Fuelled by punk rock and a love of classic Nintendo, with a visual vocabulary that is part manga, part Mario Brothers, and a quirky, sweetly awkward central love story that feels cut from the same cloth as Juno, this film is an unexpected delight.
The movie is utterly enthralled with its own comic book origins (director Edgar Wright is a fan) and it shows in every frame. Wright brings bright colours and goofy humour to a production that splices animation and video game graphics into every single live-action frame. Even the Universal logo and theme at the film’s opening is rendered with ’80s video game aesthetics.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, as a punk rock/action hero version of his Juno character) plays bass for an up-and-coming garage band. He’s dating a high school girl named Knives (Ellen Wong) but falls for another girl; so it’s out with Knives, in with Ramona — except, in order to date her he must defeat each of her seven evil exes in battle.
The seventh ex happens to be Gideon (Jason Schwartzman), a record label guru whose Battle of the Bands contest Scott’s trio is trying to conquer.
Wright — conjuring the same surprising blend of deadpan humour, cinema savvy, and heart that he exhibited in his previous films (Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead) — works with a stellar cast and the great cinematographer Bill Pope to create an absolutely knockout movie that’s not as full of in-jokes as one would imagine.
From the DIY rock of the film soundtrack — performed by alt-rock stalwart Beck — to the pure, unleashed imagination of the film’s visuals, there’s never been anything like it: it’s a movie that nods in familiar directions but never feels anything other than pure and new.
All the better, you don’t need to be a Nintendo nerd or garage band enthusiast to enjoy this film — it’s a joy from start to finish.