me. I’m way past the point where I might care about teen romance and post-highschool social griefing. Leads Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead seem to occupy the same cultural space that Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald did a quarter century earlier, back when this sort of material was relevant to me. This movie is drenched in the 8-bit Nintendo that existed when these characters (and actors) were growing up, back when I was too busy crossing the event horizon into adulthood to pay attention to that sort of thing.

Yet that generational chasm didn’t prevent the movie from yanking me into Scott Pilgrim’s surreal world powered by comic books, video games, and rock music. This movie had me laughing and cheering from the title screen to the closing credits. When the final boss met his fitting end, I was ready to march right back into the theater and watch the entire thing again. And again.

I don’t know why the movie connected with me the way it did. I will say it was refreshing to see a teen (where “teen” means early 20’s) movie that wasn’t dripping with angst. Oh, the characters have angst, but their hardship is played for laughs and we in the audience aren’t expected to endure their anguish with them.

It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s from the guy who directed the also stellar Shaun of the Dead. It’s the sort of movie I’ll need to watch many times to catch all the references. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in years. I literally cannot remember the last time I had this much fun at the theater.

Again, my reaction is not typical (although my wife felt the same way I did) so you might want to seek out a more temperate opinion. But in my own reckoning this film deserves to rest in the hall of fame of legendary geek-culture films that we’ll still be quoting when the children of the Wii are old enough to shave.


From The Archives:

72 thoughts on “Scott Pilgrim vs. MY FACE

  1. kikito says:

    I envy you so much. In my country it will not come out until september the 24 or something.

    So for us, the best summer movie will have to be The Expendables.

    1. Davie says:

      For that, I am sorry. Surely the best summer movie would have to be Inception? Are you not a fan? Or is said country of yours incapable of releasing movies when they come out?

    2. Davie says:

      For that, I am sorry. Surely the best summer movie would have to be Inception? Are you not a fan? Or is said country of yours so slow with its film releases you haven’t seen it?

      Aaaand please excuse my double post. WordPress does not seem to like me right now.

    3. Shinan says:

      October 1st is the wait over here. Usually I tend to have strict embargos on movies I really want to see, trying to stay away even from spoiler free reviews. This time I decided not to, just to see if the experience will be different.

      Well I don’t know yet. But what I do know is that !”#%!#”#%!#¤”%!#¤% October.

  2. SmallIvoryKnight says:

    “Children of the Wii” is the best name for the 4 to 14 year olds I’ve heard yet.

    I haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim yet, but I can’t wait too, now. Between your review, and Movie Bob’s, I have no excuse for not seeing it.

    1. ClearWater says:

      I misread it as “children of WWII” and was mightily confused until I read this comment.

    2. mixmastermind says:

      Children of the Wii sounds more like a high tech horror film.

      1. Hitch says:

        Halloween 3.5: Children of the Wii.

        A movie that most likely never needs to be made.

  3. Johan says:

    The parts of the Internet I frequent were havens of anti-Scott Pilgrim hate just prior to opening day. Frequent cries of “twilight for men” were made to imply that it was aimed solely at an emotionally stunted demographic of shut-ins and that it perpetuated… something I’m really not sure.

    I’m wondering if opinion has changed since opening day.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      “Twilight for men”? At least video games don’t sparkle in the sun!

      I’ve never actually heard of this movie until now. I don’t know about it, might be fun but it seems a bit silly.

      1. Brian says:

        “What if the old-school NES video game mentality of defeating 7 bosses to save the princess were, instead, an allegory for getting over the emotional baggage of a new relationship?”

        That’s not the best summary of the source material (the comic has a bit more depth and weirdness to it), but it’s a great elevator pitch for people who want to know if they should see the movie. The litmus test: Do you like video game jokes? See the movie. Do you like visually stylized independent films? See the movie. Do you like cool fight scenes and flashy special effects? See the movie. Everybody else, buy it on DVD when the hype’s gone down.

  4. Adam says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I was expecting a good movie, and it blasted through those expectations. Absolutely the most fun I’ve had watching a movie since… well, Shaun of the Dead.

  5. Jarenth says:

    Almost all of the webcomics have commented on this Scott Pilrim stuff over the past few days.

    I’m starting to get the feeling I’m the only person on the Internet who doesn’t know who or what Scott Pilgrim à­s. If anyone here has a Cliff’s Notes-link handy, or something like that, I’d appreciate it.

