All posts by Rachel Campbell

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”: The Hero’s Journey as a Life-Long Adventure

Why are we watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?

This was my initial thought when I discovered what film we would be watching on Monday.

Before Monday, the only encounter I had with this film was when my brothers were watching it, and I happened to briefly pause as I was passing by to see what they were laughing about.  To be honest, after about a thirty second take in of the film, I thought it looked kind of…lame.

After watching the full two hours of this action-packed, nerdy extravaganza, I can genuinely say that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Edgar Wright’s film.  I particularly loved the video-game aspects (such as the Evil Exes bursting into coins when they were defeated, the “pee meter”, and the snake and gorilla apparitions that appeared during the Guitar Hero-esque battle).  It also felt very much like a comic book with the creative way it integrated typography throughout the narrative such as when Scott is banging is head against a lamppost and the word “THONK” appears with each thud of the forehead (I later discovered that the film is based on a comic book series…makes sense!).  The unique camera angles, variety of scene changes, and plethora of special effects also made the film feel more like I was watching a video game or reading a comic book rather than watching a film, and this definitely fits in with today’s popularity of nerd culture.  Not only was the film artsy in its design, but the flashing light that instantly went off in my head was: THIS IS JOSEPH CAMPBELL’S HERO’S JOURNEY!

Scott Pilgrim (does his name remind you of something?) is a twenty-something band geek who is living a pretty pathetic and lackluster life which can be summed up by the fact that he is dating a high school girl named Knives Chau who his friends endlessly harass him about.  Scott’s lame life suddenly takes a turn when he receives a call to adventure which is when he sets his eyes on the beautiful, constantly-changing-hair-colors Ramona Flowers.  Although he is beyond the realm of awkward, Scott ends up scoring a date with Ramona; however, before he can officially date his new found sweetheart, he must defeat the League of Evil Exes (7 Evil Exes = 7 Labors of Hercules?).  Scott initially ignores the call when he decides to delete an email that warns him of his upcoming battle, and thus this shows Scott’s reluctance to go on his hero’s journey.

Scott finally crosses the threshold when he is forced to face Matthew Patel, the first evil ex.  After this, Scott has to take on 6 other foes, although he is still quite unwilling.  Scott and Ramona discuss how each of them have relationship baggage, and I would argue that the Seven Evil Exes can be looked at as the hardships and hurdles one has to face when falling in love with another person.  In relationships, Scott quickly learns, there is often a lot of emotional baggage and things in the past that have to be dealt with that go along with the journey of falling in love.

As Scott approaches the “innermost cave” of his journey, he faces a wave of doubts and this is illustrated when he and Ramona are at the bar and he asks her: “Is there anyone at this party you haven’t slept with?”  He also questions why everything has to be so complicated and hard.  Eventually, Scott makes it to his ultimate destination at the Chaos Theater where he must face off with his final foe: Gideon Graves.  In his final battle, Scott ends up being defeated by Gideon and we see him appear in a death scene consisting of a desert wasteland and a cactus.  Scott ends up being resurrected by his having an extra life, but before he leaves the desert of death, he learns a critical lesson.  The key thing that Scott learns at his lowest moment is that he needs to fight the enemy, not simply for Ramona, but first and foremost for himself, and in admitting this he earns self-respect.  With this and the aid of his friends, Scott is finally able to defeat his enemy, he gains his reward (being able to be with Ramona), and now he can start his return back.  However, Scott does not just return to his old life.  Instead, it is implied that Scott Pilgrim, like everyone, will have to repeat the Hero’s Journey multiple times throughout his life, and this fact is cleverly illustrated with the end shot being a countdown that asks: “Continue?”  This can be seen as asking whether or not the hero will continue on to future adventures and journeys, and Scott Pilgrim, by walking through the door with Ramona, chooses the affirmative.

Rachel Campbell