Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the world’s first movie version of Breakcore, even if that wasn’t Edgar Wright’s intention.  The comic is a manic, high-speed blender of manga, indie rock, video games, and urban slacker chic and it works because it balances all of those elements without really trying to make sense of them.  As a comic, Scott Pilgrim seems unlikely for a film adaptation because its hero is a schlub and the book’s constant stream of asides and in-jokes just seems too dense to work at a movie’s pace.  But Edgar Wright and company have pulled it off, and if Scott Pilgrim finds an audience, it might just inspire a whole new style of filmmaking. 

Like so many microgenres of electronic music, Breakcore spins off from other, more established styles with enough distinction that fans of the parents may not be fans of the children.  While it maintains the pace and energy of the Jungle and Drum-n-Bass tunes from which it spawned, Breakcore gleefully pisses on the ridgid structures of traditional DJ-oriented music by tossing every potential influence into the mix at any moment.  Breakcore exists as an extension of the hyper-connected, media-saturated modern world where a person may click through a dozen clips or pictures or quotes from different sources in less than a minute–just long enough to get the taste of each thing without ever stopping to digest any of them.  As a musical style, it’s made possible by a generation of media consumers who don’t distinguish between high art and low brow, between good clean fun and depraved sarcasm, or between referencing and stealing.  Scott Pilgrim plays in that same sandbox.

Though Scott Pilgrim vs. The World isn’t imbued with Breakcore’s fascination with everything twisted and macabre, it does come from that same scattershot frame of mind.  While Wright had to clear a music cue of Queen’s Flash Gordon score instead of just sampling it without asking, the fact that he that punctuates a scene with Gideon and Ramona near the end of the film with such a direct and off-the-wall reference speaks to the way that the contemporary media consumer’s brain works.  When we see or hear something that reminds us of something else, we no longer have to stop at the thought since almost any sound, video clip, picture, or quote can be pulled up instantly.  No matter what obscure piece of pop culture snaps into your brain when you see an image in a movie, you can now share that reference with everyone in nearly-real time.

Breakcore artists have been doing this for years now–mashing up bollywood music with samples from horror movies, classic hip hop, 8-Bit game music and anything else that can be stretched to fit the tempo, and it’s a little surprising that we haven’t seen another movie take this approach until now.  The Crank films might be the closest point of comparison in terms of their wanton disregard for boundaries, but Scott Pilgrim puts all of those tricks to use in a way that makes them feel less like tricks and more like a natural way to tell a story in 2010.  If you’ve ever wanted to have a magical movie sample machine on a keychain that could pull up the perfect sound effect or line of dialogue for any moment in your life, then welcome to Scott Pilgrim’s world.

I always wanted to see what a feature-length movie cut together at the pace of a trailer would look like and Scott Pilgrim is possibly the closest we’re ever going to get to that.  You won’t be able to read every screen graphic, catch every sound effect or borrowed music cue, understand every word of dialogue or game shout-out, or even necessarily follow why the story goes to some of the places it goes on first viewing–but you aren’t meant to.  As we all troll around online sampling the first 20 seconds of YouTube videos, checking our text messages, glancing a tweet, skimming a blog and then cycling through all of those things again and again, we don’t catch everything.  In fact, we can allow our minds to wander even when we think that we’re paying attention to whatever it is that is displayed on any one of half a dozen screens that might be on at any given point.  This is our world now, and it’s personafied perfectly by Scott Pilgrim’s blipvert momentum.

Max Headroom was right about the future of media–that it would get condensed and layered to the point that we couldn’t even make direct sense of it.  Scott Pilgrim isn’t a hard movie to follow or understand, but it might take people who aren’t used to such rapid-fire information by surprise.  In a way though, it feels like the first movie to really come from and get the way that a generation brought up with multiple display screens in their face at almost all times sees the world.  It’s not cluttered, overloaded, or frantic–in fact it’s just a little more colorful and imaginative than what we had before.