    1. Brian says:

      See my summary above or Shamus’ summary below.

      1. Jarenth says:


        Here’s to hoping it’s shown in theatres around where I live, then.

    2. acronix says:

      You Are Not Alone!

    3. PurePareidolia says:

      I didn’t know what it was, but watched it on the basis of it being directed by Edgar Wright. Obviously I loved it.

  6. mcgurker says:

    Completely unrelated, I was just wondering if you knew why your images never load in google reader?

    1. Moridin says:

      bandwidth+ads, I think.

  7. X2-Eliah says:

    Err, yes, echoing the above statement, what exactly is this creature and how does it relate to Nintendo?

    1. Shamus says:

      Both movie site to MovieBob’s review (linked in the OP) give a good run-down of what this movie is about.

      Short version: Slacker 20-something hooks up with a world-weary girl and the two of them have to work through some of her prior baggage. This process is portrayed as a series of video game boss fights complete with martial arts, lightsaber duels, giant hammers, telekinetic powers, and building-pulverizing acrobatics.

  8. Teldurn says:

    Ever since I saw the first preview for it a few weeks back, I wanted to see it. Combining almost everything I love (if it also included food in some way, I’d be orgasmic), I can’t wait to see it!

    1. Tony says:

      You would absolutely love the PS3 videogame. In it, you can buy food.

    2. Bret says:

      It has garlic bread. That good enough?

      (It’s good garlic bread)

      1. Brandon says:

        But you’ll get fat if you eat that.

        1. Scott says:

          Bread makes you fat?

  9. Rosseloh says:

    Hmm, it sounds like I might have to give this a look after all. I’m not a movie or TV person, and I can’t stand Michael Cera, so I was initially going to give this a miss.

    I guess we’ll see.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      Michael Cera is why I’m hesitant too, despite hoping it will be as good as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

      As someone who probably counts as a gen-Y (27), but grew up with PC games rather than console stuff, I feel a bit of a disconnect too.

      Will definitely watch on DVD if I don’t see it at the cinema though.

    2. bit says:

      I found Michael Cera to be the worst part of the movie, actually; the writing (which is stellar) and the directing (which is awesome) did enough to keep him fitting, but overall he just wasn’t aggressive enough to be Scott Pilgrim. Ditto for Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona, although she was a bit better.

      Still, go see it nonetheless. It’s a hell of a ride. I’m in lesbians with the soundtrack.

      1. Brian says:

        Seconded on all counts. Are you sure you’re not reading my mind? Not secretly Vegan, are you?

        1. bit says:

          Well, why do you think there’s three holes in the moon?

        2. Peter H. Coffin says:

          How’d you get here from Vega, anyway?

    3. Irridium says:

      Same with me. I can’t stand Cera for some reason. Which is why I was about to write it off as another teen-problem movie only with video game references.

      Now I guess I’ll give it a chance. After all, if both Shamus and Bob give it amazing reviews, it can’t be all that bad.

  10. BaCoN says:

    Dude, I saw it last night too, and as a guy who’d been waiting eagerly for the movie once it was announced(since I’m a massive fan of the comics), I couldn’t’ve been happier with the movie.

    Also the game is pretty decent too.

    “Good evening. I am Crash, and these are The Boys.”
    “Is that GIRL a boy, too?”


    1. Robel says:

      Teehee, I didn’t fall into that trap because I really had to leave.

      On topic: thanks, Shamus, I will definitely want to see this when it comes out. And thanks, Bacon, your quote got me rather enthusiastic.

  11. As a life-long vegetarian, I’m very jealous of those mystical vegan powers!

    And I agree completely: That was a really fun movie.


  12. swimon says:

    This movie has a weird effect on me. I have only heard good things about it and it looks sort of nice but for some reason I almost hate it. Now I haven’t seen the movie (it’s not out in Sweden atm) so this is all very irrational but I don’t really get why I feel this way about it. It might be hype aversion but I didn’t like it from the moment I heard about it way before I heard anyone’s opinion on it. It might be because it looks like anime which I don’t really like (Miyazaki notwithstanding) but then again Azumi looked sort of like that too and I really liked that (really cheesy and stupid though).

    I think it’s because it looks like a cheesy clichéd sappy romance story that someone gave a “game-esque” finish in a cynical attempt to sell it to the nerds. I’m not saying that it is because I haven’t seen it and if it was I don’t think Shamus nor many others I’ve heard would’ve liked it (Moviebob might have but I doubt that too, also holy grammar batman what an awkward sentence). All I’m saying is that it sort of looks like it and I think that’s why I seem to instinctively dislike it.

