Property The Daily Gamecock
Director Edgar Wright knows movies. His breakout hit, “Shaun of the Dead,” slyly melded zombies and romantic comedies with unassuming grace, while his follow-up hit, “Hot Fuzz,” was fully immersed in the conventions of buddy cop movies, Michael Bay action films and dozens more thrillers.His latest film, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” is a totally different kind of monster.Adapted from the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, “Scott Pilgrim” oozes coolness. It’s an exhilarating, breathless and hysterical blend of comic books, video games, music and movies. It’s a mediated film for a mediated world.Michael Cera continues to hone his deadpan skills as the titular bassist, whose crush on the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (a seductively enigmatic Mary Elizabeth Winstead), ignites the League of Seven Evil Exes. In order to date Ramona, Scott must fight his way through Ramona’s evil exes, played deliciously by the likes of Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman.While “Scott Pilgrim” swirls in a sea of cultural references, rattling them off like combo moves in a video game, it’s Wright’s understanding of how to visually communicate the language and syntax of these different mediums into one package that really makes the film work.Sounds on screen are often accompanied by text like “Ring” coming off a phone, as if to echo a graphic novel, while in other moments his split-screen and intercutting editing strategies feel strongly reminiscent of a comic panel.Beyond that, classic video game themes often play under the soundtrack, characters use weapons that are pixilated to look like something on an old Sega and Scott is awarded “points” and “one-ups” for defeating his foes.Not to mention the chronically cheeky dialogue always tries to incorporate video game language. Phrases such as “fight,” “finish him,” “continue” and “try again” are constantly recycled by characters in various circumstances.Added to that, Scott and his friends are trying to get their band signed to a record deal, so the film often dips into loud performance moments or structures certain sequences like music videos.“Scott Pilgrim” is pure stylistic excess, a movie whose barrage of images and sounds from a multiplicity of texts should threaten to make the movie rupture in its core. It regularly dips in and out of its “reality” in even the most simple conversation scenes, but Edgar Wright and his technical team know how to make each moment seem like a different riff that builds on the one before it.Few filmmakers have the ability to create a world that draws so heavily on popular culture without seeming cloying or obvious. Wright’s film constantly surprises with the sheer earnestness of its players and the borderline experimental nature of its narrative.“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is probably the best video game movie ever made. But to reduce it to that label wouldn’t do justice to how vast the myriad of texts Wright has chosen to draw on actually is. It’s a wonderful, playful concoction that takes the kind of “learning valuable lesson to get from adolescence to adulthood” narrative Michael Cera has centered his career around and blows it up with grand metaphors for emotional baggage and aching hearts.It’s a movie that wants to give us a different way to think about movies, and its sealed-off whirlpool of media bombardment is a lavish treat for the eyes, the ears and any other sense that can possibly derive pleasure in something this gleefully unhinged.