To commemorate the release of Edgar Wright’s newest film, Baby Driver—a film which would be perfect for this feature had I been able to see it this week—I’m looking back at one of the more influential movies I’ve encountered in my life, 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Wright’s hipster extravaganza is still one of the most daringly original comic adaptations ever to grace the screen, a claim that has grown stronger over the past few, comics-saturated films.
While the visual aspects of this film can be picked apart endlessly, the aspect of Wright’s filmmaking that sticks with me most is his relentless sense of rhythm.
There’s little screen time in Scott Pilgrim that isn’t underscored by music, be that music from outside sources, scoring by Nigel Godrich, or music created for the film by the likes of Beck and Broken Social Scene.
It should be noted that the sheer variety of music sources does complicate this film’s soundtrack as I have been defining them.
As I have been looking at soundtracks so far, they are derived completely from music that predates the film, which the filmmakers curate together to flesh out the atmosphere of their picture (hence Curating Mood).
Scott Pilgrim’s soundtrack is about half and half made for the film and selected for the film, but there is still due praise for the artists chosen to create for the film and some of the themes that show up in Godrich’s score.
For example, the Zelda theme that appears early on in one of Scott’s dreams. Or the 8-bit version of Universal’s dream. Brilliant bits of texturing that are equal parts propulsive storytelling and confident world building.
Lest we forget, there is also a bass battle between Scott and Superman—I mean, Todd—where Scott just plays the bass line from Final Fantasy as Todd shreds an amazing (and original) bass line. The Final Fantasy bass line also plays into an earlier joke/moment of character development that helps us understand how much of a piece of shit Scott can be.
(Seriously, casting Michael Cera as Scott is one of the more inspired choices in this film, the character runs the risk of being insufferable were it anyone else playing him.)
Just look at the way he treats Knives!!! Every time I re-watch this film I realize more and more that Knives is the true heart and soul of this story. Yeah, Scott gets Ramona and whatever, but Knives learns that she’s a badass warrior and doesn’t need Scott’s dependent ass.
She’s better off with Young Neil anyways.
It’s odd to me that out of all the people in this film who immediately blew up—look at the cast list and tell me I’m at all wrong that 50% of the people who were lesser-knowns in 2010 are now EVERYWHERE—Ellen Wong seemed to remain a hidden gem.
She brings so much energy to every scene, and her infinite sadness at losing Scott is utterly heartbreaking. One shot gets underscored by Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”, a song fully fitting in name that also happens to be one of my favorite crying songs.
Also, Brie Larson, recent Oscar-winner and coolest person ever, shows up as Scott’s ex and does a cover of Metric’s “Black Sheep” that is somehow better than the original song.
It sadly doesn’t appear on the album, but here’s a video of it.
One of the greatest things about this film is how good the music created for these fictional bands is.
Beck’s Sex Bob-Omb tracks are the perfect reckless grunge for Scott’s band, “Summertime” being my favorite of their tracks despite not making much of a presence in the film. But of course “Threshold” deserves praise for showing up in that amazing band battle sequence.
Broken Social Scene’s Crash and the Boys are also an amazing feat of songwriting.
In the Bryan Lee O’Malley comics, the descriptions of Crash’s sound intentionally verge on the near unimaginable, but Broken Social Scene somehow make them feel simultaneously organic and unbelievable—even more respectable as the songs are contrasted with their own somber “Anthems of a Seventeen Year Old Girl”.
As for the songs selected for the film, beyond the early ’90s tracks that inspired the property itself—Scott’s name does in fact come from the Plumtree song—most belong to scenes featuring Ramona Flowers.
It’s actually quite an appropriate filmmaking choice since the film is so rooted in Scott’s perspective. The romance that blossoms between the two is supported by crooning, lingering songs from artists like The Rolling Stones, The Bluetones, Beachwood Sparks who embody fully that slower, longing classic rock atmosphere.
Music is so integral to this movie I honestly didn’t need to give it a re-watch to remember all of the little details that populate its runtime, though I would never deprive myself of such an enjoyable viewing experience.
Just press play down below and be a little startled by how transported you can be by a soundtrack alone. Also, give this scene a quick view because Mae Whitman playing Roxy and antagonizing Scott is probably the best meta-joke for Arrested Development fans that doesn’t come directly from the show itself.
It’s also the second Arrested Development link in a row! (Thank you to Maeby Fünke for being in Whip It). Hopefully, the trend continues.
Check back next week for a new installment of Curating Mood on The Indie Sound.