Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 44 | Posted Aug. 10, 2010

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


“FAN SERVICE: A vaguely defined term primarily used for any gratuitous content included in some form of entertainment primarily to please a core group of fans.” —

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is Fan Service: The Movie, an insular, punishingly alienating experience preaching only to the faithful, devoted hearts of arrested 12-year-old boys. It’s singularly fixated on video games and shallow visions of women as one-dimensional objects to be either obtained or discarded and offers no possible point of entry to anybody over the age of 30.

Tricked out with a relentless barrage of gimmicky visuals, like the soaring large-print sound-effect text messages that constantly splinter the screen as if in a cartoon, director Edgar Wright’s headache-inducing, ADD-addled adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s beloved series of comic books pits our titular twerp (lamely played by Michael Cera within his singular note of tiresome twee-ness) against new girlfriend Ramona Flowers’ Seven Evil Exes.

The concept is ripe with metaphor, as at the outset of any relationship, most partners face an uphill battle against the memories of those who came before. Alas, Wright spends no time exploring this particular vein, instead choosing to clog the film with a relentless barrage of long-form, CGI-enhanced PlayStation battle sequences. It’s all meek Cera kicking butts and performing impossible stunts with Super Mario Brothers sound effects—which is funny for approximately 15 seconds.

Unfortunately, we get to watch the same overlong fight scene six times in a row. (Thank god two of the Evil Exes are twins and double up.)

But the biggest problem is that Scott Pilgrim is a heel, leading on and cheating on his dim-bulb underage girlfriend (who is Asian and quite unamusingly named Knives Chau, because that’s not offensive at all) while he chases after snot-nosed Ramona. Neither of the lovebirds is remotely interesting, nor do they have jobs, nor even anything interesting to say.

The movie is too lazy to even show Scott and Ramona falling for each other, and resorts to quicksilver montage. Instead, there’s scene after scene of Scott Pilgrim’s incongruous physical prowess in increasingly bizarre Mortal Kombat scenarios, but there’s never any reason to root for him or the love story at the heart of the plot. It’s all a wankoff fanboy wish fulfillment, telling scrawny losers that it’s OK to treat their women like shit if something “better” comes around. The only thing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World proves is that nerds can be just as shallow and mean-spirited as bullies.

Knives Chau deserved better.

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Comments 1 - 44 of 44
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1. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 10:32AM

“Obviously someone feels too attached to Knives >_>”

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2. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 11:03AM

“Wow, seems like you're trying to compare this to Schindler's List. Take a huge chill pill and appreciate the movie for what it is.”

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3. Jimmy said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 11:33AM

“"scrawny losers"? who the do you think you are? What gives you the right to call people that? Get off your high horse.

This paper deserves better than you.”

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4. Todd Gilchrist said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 11:57AM

“Respectfully, the movie is doing precisely the opposite of "telling scrawny losers that it’s OK to treat their women like shit if something “better” comes around." The whole point of the story is that Scott learns to take responsibility for himself and his behavior and acknowledge the fact that he can be every bit as hurtful, dismissive and destructive as any of Ramona's exes. Even if Scott's affection for Ramona is only as deeply felt it can be for a guy who is only old enough to feel like every relationship he has is the most important thing ever, the movie is about the discovery that he can't act that way, and that he may be wrong (although if you're a romantic optimist, he may be right) that this fantasy girl is right for him.”

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5. Ben said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 12:03PM

“I find it fascinating that you criticize the movie for having a protagonist does a lot of un-heroic things and treats the people around him poorly sometimes, because the movie wears that theme on its sleeve and addresses it pretty explicitly throughout. Scott isn't a flawless hero; he's a very-flawed protagonist. The movie says, in so many words, that you *can't* just treat people like shit, and that it's wrong to discard carelessly someone who's emotionally invested in you. As for "no point of entry for anyone over 30," perhaps I could point to any number of, say, middle-age romances (say, almost every Richard Gere vehicle ever) that are intensely irrelevant to anyone under the age of 40.

