Like most I saw the 2010 Edgar Wright adaption of the Scott Pilgrim comics, named after the Second volume, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, before I knew anything of the comic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the quirky video gamey action comedy it was. And with what little I knew about the comics I was led to believe that the film was a fairly accurate version of the Scott Pilgrim story. Having now read the series (and loved it), it is not it turns out…well not completely.
Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, I have been a fan of his work since I read his latest graphic novel, the funny and poignant Seconds, and his first graphic novel the very poignant and funny Lost at Sea; both of which are excellent. But Scott Pilgrim is his greatest achievement so far; combining fun and funny geekerific humor with an interesting story and a host of relatable characters.
Now as I said the film is an action comedy, with the romance there to thread together all the epic fight scenes and video game gags, and when it comes to fights and gags the film has it fucking spot on! The look, style and tone of each fight is very true to the style of the comics, and even the tweaks and changes they made to the fights (in the comic the twins are robotic engineers not techno musicians) are very in keeping with it. There is even a lot of dialogue and scenes recreated verbatim from the comic….but (and I think you could all feel that coming) despite all these aspects (which are basically the movie) it gets right, I have come to dislike the film. This isn’t just because of all the fascinating side-character backstory and development they left out, that’s just adaption for you, or that the lead characters Scott and Ramona are fairly off (though I will get to that). It’s because it got the tone and heart of the story wrong.
The action and comedy is right, but Scott Pilgrim isn’t an action comedy, it’s a surprisingly nuanced romantic dramedy about the trials and tribulations of mature love, and learning to accept that change is inevitable and the more you run from it the worse of a person you become (the fact all the Ex’s turn into coins (change) isn’t just because video games); with the awesome video gamey world and fights being the sprinkles on top of the cake, not the cake itself. It’s like if the 60’s Batman was the definitive adaptation of Batman; okay it got some things right but there’s more to it than that.
I know and accept that when adapting a six volume series into a two hour film a lot of details are going to have to be changed and left out, but I can’t forgive that the core of the book (the maturing and the romance) was one of them! And I KNOW it’s there in the film…But Scott and Ramona’s romance is there just for motivation and plot so that the fights scenes can happen…but it’s not what the film is about. I would have been fine for them to cut one or two of the ex’s out (the twin’s being the easiest) in favor of more time to develop the romance, but nope, perish the thought of missing one minute of the nerdgasm fight scenes.
And by the end it claims that Scott has gotten better as a person, but that just feels mostly tacked on because it needed to be there not because it earned it, and don’t even get me started on Ramona’s character…actually do, because that leads me into…
Who we would of cast….and I talk about characters n’ stuff.
This isn’t going to be a full cast list, as apart from the leads, I think the casting, from Scott’s friends to the Evil Ex’s, was pretty spot on all around.
The Problem with Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim: Honestly he’s okay, not terrible just okay. He captured the geekiness and immaturity of Scott well enough, and was funny and likable to a point…because he was just playing Michael Cera. What he really lacked was the charm and boundless charisma Scott has, that despite his looser ways draws people to him, and makes sense how he has so many friends and ex’s. Cera is just too meek and awkward to pull that off, Scotts the loveable slacker (like Fry from Futurama really), not just an awkward dweeb. He also couldn’t connect with the emotional side of Scott, which to those who have read the series know is vital to his character, Cera always opting for a gag or funny line over a real moment (and I know that’s on Edgar Write just as much).
Anton Yelchin as Scott Pilgrim: not a perfect fit, but the damn closest I could think of. His most famous turn as Chekov in the Star Trek reboot (that isn’t his real accent by the way) proves he can be funny, dorky, and energetic. His lead role in the enjoyable Fright Night remake shows he can lead a film with charisma and be plenty charming. And his role in the underrated romantic drama Like Crazy, more than proves he has the dramatic chops to add the depth and lonely nuance Cera sorely lacked.
The problem with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers: She’s just too calm faced and cool to me Ramona. The Romona Flowers’ of the comics is an emotional tornado of spunk and bad decisions, yes there is a cool hipness to her, but most of all she is an adorable, free spirited, mess, who has just as much growing up to do as Scott; that’s why you bought them together. Mary Elizabeth Winstead just looked and acted too good for Scott in the film, gone is the hyperness and vulnerability, in its place smugness and an air of sweet superiority. It always felt like she was just playing with Scott and not actually interested in him deeply.
Her character as a whole is fucking terrible when compared to the books really, but the biggest unforgivable flaw (and I know this is a problem with Edgar Wright’s adaption) is that she is never a damsel in distress in the comic! She can always take care of herself, be it fighting or running away, and that’s clearly seen most of all in that, SHE DOSEN’T GO BACK TO GIDEON! Though it’s made clear he still has an emotional hold on her, she never returns to her clearly abusive Ex like some weak willed doormat, instead leaving on her own journey of self-discovery to work out how she feels about Scott before returning to help kick Gideon’s ass together. Now I know the film came out before the comic had finished, and they did a pretty good job in predicting where the story goes and the points it needed to touch upon, but I think we all can agree Edgar Wright could of delivered something better than the old save the princess scenario. And I don’t agree “But video game!” is a valid reason.
Emma Stone as Ramona Flowers: I don’t think I even need to go much into why this would work, we all know how good Emma Stone is, from Crazy, Stupid, Love, to Birdman; and with every way I’ve described Ramona from the comics, who else could do it better?
It wasn’t till I wrote this that I realized how quickly and how much I’ve come to dislike the movie of Scott Pilgrim, so I’ll wrap this up. If you like or even love the film, more power to you, it’s a great action comedy with more heart than I think I gave it credit for, but for those looking for something more I can’t recommend the comic book series enough. All the side characters you love get buckets more of development, especially Scott’s band mates, and his own ex’s Knives and Envy. It’s sweet, funny, and just damn fine literature; a comedy that knows the heart is something to cherish and care for, and not just pull badass katanas from.