    Of course now I have to see it because disliking something without having seen it is pretty lame but it’s really weird that I feel this way :/.

    1. Joshua Macy says:

      I’d say your instincts are about 180% from the reality. The game-esque stuff is all from the comic, because Bryan Lee O’Malley, the cartoonist, is a huge geek. It’s also pretty much the antithesis of a clichéd sappy romance story… though I can’t fully explain without spoilers.

      1. mixmastermind says:

        Joshua is correct, except that should be a degree sign and not a percentage sign.

  13. Neil Polenske says:

    “This movie is drenched in the 8-bit Nintendo that existed when these characters (and actors) were growing up, back when I was too busy crossing the event horizon into adulthood to pay attention to that sort of thing.”

    More like 16-bit Super Nintendo. Sorry, but I KNOW Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past music when I hear it sir! Cause that’s MY g-g-g-g-…generation!

  14. Cybron says:

    Saw it last night. I was very hesitant about seeing it. I haaate the usual romcom tripe. But it was very well done. I really, really like how they don’t try to force the characters on you. In any case, excellent movie. I’d recommend it highly.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    First inception,than this one.I say movie industry is full of nice surprises this year,and that fills me with fear about the crap that is sure to follow.Or maybe this hollywood saying that theyre sorry for the twilight saga.

    1. Falcon says:

      Now I’ve gone and got my hopes up that this is true. Man I am going to be so crushed when I realize this is just a fluke of a year, and they resume normal (read derivative crap) production next year.

      I Literally hadn’t seen a film in theater in over a year, and SP vs TW makes my third in as many months that I’ve loved. (Iron Man 2 and Inception being the others)

      1. mixmastermind says:

        I would just like to remind the both of you that Vampires Suck is coming out this year as well.

        Keeping it in perspective for you.

        1. Irridium says:

          Indeed. With Toy Story 3, Inception, and apparently this all in one year, something has to offset the awesome.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well,e had daybreaker at the begining of the year,so itll even out.

          Oh and kick ass.I forgot kick ass.It was good.

  16. Davie says:

    It was great. I haven’t even played half the games referenced, and I really dislike romantic comedies, but it was nonetheless just about my favorite movie this year along with Inception. It condensed the books well–nothing really felt like it was missing–and was genuinely hilarious. The dialogue was great, especially for Wallace, and the characters ended up being very likable. Except Scott, at least right away, but that is, of course, the point (comma abuse). Michael Cera did an excellent job compared to his previous films, and while I still don’t think he was the best choice for the role, he certainly did better than I ever expected him to.

    This movie was essentially pure fun from beginning to end and I would watch it again and again.

  17. Gersh says:

    I really loved this movie. As a 35 year old Nerd, it spoke to me like twilight to teen girls and soccer mums.

    When the coins appeared after the first fight there was open cheering in the cinema.

    To top it off; just outside the doors of the cinema I found a newly minted shiny 10c coin. Most likely left over from a minor scuffle or something.

  18. GTB says:

    I don’t really get this movie. Or rather, I don’t get why it’s a movie. I guess that means i’m old.

    I haven’t seen it yet (though i will probably be dragged to see it on wed) but the previews just make it look like a weak plotted excuse for special effects. It doesn’t look like a movie, it looks like a video game themed special effects delivery device. Which feels a lot like pandering to me. “Hey, you’re in the 14 to 30 age bracket, you will LOVE our movie! Look! It has health bars and other video game themed things you will like!”

    “The Plot? Uh, well, there is this guy, and he hooks up with this chick, and she has these crazy ex boyfriends who he has to fight! It’s just like that Mass Effect game you kids are playing these days, right? See? We’re cool! We get it! We love playing The Team Fortress! And that’s why you’ll like our movie!”


    It apparently bombed at the box office. I’m guessing because most people went to see The Expendables. I did, it was okay.

    1. mixmastermind says:

      The problem is that the plot is hard to explain. Also, the first half hour or more of that movie is completely devoid of any sort of fighting.

      1. Bret says:

        Yeah, that.

        Another point though? Important one?

        The game references are done in genuine love and…familiarity.

        One of the first people to see the movie was Shigeru Miyamoto, to ensure he’d be okay we the use of the Zelda music. (He loved it.)

