We have time and again redefined superheroes. We have exemplified them to see them as entities of the universe, as power driven super-humans/aliens. We have simplified them to see them as the rising common man – the ones who take responsibility for the scared mass. Different versions from different visions have made us trust men in capes and suits, and in a belief that the always come in those attires in the first place.
So when I make the brave attempt to classify yet not prejudice Scott Pilgrim as a superhero movie, it comes more out of people finding themselves in the protagonist. The movie tells the story of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) – a 23-year-old guitarist based in Toronto. He is in a band (check), has a much younger girlfriend (check) and has fallen in love for a girl -Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – much out of his league (check). Now to keep his position intact, he has to battle all the seven of Ramona’s exes while discovering strengths of his own along the way. Edgar Wright’s decision to make the film in the style and steps of a video game makes one nerdy, insecure, underconfident (all stereotypes) boy be up for the challenge once and for all. Everything that he (or she) ever felt opposed him (or her) and in the pretext of doing so altered his accumulative decisions in the shorter run. Yes, Edgar Wright pitched it perfectly – on the plate and begging to be hit. But it was Michael Cera with the final shot, the conclusive timing which needed to go just fine. Now it might be Cera‘s career-best performance, the one which stereotyped Michael – the actor – but it works well in this movie’s case, for even the ever so obvious was a surprise once.
What is particularly interesting is that the film didn’t only maintain and mould itself like a video game, it even edited it like one. The entire culmination of writing, shooting, editing, and effects seems so layered in the approach, you know the motive was to look beyond what your eyes see. Not that what was available wasn’t as deafening or intriguing in the longer run, but what appeared behind the lenses of games and anime was for one to explore for itself. Cut shots, past with animations, yellow stripes, large visual texts with modified sizes – every effort of colour and comic book imagination made you nostalgic of an era where you controlled. In the entire pretend of doing so, we identified with Scott’s decisions – the initial and unequivocal intent.
While the plot gets cliched of its own making after a point, its wittiness is what keeps the experience fresh. The characters seemed designed keeping the common nerd in mind, and his interpretation of the people around him. So there was no point getting into their visions, opening up minds or even shattering our pre-set definitions of them. The film convinces us of the one perspective it wishes to stand for is that of Scott, and in doing so ignores every other which form an ethically coherent stand. You can choose to dwell on that but fighting the battles through your pre-conceived notions and learning from them is the iterative process that Edgar Wright set his bets on.
Eight years on, the timelessness of Scott Pilgrim – both the movie and the character- isn’t what bothers me. It’s the growing relatability. Technology has found a larger target to hit the rocks at, trends are more permanent and anxiety is the most common breed of intuition. So when I think of a story of a 23-year-old fighting demons and feelings through powers of self-respect and love, it doesn’t sound absurd. It sounds like a dream. Not the one which I have, but the one which won’t have me.
Scott Pilgrim v/s the World is as entertaining a watch as that musical which got interrupted by your own narration. It has derived its cult status from us working towards it than vice versa – which is normally the case. Intent drives it and if there is ever a winning formula for movies it is to maintain your thought and emotion throughout the making. It makes up for where it falls and in knowing where it has to, wins us over with the awareness outside the screen. What was actually Scott Pilgrim v/s the world, and not Scott Pilgrim v/s Rest of the World was, in fact, the first clue to the question he solved, one he – and we – will always discover along the way.
- Mayank Malik