Skip to content

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I don’t really approve of criticizing movie adaptations for how they failed to live up to one’s personal connection to the source material. Having said that, Scott Pilgrim really failed to live up to my connection to the source material.

I love the books, published as a series of six manga-sized graphic novels. The books kind of gave me a feeling like I felt like I knew these characters and was in on their jokes and would have wanted to hang out with them (in my younger days, or, hell, now). It’s not that these characters are paragons of awesome — it’s that they’re familiar. They have recognizable inner lives. Even when they’re clueless or narcissistic or petty, you know people like that, and look past it. (Incidentally, this is also how I felt about Pilgrim director Edgar Wright’s equally brilliant Spaced.) But at the end of the movie — SPOILER, but not really — when Scott & Ramona decide to stay together, I was just thinking “sooo… why are these two still together, again? Scott likes her hair, and Ramona likes… ???” It made sense in the books, but movie-Scott never really grew up. (He probably should have stayed with the teenaged Knives Chau.)

I think a big part of the problem is the decision to keep all the fight scenes. In the books, they’re spread out over something like 1300 pages, and break up the story. In the film, they pile right on top of each other in the second half, with a few brief character moments in between. It’s exhausting where it should be exhilarating, and it leaves out the heart. I found myself wishing there had been, say, four evil exes. The would have pissed off the fans, but you know what? Screw the fans. Catering to comic book fanboy literalism did in The Watchmen and ignoring it made Ghost World all kinds of awesome. Cutting out the middle fights would have given the non-fighting bits of the movie some much-needed room to breathe. (Also, this doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, but more and more I appreciate Quentin Tarantino’s decision to put all the action scenes in Kill Bill in the first half and all the character scenes in the second half.)

I also really appreciated that in both the Scott Pilgrim books and Spaced (and Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, too) the whole process felt really personal, and also totally DIY, like the people making it know exactly what they want to do, but are figuring how to do it as they go along. The movie doesn’t feel that way. It’s a little too slick for a story about a bunch of Canadian slacker indie kids. It’s awesome to see Edgar Wright exercise his incredible pop-culture imagination on a big Hollywood production, but I think he needs to find his own rules and limits without being tied down by adapting an existing work.