        Amazing film.

        1. MichaelG says:

          Could you guys who’ve seen it compare it to the trailer? Because I don’t really have much interest based on just what I’ve seen in the trailer.

          1. krellen says:

            I had to watch the trailer to compare (never really seen what they’re running before). In short, the movie is way, way, way deeper than the trailer. In this case, they didn’t stick all the “good parts” in the trailer and leave you with crap. The whole movie was good parts, and the trailer doesn’t really do it a lot of justice.

            In general, the trailer makes it feel a lot more amped-up and action-y than it is. The action is there, but it’s a natural part of the story, not just a tacked-on “bonus” for geeks.

        2. bit says:

          I like the idea of giving Miyamoto an early showing. It’s basically a love letter to most everything he spawned, directly or indirectly, and it was very nice (and brave) of them to do that for something so trivial.

    2. Roy says:

      I guess I’m not sure what your criticism of the plot is–it’s got what is actually a pretty classic plot structure: boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy and girl have to deal with emotional baggage. Hilarity/drama/angst/sadness (and fighting) ensue. Build to climax, and bam.

      The game references felt a lot more like homage/tribute than pandering, to me. All in all, the main character actually has a fair bit of depth and undergoes a decent amount of growth for what is essentially a romantic/action/comedy.

  19. merle says:

    Remember what Ang Lee was trying to do with the Hulk? It struck me after seeing the film that this did exactly the same thing, but did it well.

    1. Felblood says:

      Now– I have to see this thing. I remember watching the hulk on late night cable, and thinking, “This would be awesome if it didn’t suck so bad.”

      Trouble is I lost my job, so I shouldn’t really be spending money on movies.


      You never do get that torrent monkey off your back. He’ll be waiting, next time you run out of cash and you’re missing something awesome.

    2. Hulk. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Speed Racer. Scott Pilgrim.

      At some point one of these films is finally going to (a) be good and (b) successfully market itself to an audience at the same time. The result is going to be explosive.

  20. Kdansky says:


    Also, that movie looks great, but it will be shown in cinemas in JANUARY next year. That is awful.

  21. JohnTomorrow says:

    I’m weird when it comes to geek culture. I enjoy playing video games, i like reading comic books. But if a stranger comes up to me and tries to have a conversation with me about geeky stuff, i usually cringe and feel like curling into a ball.

    Which is why i felt so strange watching this movie. Its jam packed with awesome stuff, from awesome actors to brilliant scenes which remained (reletively) faithful to the source material. I felt like jumping out of my seat and laughing in happiness and excitement as the Sex Bob-Ombs started playing in the first scene…but if you asked me if i liked it afterwards, i’d say “yeah, it was okay…” like it was just good, and not the best damn movie i’d seen all year, hell, all decade.

    I might have been set up by the Expendables, however, which i’d seen first (i watched both in one day). I found the Expendables a gross waste of my time, intermittedly interrupted by moments of glorious awesome, shitty camera work and out-of-date actors notwithstanding. There were moments where i’d say ‘damn that was cool’ then think to myself ‘but…that makes no sense.’ And the moment where Willis, Schwartznegger and Stallone all got together was just a massive let-down, personally.

    With Scott Pilgrim, you say to yourself ‘damn that was cool…’ AND THATS IT, because there’s no eye-winking or explanations from the director to the movie-goer – these guys burst into coins when they die, end of story. And some of them can be quite cheap, too. Its the fact that the character accept this so perfectly that you are coerced with them to believe it all so easily.

    I dunno. Maybe its the simple fact that i’m shy about my geekiness around people and need to get over myself. But Scott Pilgrim was definitely one for the ages, and something i could watch again and again.

  22. Mathew Freeman says:

    I am in the UK and am still waiting for this. Your words fill me with encouragement that it’s going to be as good as I’d dared to hope.

  23. Eldiran says:

    I agree with you entirely, Shamus. Oddly, I didn’t really care for the manga (and probably still won’t) but I loved the movie.

    Also, Michael Cera as the lead doesn’t turn out too bad. His performance works, even though it is not exactly the same character as the one in the books. Could’ve been better with a more aggressive actor, but still, it definitely works.

    @GTB: the video game references really are sincere and fit in nicely. It’s simply a movie aimed at a different culture, not as a cash-in, but because the original manga’s writer was a part of that culture. In fact I bet the movie did worse than most because it was aimed at gamers.