The movie's definitely not perfect. But it does nobody any good to send a reviewer to a film who's going to do nothing more than grumble and mutter at it and tell the kids to get off his lawn.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 12:08PM

“Did you actually watch the movie or did you just deliberately slam it sans real thought to drive page views?”

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7. d said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 12:21PM

“Actually, I saw the movie, and he's about right. The characters are annoying, and Ramona is nothing more than a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She has zero personality.

"middle-aged romances... irrelevant to anyone under the age of 40"? Go watch Casablanca and then we'll talk.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 03:57PM

“Twilight for boys.

Everything that's wrong with gamers today.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 03:59PM

“You're a cunt. Is that offensive at all?”

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10. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 04:24PM

“No interest in seeing this sugary mindf*ck of a film. I hate Michael Cera, Rock Band, and anything else this offering at the altar of the ADD Facebook generation could possibly dish to me. Oh yeah, and I'm sick of seeing previews for this damn thing. The whole thing makes my head hurt.”

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11. Sarah D said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 10:31PM

“you suck”

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12. Jesse Dangerously said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 01:46AM

“That nerds can be as shallow and mean-spirited as bullies is actually a powerful, meaningful, under-realized fact. Exploring that effectively with a difficult-to-like protagonist is actually, on paper at least, a very ambitious way to approach a film.

Whether you think that it was well-executed or not, everything disguised as film criticism in this review is just character criticism from someone who can't tell the difference between a story and the figures in it.

p.s. also spend five more minutes at the keyboard and find a word less tortured and more extant than "twee-ness" if you're going to present yourself to the public as someone who knows when things are good or aren't.

p.p.s. "singular" means exceptional, not sole or lone; you wanted to say "single" but with more syllables.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:38AM

“"scrawny losers"....haters gonna hate.”

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14. dirge said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:39PM

“@8: "Twilight for boys" is the most apt description I've heard yet to describe this unfortunate work.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 03:02PM

“Michael Cera…please go away. We're sick of you. Very sick of you.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 04:25PM

“I guess I'll be that guy... Ramona has a job. The fact that she does is both obvious and integral to the plot. The fact that the reviewer missed it is proof that he did not watch the movie very closely.

Of course, that's not surprising, as he was clearly disoriented by all the flashing lights and young people. YOUNG PEOPLE!!!

Still, I'll grant that the film is probably more shallow than the books. Since there are six books and the movie is only two hours long, that's probably unavoidable. But what good would it do to point that out? The reviewer clearly finds things like comic books and video games to be the domain of "arrested 12-year-olds."

Lastly, can someone help me out on how "Knives Chau" is an offensive name? The only Asian/cutlery connection in my head is the Ginsu knife, and I don't think that has anything to do with anything. Maybe I'm missing something? Is there a stereotype about Asians and knives I'm not familiar with?”

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17. Scott Pilgrim said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 05:34PM

“I see what you did there. Reverse psychology.”

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18. thejohnson said... on Aug 13, 2010 at 09:40AM

“Actually, Knives Chau was created by Brian Lee O'Malley, a part-Korean French Canadian, and the offensive jokes regarding her character that were used in the film were 100% in the books. So you should probably DO RESEARCH before you geyser out that much bull. Please tell the Asian author how you're offended as an Asian critic about the jokes he wrote. About Asians.

Also, I don't think it's pro to get irritated by a few aspects and dismiss the whole production as bad when you feel that it's not made to appeal to you and your peers--All that "what's up with this, why isn't it pandering to me specifically as a Matriarchal Cougar" or whatever. The books featured a gaming/manga motif and Edgar and his team actually put effort into carrying over that same excitement. Hhe had a lot of content and not a lot of time to go with traditional timing and tension building. Also, Cera is Cera and he put some real flesh and bones to basically a vapid protagonist character, and he did his job well.”

