‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ brings back the classic arcade game

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Written by Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall
Directed by Edgar Wright
UK, USA, Japan 2010

When the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim was released in 2010, it was like an explosion of colour and two-tone jingles. To the casual eye, the film is a classic – albeit awkward – love story between Scott (Michael Cera), a loveable loser, and the intriguing yet aloof Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to date her, Scott has to defeat the League of Evil Exes – Ramona’s exes. All seven of them.

Scott Pilgrim’s overindulgence of video game references – both retro and lesser-known – not only places the film in a different league to the conventional comic-book/video-game film adaptation, but its distinctive blend of styles manages to bridge the generation gap, widening its appeal.

When we talk about arcade games, the memories of tiny joysticks, frantic shuffling in pockets for change and hands twisted into claws come pouring back. This creates a nostalgia for long-spent childhood, a period that for the majority of us was free of responsibility.

Scott Pilgrim explicitly references specific and significant games – key titles that all originated in the arcade era.  Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Mario Bros. all may have seen extensive changes given their roots, but the design, concept and even sounds are so iconic, they are immediately recognizable, no matter how many years may have passed.

These nostalgic snippets appear throughout Scott Pilgrim, whether in the form of weapons (Ramona’s mallet is a reference to Amy Rose’s Piko Piko Hammer from Sonic the Hedgehog), jingles (the Zelda series), or the blending of video games with modern pop culture movements.

scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-1024The film especially shines in its cinematic homage to the classic beat ’em up. While Scott has the mentality of a man-child, he effectively battles his way through the League of Evil Exes with physical prowess and bass-guitar-fuelled bad-assery (well, against non-vegans, anyway). One ex clearly represents the classic end-of-level-boss and during these battles, the screen is adorned with hit combos while victory increases Scott’s stats, as well as rewards him with coins and additional lives. The presence of these elements enforces the game-like nature of Scott’s battles, further blurring the line between film and video game.

The film’s climax brings Scott face-to-face with the Big Boss – Ramona’s ultimate evil ex, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). This final level recreates classic platform games such as Zelda and Super Mario Bros – Scott is rewarded with points and as he continues along . This helps to reinforce the video game motif at the film’s heart while Scott’s constant struggle to win his princess Ramona’s love drives the story and engages the viewer.

201110180222The theme of recreating Scott’s struggles in a video game helps to emphasize a dream-like or fantastical feeling, making the need to escape into a virtual world all the more relatable, but at the end of the day, the fusion of games and film in Scott Pilgrim sees the former essentially mature from its adolescent roots.

For older generations, computer games were part of being a child. There were bright colors and memorable tunes, which were primarily aimed at children. But now, a major motion picture has been marketed towards adult audiences by highlighting the marketability of memories.

Given the number of films that have been adapted from major computer games, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has re-introduced arcade games to younger audiences, proving that old-school is indeed cool.

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