  24. eri says:

    I didn’t see it, but my girlfriend did and was texting me through the whole thing… I think that “Ninja Ninja Revolution” resonated with her in a way I may not quite be able to comprehend.

  25. tremor3258 says:

    Saw it, really liked it. Appreciate the movie for telling you exactly what you’re getting into from the Universal logo alone.

    Sadly, the theater wasn’t exactly full, though you wouldn’t know it from how people were laughing (the window sequence actually had clear after-giggles where people were laughing when they thought about the gag again fifteen seconds later)

    It needs word-of-mouth love, and thank you Shamus, I’ve been trying to come up with a paragraph description of the movie to pitch to people to have them see it all weekend.

  26. Mark says:

    I’ve seen some complaints about it being a little too hyperactive and 7 being too many evil-exes, etc… (I think Alex from Batrock was critical of the movie) but it worked really well for me. I wouldn’t call it my favorite movie of the year (Inception will probably take those honors), but I think it will probably make it’s way onto my top 10 of 2010.

    I’m surprised at how poorly it did at the box office though. My theater was packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves greatly. I guess it was a bad weekend to come out though. Expendables, that Julia Roberts… thing…, and even The Other Guys probably siphoned off the action/romance/comedy crowds to the point where an action/romance/comedy hybrid movie like Scott Pigrim suffered greatly. Or something. I guess the point is, I agree with Shamus and wish more people would go reward this movie for doing something interesting.

  27. krellen says:

    I just saw it. If it hadn’t been an hour-and-a-half wait to the next show, I would have turned around and seen it again immediately.

    I’m not sure your reaction is that far off, Shamus. It really seemed that good to me.

  28. This-is-Hip-Hop says:

    I got back from the movie about an hour ago, I read the first three books, and im getting the remaing three by order through my local Comic Book store. The movie was really faithful to the books in the sense that it was all there, all the little things that happened in the book, like Kim’s Lolita dress and Scott’s diffrent hats; however, it was rearranged dramatically and sometimes used in a diffrent context, for isntance, Knives attacks Ramona in the second book, right before they go and meet the third boyfriend, not at the last minute of fight. But I still enjoyed it greatly and laughed a bit more understanding the joke behind the joke.

  29. James says:

    I’m British, and cynical, which are basically the same thing, so the movie hasn’t come out yet over here. I really enjoyed the 6 Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, but I’m not sure about the movie for 4 reasons;

    1. Micheal Cera – he just doesn’t seem right for the role.

    2. Compression – 6 books into 1 film? Doesn’t it seem a bit rushed?

    3. The Ending – the film was made before the last volume came out – does it hold up?

    4. Commercialisation – has the film tried to grab a “wider audience” by becoming blander or more general? It happens a lot with these kind of movies.

    Can someone confirm/deny these fears?

    1. Shamus says:

      1. He’s GOOD in the role, even if he doesn’t fit the real Scott Pilgrim. He’s not really playing his usual doormat character here.

      2. I’m sure a lot was cut (would have loved to spend more time with Kim Pine) but what they kept formed a nice, clear arc.

      3. Good ending. Satisfying.

      4. Can’t say. The anime, videogame, and rock references are all there and come at you whether you get them or not. It doesn’t seem like they dumbed it down, but I didn’t read the original.

  30. Louis says:

    This is troubling. I’m usually a Warrior of Hype Aversion, and I’ve been burned before by the whole internet collectively coming to together to deliver the singe statement of, “You’ll like this because you’re a geek like us.” The thing is, I’m not usually a geek like everyone else. I mean, I don’t even like zombies. But the chatter for this movie is really consistent and really good. I dunno, I may have to look into it, once it reaches DVD. Or read the comics. (I’m not sure which should be done first.)

  31. Adam says:

    Saw it last night.

    I see why all us dorks are praising it to the heavens, but also why the majority is staying away – because it’s a very smart comedy for a pretty small segment of the movie-going public. God knows my wife didn’t understand more than a handful of the references.

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed myself. Best Movie of the Year, though? For that honor I’d prefer something character-driven – and that, this movie really wasn’t.

  32. Robyrt says:

    One thing most people seem to be missing is that Scott Pilgrim is as much a music geek movie as it is a game geek movie. I watched it with my father (a former rocker) and we were laughing at way more of the jokes than the late-20s hipster couples who made up the rest of the theater. “Are we terrible? She had to go. She knows we’re terrible!”

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