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Scott Pilgrim vs the World Retro Review – A Solid and Innovative Adaptation

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BY May 9, 2020
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There have been so many comic book adaptations in the world of film, especially over the past decade. However, there is such a wide array of adaptations that there can be no such thing as a proper “comic book movie”. While films like Avengers: Endgame and Snowpiercer are both adaptations, they couldn’t be further apart. Some movies turn the story into a whole new world, where others try to make a faithful adaptation to their source material. Though, if you’re looking for a film that truly takes the fun and art of a comic book and translates it on screen, then look no further than Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The 2010 film is based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim. It doesn’t just make for an adequate adaptation,  but instead brings the story to life in a way that innovates the way we look at adaptations. In this retro review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, we’ll look at the movie in terms of a standalone film and how it works in the Scott Pilgrim universe.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Retro Review

For those who have yet to see the film or read the comic, the storyline is pretty simple. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22-year-old  living in a small Toronto home with his roommate, Wallace. He has just started dating Knives, a high-schooler who is obsessed with Scott and his band, Sex-Bob-Omb. Scott’s life seems to be pretty basic, doing little more than playing with his band and going to record stores with Knives. However, only days after dreaming about a mysterious woman, he meets her at a party. Ramona Flowers is a quirky Amazon delivery girl who is about to change Scott’s life.

For no definable reason, Scott is given the responsibility of defeating all of Ramona’s ex-partners before he can date her. Entranced by her charm, he sees no problem with this. The remainder of the film watches on as Scott deals with battling each of the seven evil exes, including Gideon, the “boss fight”. While navigating this chaotic situation, Scott must also deal with past lovers, the battle of the bands, and other normal 20-something struggles.

Scott Pilgrim vs the world retro review Image via Bryan Lee O’Malley/Oni Press

A Film Led By Perfect Casting

Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader… The impressive cast list for this film goes on. Edgar Wright’s mission for casting the film was to create a blend of well-known actors and complete unknowns. Many of the stars, like Plaza and Kendrick, shot to stardom while the movie was being made or immediately after. Others took longer to get their shot at stardom, and even more ended up making it huge with superhero films.

An impressive cast list doesn’t always make for perfect performances. However, each star manages to fall into their roles in ways that compliments the characters, while also exaggerating their special skills as actors. Michael Cera may forever be typecast as the awkward yet goofy friend. While that type of typecasting may not seem like the kind to star in a major movie, his relatability makes it work. And, while Cera is undeniably the lead of the film, there’s enough screentime for everyone. So, each character is able to thrive by bouncing off of one another.

Scott pilgrim vs. the world review Image via Universal Pictures.

Why Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Is More Than Just A Fun Story

As mentioned, the plot for this movie isn’t anything wild. It’s a basic tale about a boy meeting a girl, and instantly falling for her. The only deviation from the typical romance plot is the whole “fight to the death” thing. It plays up the idea of loving someone with a little bit of baggage, but knowing that they’re worth it. But is Ramona worth it? Some critics of the film have cited the lack of in-depth development for Scott and Ramona. While it’s true that there’s more time spent seeing Scott with Ramona’s exes instead of her, it makes sense for the movie. We need to believe that Ramona is worth fighting for, and her role as the manic pixie dream girl allows for this to work.

Scott is instantly captivated by Ramona. He’s willing to fight her exes after little more than one date. As Scott defeats more of her exes, we slowly get to learn more about Ramona and her background. This mimics how a lot of relationships go, but with a little more action. We rarely know all about someone at the start of a relationship, and have to fight to break those barriers. There are some concerns on how Ramona’s barriers should run deeper than her past dating life, but the movie really only seeks to show the exciting stuff.

Scott Pilgrim As A Transmedia Work Of Art

The original graphic novel series was released in black and white. A colored version didn’t come out until years later. However, the graphic novels are told in such exciting ways that it still feels colorful. The film takes the art from the pages and directly translates it on screen. Take the musical performances as an example. You can see every vibration of the music. The presentation is equally about audio and visual, and the way that it’s presented is with the same techniques that a soundless comic uses.

Transmedia storytelling is essentially delivering a narrative using a blend of different creative techniques. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World throws in little details of unrealistic sounds, imagery, and on-screen captions. These wouldn’t work in just any movie, including other comic adaptations. These additions are what makes Scott Pilgrim such a true comic book adaptation. Even if you’d never heard of the source material, you’d be able to feel the comic book influences.

How Scott Pilgrim Is A New Cult Classic

This is such a well-known film that many may be surprised to remember just how much it bombed at the box office. It failed to reach $50 million, despite its $85 million budget. While it didn’t earn much money at the theatres, enough critics praised the film. It quickly gathered a big following. It’s become far more than just Marvel fans going back and watching the stars earlier works, wanting to see Steve Rogers before he was Captain America.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is relatable. It’s rewatchable. All of the things that make it look outdated add to its quirkiness and charm. It has classic geek-appeal, yet doesn’t conform to any singular fan base. I remember being in high school and having friends constantly ask if I’d seen it yet. And, almost a decade later, it was chosen as the main film of focus in a university class I took that focused on the narrative of digital texts and video games. It’ll forever thrive because its a movie that begs to be talked about.

Our retro review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is that this is a film that’s worth watching, and worth watching again. It’s cute and quirky, yet also features some badass action, music, and witty banter. Fans of graphic novels have clear reasons to love it. Or, if you just want to watch some A-list stars before their bigger debuts, then it works for that, too!

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Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.

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