The biggest mistake anyone could make in regards to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is to think it is “just another Michael Cera movie”. We can all thank director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead) for using his unique brand of humor and visuals to set this geeky romance apart from it’s peers. It’s true that Cera does play his typical role; a dorky and awkward guy in his twenties who still hasn’t hit puberty for some reason and is gaga for a girl way out of his league. However, the visuals are so eye-popping, the nerd humor is so spot-on, and there is such a vast amount of video game references in this movie that it is easy to overlook Cera’s lack of breadth as an actor. In fact, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is so full of video game references, both subtle and obvious, it would almost be worth seeing the movie twice just to try to pick them out. There are four games in particular that were used in the movie which not only contributed to this film’s geek chic factor, but they also helped me find my inner Scott Pilgrim.
- Though not really a direct video game reference, the Universal Pictures opening splash screen made a nod to the days of video games gone by. The music was a MIDI version of their typical fanfare, and the graphic was pixelated to look like it came from a SNES-era game. The graphic quality looked like it was about a generation ahead of the sound quality, but it was a nice touch nonetheless. The instant the movie begins we are already being told that gaming will be an important aspect of the story, and that just because something prettier and fancier doesn’t mean it’s better than it’s lo-fi counterpart.
- There is a TON of Zelda lovin’ in this movie. Just in sound alone there is a lot to consider. When the open scene begins, we are treated to the opening music from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which seems to be coming from Young Neil’s DS – so it must have been the GBA port he was playing. Also, when Scott opens the door for his “fake high school girlfriend” Knives we get to hear the same fanfare you hear when opening a chest in a Zelda game. During the first dream Scott has about Ramona Flowers you hear the faerie fountain song. As far as Zelda-inspired visual cues, there is the logo seen on both Gideon’s t-shirt in Ramona’s flashback and on the mind control chip on her neck that looks a lot like an upside-down Triforce. Then, in the final battle when Scott levels up, the breakdown of stat changes looks just like Link’s stat changes in The Legend of Zelda II: Link’s Adventure. Speaking of Zelda II, “Nega Scott’s” gray color palate and red eyes looks a lot like Dark Link, who made his first appearance in the same game. The sound effects really show how our culture and cinema has changed — ten years ago, someone would have heard a grandly orchestrated love theme when they saw the girl of their dreams for the first time. Now we are treated to the theme of the Great Faerie Fountain. Just like Link, Scott is an ordinary guy who must summon all of his courage to do extraordinary things for that special lady in his life.
- The battle between Scott Pilgrim and the first Evil Ex, Matthew Patel, shows Scott using moves from the Street Fighter series. Also, Matthew’s ability to levitate and shoot fire at Scott could both be traits borrowed from Street Fighter’s Dhalsim (especially if we factor in Matthew’s assumed ethnic background). The KO announcement at the end of Matthew and Scott’s fight is from Street Fighter as well. In this scene we learn two things: hipsters are never nearly as cool as they think they are, and all it takes is a little finesse and you can handle someone who has a lot more firepower than you.
- When any of the Evil Exes or their henchmen are destroyed, they explode into a mass of coins, just like enemies do in River City Ransom. This effect is also a lot like the fountain of blood and coins that erupts from downed enemies in No More Heroes, just a blood-free version. No More Heroes is also called to mind by Gideon’s beam katana, which is a lot like the one used by Travis Touchdown in the game. Despite being killed by Gideon the first time, Scott didn’t let that get him down. He quickly cashed in his extra life and chose to go after the girl of his dreams…literally. Perseverance definitely pays off, in the form of piles and piles of coins. At least in this final battle, Scott got enough for the bus fare home.
Before actually seeing this movie it is hard to imagine how all of these elements could be borrowed and strung together into an action-packed geeky romantic comedy, but somehow it worked out without seeming like all of these items were thrown in just to pander to a specific audience. There are far more games than these referenced in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, these are just a few of the most obvious ones. We also learned some valuable life lessons about courage, style and finesse superseding excessive production and firepower, and about how sticking to your guns can really pay off both romantically and financially. What other games did you notice borrowed elements from? What did you learn in the theater? Were there any games that you feel like the director and screenwriter should have utilized? Get a discussion going in the comments.