We’re taking a look at what has made each of Edgar Wright’s films great in lead up to the release of Baby Driver.
Edgar Wright hit a certain level of mainstream success in a wonderful overlap with my own ability to access his R-rated library of films like Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. That timing was basically a perfect match for my desire to see sharp British wit on par with 80’s comedies I had been shown as a child. Needless to say, finding out that Wright was going to be helming an adaptation of indie darling Scott Pilgrim, I spent the years it was in production bated in excitement. Despite those lofty expectations, I wasn’t ready for what the film would end up meaning to me.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World released in 2010, the year I happened to graduate from high school. One of my most burned-in memories of that point of my life was the morning after; in which I stared at the ceiling of the bedroom I had spent my entire life living in and asking, “Now what?” In the broad strokes, I did have a plan for my life (spoilers, it didn’t work out), but I genuinely had no idea what was properly expected of me or what I should expect in the day to day life of, well, an adult. A couple of months later, Scott Pilgrim hit theatres. In that film, I found a kindred spirit.
A core theme of Wright’s films-if not the core theme-is nostalgia, both the positives and negatives of our love of it. Take Hot Fuzz, which is both a love letter to and brutal takedown of the 80’s hero cop flick; or Shawn doing the same but with horror movies. The commonality here is that these lean fairly heavily on missing things decades gone. Scott Pilgrim, on the other hand, waxes nostalgic for an entirely different period of time and the things it loved: the 90’s. Turning to video game fandom, the fledgling western otaku culture, and the indie rock scene, Scott Pilgrim is an affectionate love letter to a time I didn’t realize was gone because I was still living it, just like Scott.
Despite being 22, we quickly find that Pilgrim still very much longs for his high school life, with no desire to work, dating an actual high schooler, and living across the street from his childhood home. Why wouldn’t he? His family, friends, and the world itself, doesn’t expect much from him. As a result he doesn’t have any expectations for himself. But, his desire to be with the well-traveled Ramona Flowers requires him to become more traveled himself, indicated through the language of video games. It plays out with passionate affection. However, Wright also likes to look at the negative sides of nostalgia. While Scott gets a whole lot of growing up beaten into him, a sense of entitlement persists. Throughout the film, he genuinely believes he can just go back to the way he was once he gets the girl. This isn’t unlike what gamer “culture” evolved into after the 90’s; many became elitist about the games that they loved, to the point of believing that they wholly own them. That entitlement is what prevents him from properly breaking up with Knives, causes tension with his bandmates, and ultimately leads to his death towards the end of the film.
That there is where the film deviates from its source material too. In the graphic novels, Scott acknowledges his love for Ramona, they defeat the bad guy with that power, and everyone lives happily ever after. Scott gains the Power of Love in the film too, but Wright flips the script-Scott is killed after this. While he may genuinely love her, he can’t properly do anything about it, as he doesn’t have enough self respect to properly do so much less change himself for her. It’s only until he acknowledges his own need to change and grow. As any player of games can tell you, the only way to really avoid dying or failing is to stop doing the same thing over and over. That self improvement, combined with an extra life, is what ultimately puts Scott on the path of proper happiness and lets him finish the game. In this way, the video game references and world the film takes place in clicks.
Since my first viewing, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has only maintained its relevance in my life. It’s become the most quoted film in my repertoire and a constant reminder that self-improvement can open limitless possibilities. It’s my favorite of Edgar Wright’s films, and I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best examples of his themes and style-a true reminder of how lucky we are to have such a filmmaker.
I very much L-Word this movie.