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19. Anonymous said... on Aug 13, 2010 at 08:14PM

“How are you a real film critic? Insulting a group of people for the activities they engage in has no part in the criticism of a film.”

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20. HoneyBakedHam said... on Aug 14, 2010 at 03:56AM

“This is a great movie. As a 43 year old gamer, author, parent, husband, and culture junkie... who "gets it"... I loved this movie. But I understand that it is likely to be inaccessible to a certain audience, and that's okay.

What isn't okay is a taking a smug and superior attitude toward the work, simply because you don't get it.

oh... and OED aside, no real writer uses a word like "overlong."”

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21. Anonymous said... on Aug 14, 2010 at 06:36PM

“Hi, I am female and also 20 years old. Nice to know that I can't possibly have liked the movie that I saw yesterday and LOVED.

Also, *gasp* a character acting like a real person would?! How dare he act realistically!”

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22. H.B. said... on Aug 15, 2010 at 12:32AM

“To the unhappy ramblings of many a person who commented already, I must say I agree with Mr. Burns 100% on this. I am a female, as well as a comic reader avid VG fan, and there was a lot of things with the plot of this movie that were so inherently foul that it messed up what could have otherwise been a lighthearted fluff movie about things I otherwise enjoy.

I get this movie, I do. But I also get that it was meant for a very specific demographic (mainly 15~30ish men) and played most of its laughs on the idea of continuing social moires about a whole cast of other 'underdogs' like women and homosexuals. I like underdog movies, and I don't expect them to all be some kind of high-intellectual drama that I have to wring my hands over for 3 hours, but SPvTW takes 2 hours trying to prove the worth of one social-underdog scoring points by throwing other social-underdogs under the bus (with lovely graphics, all the same). I walked away feeling like I had been cheated.”

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23. BTSMGL said... on Aug 16, 2010 at 03:09AM

“This is, literally, the stupidest movie review I have ever read. I'm half-convinced you didn't actually see the movie, and if you did, it seems you didn't catch ANY of the trailers for it before walking into the theater. You mention Ramona not having a job, when they dedicate 5 minutes of the film to talking about Ramona's job. In fact, Scott meets Ramona due to her job. You mention the movie dictates it's okay to be a dick to women, when THE ENTIRE CLIMAX OF THE MOVIE is about the MAIN CHARACTER realizing THE EXACT OPPOSITE. You complain about the fights, and apparently were ignorant to the fact that the entire ad campaign was built mainly around the fights. The movie's TAGLINE is that Scott must DEFEAT 7 evil exes. Did you maybe think he'd have a chess match with them? Or, maybe, gee whiz, might all those colorful fighting in EVERY SINGLE PROMOTIONAL IMAGE OR VIDEO might have something to do with that?”

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24. BTSMGL said... on Aug 16, 2010 at 03:12AM

“Also, you say the movie "offers no possible point of entry to anybody over the age of 30" and that it preaches to "12-year-old boys". Right. Except, of course, that every single visual and musical callback is to videogames from the 1980's, the soundtrack is composed of songs from T. Rex and The Rolling Stones, and two different characters appear on screen wearing Smashing Pumpkins t-shirts. Yes, the stuff 12-year-old boys love.”

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25. BTSMGL said... on Aug 16, 2010 at 03:16AM

“Here's how I think a Sean Burns review of "Jurassic Park" might go: "Everything is dinosaurs this, dinosaurs that... I mean, c'mon!!!"”

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26. Katheryn said... on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:15AM

“Hi. 36 female Librarian that LOVED the film. Get over yourself, please.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:42AM

“Reviewers who don't watch the films they pretend to review should be fired. If you didn't catch that Ramona works for or that the whole ending revolves around both Scott Pilgrim and Ramona growing up, owning up to and moving beyond their past misdeeds - chances are you didn't actually watch the film. Hell, if you didn't know what Ramona does for a living I wonder if you even saw the trailer.”

