Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin
Directed by Edgar Wright
As this film is pitched to the “young people of today” who are steeped in the world of video gaming, below is a handy instruction and terminology reference guide to help everyone — gamers and non-gamers alike — to experience Scott Pilgrim vs. the World:
Power button (to turn on the TV, Gameboy, computer, etc.)
Translation: Get in the car and travel to the neighborhood multiplex.
Select game you wish to play
Translation: Approach the ticket counter and purchase a ticket for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Select number of players
Translation: Buy tickets for how many are in your group.
Select level of play
Translation: Find a seat available and at a distance from the screen that comports with your particular sensibilities; also, make sure you are away from anyone who would talk on their cell phone, play a videogame in the theater, kick the back of your seat, or be rambunctious.
Choose controls (e.g. keyboard, joystick, handheld controller, etc.)
Translation: Decide to watch Scott Pilgrim as a creative and exciting example of the melding of a videogame and a movie, as a creative and exciting example of the melding of a graphic novel and a movie, or as a busy and jumbled visual experience about the routine, mundane and typical experiences of nerdy yet love-struck kids trying to connect.
Translation: Watch the movie (or try to) after the raft of commercials and coming attractions.
Translation: You will wish for a button on your armrest that would do this during the film — especially during its frenetic, over-the-top videogame style faux-fight scenes.
Boss (a powerful character that a player will face and must defeat at the end of a level)
Translation: The seven former boyfriends (levels) that dweeby Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), who plays in a rock band (“Guitar Hero” anyone?) must defeat in order to win the affections of an aloof potential love interest whose hair color changes from red, green and turquoise blue throughout the movie (the game’s tactical objective).
Cheat code (the option of entering codes that effect game play, such as the ability to have unlimited ammunition or to never receive damage)
Translation: Depicting Scott Pilgrim as being able to perform superhuman feats involving fists, kicks and guitars to defeat the seven boyfriends of his potential love interest — or suggesting that this is just a videogame rendition of the sorts of struggles that real world young people endure (emotionally minus the fisticuffs) to win the affections of the opposite (or same) sex — or suggesting that this is just visually innovative cleverness.
Cut-scene (an animation technique that continues the storyline between game segments; the player cannot interact with this animation)
Translation: As movies are by definition “non-interactive” the whole movie involves “cut scenes” whereby Scott Pilgrim and his friends are essentially animated characters whose “storylines” continue between action scene set pieces, which never really happened.
Grind (performing mindlessly repetitive tasks in order to level up or proceed in the game)
Translation: The feeling you get watching Scott Pilgrim’s efforts to defeat the seven former boyfriends.
HUD (heads-up display; an easy-reference display that shows the most essential information (health, current weapon, radar, etc.) on the screen without blocking your view)
Translation: The clever visual flourishes in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where we can see “dialogue bubbles” or visual imaginings of what characters may be thinking, as well as computer gaming graphics (like when Scott acquires game points and coins when he succeeds in vanquishing one of the seven former boyfriends).
NPC (non-player characters; computer-controlled people wandering around in the background or story characters that you can talk to)
Translation: Scott’s gay roommate (played by Kieran Culkin), who supplies witty and smarmy commentary and asides about Scott’s troubles with his love life.
Downwardly compatible (also backward compatible) (a gaming system (console, PC, etc.) that supports games that were made for the previous version of a system)
Translation: Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim like all of the other nerdy, hesitant, quirky, sardonic, and winsome characters he has portrayed in all his previous movies/videogames (his prowess at fighting “boss” characters in this film is more amine [a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark, colorful graphics — numerous videogames have environments and characters influenced by anime] than real).
Sandbox (a game in which the player ignores the game’s objectives so as to explore the game’s environment)
Translation: You might end up doing this and marveling at the film’s technique of infusing videogame visuals when the film’s “grind” gets to be too much and the “cheat codes” too distracting.
Bundling (to sell a package containing a videogame and a piece of hardware)
Translation: Selling Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as a movie, a videogame, a graphic novel, a “youth-coming-of-age” story, a social commentary on “kids these days”, a cinematic technique to attract younger viewers, an attack on the pretentiousness of celebrities, or poking fun at fandom.
Translation: Not likely with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, unless you are a “noob” (a newbie, or a new and inexperienced person to videogames [often derogatory]).
Doug Young is The Statesman’s award-winning film critic.