This summer’s been a bit of a letdown as far as blockbusters go. The A-Team was a wash out, The Expendables was disposable, Knight And Day a waste of space and the less said about The Last Airbender the better. With that in mind, all eyes turn to Scott Pilgrim as the last hope of the summer box office – a lone solider carrying the flag for good cinema while its comrades lie bleeding to death on the battlefield.
Scott is a 22 year old bass guitarist in an up and coming band called Sex Bob-omb (a nice little reference to a Super Mario character for all you geeks out there – references that Scott Pilgrim is littered with like so many Super Mushrooms). After a tough break up with his last girlfriend, Scott is now dating a high school student called Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) much to the derision of his band mates and his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin).
It’s all going swimmingly until Scott meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a pink-haired new arrival in town who oozes surly alternative cool and who just so happens to be literally the girl of his dreams. The only problem is, in order to be with Ramona, he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes. But they’re not just any ordinary spurned lovers; they’re brimming with superpowers and ready to take Scott to the cleaners.
Michael Cera has made his name playing meek, milquetoast characters – forlorn outsiders who are bystanders at the carnival of life. Here he’s allowed off the reins completely and turns the tables from ineffectual geek into ass-kicking leading man in a marvellous bit of casting.
That’s not where the good casting ends: Chris Evans and Brandon Routh who have both been on superhero duty before (as The Human Torch and Superman respectively) and are superb as two of the seven exes. Routh in particular is excellent, contributing to one of the best scenes of the movie as a super powered vegan (“being a vegan just makes you…better”).
If the casting and script are fresh and funny, it’s the visual style which is the film’s real super power. It’s a veritable extravaganza for the eyeballs with inventive effects which demand to be watched. How many films can you watch where the music in a battle of the bands takes the form of two ethereal monsters that fight in mid air? In which the power of love is a literal flaming sword that’s pulled out of the main character’s chest? Where head butting someone results in them turning into a shower of gold coins? Where there’s such an effortless blend of computer game logic, Adam West –era Batman visual sound effects and snappy dialogue?
Director Edgar Wright, who previously worked on the excellent Shaun Of The Dead and Spaced, has proven exactly how to make a film chock full of references and witty asides while juggling an entertaining and compelling narrative and Scott Pilgrim is no exception.
Occasionally this style is used to mask its lack of substance and to compensate for the plot’s eventual redundancy – it’s very much like a geek’s version of a Quentin Tarantino film. But that’s a minor gripe in film which is fresh, fun and brimming with originality and the first truly great action blockbuster of the summer.