SAN DIEGO Have video games finally gone mainstream?
After decades of Hollywood adaptations of hit game franchises like Eidos' "Tomb Raider," Capcom's "Resident Evil" and Konami's "Silent Hill," Hollywood has created the first film that is designed to really speak to the video game generation.
The release of Universal Pictures' "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" marks a milestone, of sorts, for the $50 billion global video game business.
While director Edgar Wright's film is based on a series of comic books by Bryan Lee O'Malley, not a video game, the universe he's created weaves classic video game elements with an alternate reality that focuses on a cast of 20-something gamers.
In other words, it's the first Hollywood feature created by gamers, for gamers.
"Scott Pilgrim is somebody who's grown up being a gamer, which has given him unearned confidence in some areas, and then in other areas he has no idea how to deal with people in the sense that he hurts people's feelings without realizing it or he's kind of thoughtless sometimes," said Wright.
The central plot of this different love story also revolves around games.
Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera) must battle the seven evil "exes" of his new girlfriend Ramona Flowers (played by played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Each battle is set up with a "vs." on the screen right out of classic fighting games like Capcom's "Street Fighter II."
When enemies are defeated they explode into coins like characters from Nintendo's "Super Mario Bros."
GAMING REFERENCES THROUGHOUT
The first image viewers see on the screen is a digital Universal Pictures globe, accompanied by mono-synthesized music straight out of the classic Nintendo Entertainment System from the 1990s.
The characters in the film discuss video games like Microsoft's "Halo" franchise and Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda."
"I think these things make the movie very emotionally nostalgic for a lot of people because I mean everyone played Nintendo," said Cera, who headlines a young cast of Hollywood gamers.
Cera said it was fun to step into the role of the comic book character, who essentially stars in his own video game.
"It was nice because I got to re-visit my childhood," said Cera. "I brought my Nintendo from my parent's house to my apartment and played every night after work. I played "Super Mario Bros. 3" a lot and "Contra" and "Battletoads.""
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 68 percent of Americans play video games. With the average age of a gamer now 35, there's a huge movie-going audience who will laugh at the references within the new film.
For example, as Scott Pilgrim defeats each enemy, he receives a larger amount of coins for each kill and a high score counter appears on screen.
"I think when you hear those video game noises or references like that you immediately click with the movie," said Kieran Culkin, who plays Scott's roommate Wallace Wells.
According to Nielsen Research, 9.3 percent of American video game households' monthly entertainment dollars is spent on video games.
That bodes well for Ubisoft, which has a new downloadable "Scott Pilgrim" arcade game available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game maker collaborated with Wright to bring the comic to virtual life in a retro, 2D action/fighting game.
"When you see Scott grab an 'extra life' icon in the movie, that image comes directly from our game," said Michael Micholic, senior brand manager, Ubisoft.
"We've taken a lot of stuff from the movie that they've been willing to share with us and put it in the game."
(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)