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28. Anonymous said... on Aug 16, 2010 at 02:32PM

“Obviously no idea who the target audience this movie is really inteded for. Which 12 year olds today played 8 bit video games and hang out at record stores? How many of them would even know what Mortal Kombat was?

Though they maybe kids, the movie represents the era of current 30-40 year olds, because that's what WE did.”

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29. EJS Creations said... on Aug 17, 2010 at 10:31AM

“"...Shallow visions of women as one-dimensional objects to be either obtained or discarded."
I would just like to take this moment to point out that Kick-Ass was all about a guy parading as a homo so that he could see the girl of his dreams naked, then when he snuck into her house and broke the news to her, she told him to have sex with her.
Yet, when you, Sean Burns, reviewed Kick-Ass, you made no mention of the sexism in it. You gave it a B .

But in Scott Pilgrim, we see many MANY extremely powerful female characters, whether wielding weapons or microphones, and they kick serious butt, outshining even the main character in fighting skills. Women are actually considered equals in Scott Pilgrim. You gave it a D-.

I think someone needs to figure out a better system for reviewing films, sir.”

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30. Anonymous said... on Aug 17, 2010 at 03:53PM

“After landing here from the NPR column, I'm noticing how a lot of reviews have a line very similar to "Wright’s headache-inducing, ADD-addled adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s beloved series of comic books," which sort of implies that in the comic-to-movie transition, people screwed up the timeless source material that the reviewer really wanted to enjoy. It's a pretty disingenuous way to give the review and reviewer credibility when they obviously have nothing but contempt for the movie, the cultural touchstones that informed it and the audience that enjoys it.

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31. Bagehi said... on Aug 17, 2010 at 04:43PM

“I landed here after reading the NPR column. Honestly, when an organization that is generally intellectually sophisticated, like NPR, gives approval to a film or book I am intrigued and add it to the "will read/watch" list.

I cannot help but be amused by the pseudo-sophisticated snobbery of your review, especially after browsing some of your other reviews. I will point out one glaring example: Sin City. You gave that an A-? Really? You praised it for the same gimmicks you disparaged Scott Pilgrim over? Really?

P.S. The NPR review made front page of reddit, so this assault on your review is likely just beginning.”

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32. Anonymous said... on Aug 17, 2010 at 04:44PM

“I landed here after reading the NPR column. Honestly, when an organization that is generally intellectually sophisticated, like NPR, gives approval to a film or book I am intrigued and add it to the "will read/watch" list.

I cannot help but be amused by the pseudo-sophisticated snobbery of your review, especially after browsing some of your other reviews. I will point out one glaring example: Sin City. You gave that an A-? Really? You praised it for the same gimmicks you disparaged Scott Pilgrim over? Really?

P.S. The NPR review made front page of reddit, so this assault on your review is likely just beginning.”

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33. Anonymous said... on Aug 17, 2010 at 06:17PM

“Jesus. Did you even watch the film at all?”

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34. Anonymous said... on Aug 18, 2010 at 02:59PM



I would think the themes of how love works is pretty clear, when it's the Sword of Self Respect that allows him to win. She also wasn't some one dimensional thing to be obtained. If she was, he really wouldn't have cared about how Knives thought of him, knowing he could win over Ramona. But it was when he had self respect that allowed him to be be enough to apologize for hurting Knives, and realize why he loves Ramona. He cared enough to fight for the relationship, but more importantly, the self respect that is needed for successful relationships.

And remember that part where Ramona said "You're just another evil ex waiting to happen."? This was really the start of when Scott began to realize he was as much of a selfish jerk as one of the evil exes. In a word, he grew up.


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35. MichaelK said... on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:05AM

“FYI kids this is coming from the guy who loved Norbit. Need I say more?”

