Scott Pilgrim is the film of a cartoon that itself draws heavily from videogames, and it does not wear these origins lightly. Combining the staged linearity of a videogame with a cartoonish love of image and throwaway wit, it is at times exceedingly stylised.
Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a 22-year-old bassist from Toronto and something of a nerd, must literally fight to win the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a slightly older and more sophisticated girl. His opponents are her seven evil exes, who attack Pilgrim in turn. The violence is straight out of a videogame: the combatants seem to suffer no injury, despite being thrown through destructible scenery, until they are defeated. He battles his way to fight the “boss” character, and along the way grows up a bit. That, more or less, is that.
Eschewing traditional plotting frees director Edgar Wright to have a lot of fun, and flourishes abound. When a telephone rings, a cartoonish written “Rrring” emits from the handset, and hearts appear as Romana and Pilgrim kiss. And Cera allies his usual laconic timing to something slightly steelier than we’ve seen before.
The film’s strengths are also its weaknesses. A videogame is interesting because you don’t know how the battles are going to turn out. You might lose. We never think Pilgrim will lose, which makes his invulnerability seem like an affront: if he can survive being thrown 400 metres into a castle’s turret without a scratch, why should we worry about his bruised heart?