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36. yousuckmrburns said... on Aug 20, 2010 at 05:27PM


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37. MattX said... on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:10AM

“Well I'm 33 and I loved it. What I don't particularly enjoy however, is the seeming trend by over the hill and increasingly irrelevant dinosaurs clinging to the flaming wreckage of old media, to act haughty and derisive every time they are confronted with something they don't understand or appreciate (i.e new media, youth culture, music or new technology)

It's one thing to decry a movie on based its concept, writing or execution. It's another thing entirely to insinuate baselessly that the only audience who could appreciate said film are infantile man-children.

When I attended the film, the audience was comprised of quite a few women, several of whom were well into their thirties. The person sitting beside me was a young woman in her late twenties and she was laughing along, as were most of the people in attendance. When the proverbial curtain rose, we applauded. I imagine this anecdotal evidence will do little to disavow you of your opinion, as you seem content to wallow ignorance.”

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38. Kegan said... on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:57AM

“A review of a movie by a man who obviously never watched it...
I'm quite impressed that the Philadelphia-Times would allow someone whom is TERRIBLY out of touch with Modern Culture to review a movie, and someone so biased against the target audience at that. I'll just say that both me and my female friend not only enjoyed the movie, but loved it to pieces.

I'll quote by MattX sums up my feelings towards your terrible journalism though: "you seem content to wallow ignorance"”

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39. Elise Dubois said... on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:21AM

“This review is so ignorant I have to assume the reviewer is as well. Are you for real?”

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40. WhitneyD said... on Sep 12, 2010 at 05:18PM

“Yet another attempt to criticize a movie by the audience they assume it's intended for. I am a fan of the movie. I'm a fan of the graphic novels. I've seen Scott Pilgrim multiple times, mostly because I was struck by how skillfully the movie was crafted from the fight choreography to the sound design to the script. And the thing that struck me was how diverse the audiences have been. I've seen hipster kids, teenagers, and comic book fans. I've also seen a few couples in their 40s, and a group of women (in their mid 30's) being dragged into the theater by a friend who's seen it. All of them enjoyed it.

Perhaps the issue wasn't that you weren't able to enjoy the movie- it's that you saw video game references and knew it had been heavily promoted at Comic-Con and decided that it would hold no enjoyment for you before you stepped foot in the theater.”

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41. Anonymous said... on Sep 22, 2010 at 04:17PM

“To answer #16's question, I believe the author of this terrible review is referring to how some people call Asians knives, because their eyes are narrow.

To the reviewer: have you no intelligence at all? All of the references in the game would only have meaning to people from 20-40 years old. Oh, and as for pandering to a certain type of audience? Disney movies pander to little kids. Science Fiction movies pander to people that like that kind of stuff. Oh no!You should go complain about that.”

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42. Anonymous said... on Dec 21, 2010 at 07:41PM

“love stuff like "the concept is ripe with metaphor". I see what you're trying to say, you're just doing a bad job of it - this is overly pretentious writing about a snappy, likeable flick. sure it's a little low on substance, but you're not judging this for what it is. most of the intrepretations in the comments are better thought out than yours, I felt. but if you don't like it, you don't like it. the 'fan service' comment is completely over the top. but you're right, this movie ain't for you.”

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43. Anonymous said... on Jan 4, 2011 at 12:18PM

“Ok, this is the 4th review I read from some kind of newspaper. What gives you people the right to even mention the concept of something being "offensive" when you yourselves insult a large group of people?

I've been a gamer for 15 games, since I was 3. So by your standards I am a dorky-12 year old-no lifer with ADD, right?

Either you are neck-deep in ignorance or you are professional trolls.”

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44. Anonymous said... on Jan 5, 2011 at 08:03AM

“Wow. What can I say after the torrent of hate you just received Mr. Burns? I pretty much agree with all the comments before me except the ones about "ADD 12 year-olds". I just feel like I have to say this: the AVERAGE gamer age is in their 30s!! That probably means that no 12 year-olds would want to watch this movie even if it was intended for gamers specifically.”


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