One of my favorite movies of the past five years is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright’s energetic, hilarious adaption of the comic book series from Bryan Lee O’Malley. I was so swept away by its surprising humor, flashy style, and propulsive music that I wasn’t all that bothered to hear that fans of the original comic had found it wanting. Now I’ve finally read the books, and while it hasn’t diminished my appreciation of the film, now I get the arguments of those who found it disappointing.
Scott Pilgrim is the story of the lives and loves of a 23-year-old ne’er-do-well bass player in Toronto. Scott’s precious little life is stirred up when the (literal) girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, arrives in town. But Ramona is plagued by a league of evil exes, and in order to win Ramona’s heart, Scott must defeat them all.
The comic series is wonderfully funny and inventive, blending traditional comic book action with twentysomething angst, video game lore, music, and metahumor. The comics are, in other words, exactly what the movie would lead you to expect. Comparing the two, it’s easy to see now where the film accelerates the timetable, condenses story, and cuts corners. The original comic takes place over a much longer timeline, which makes the Scott-Ramona romance more credible, and there’s a lot more time spent on backstory. Understandly, entire subplots and characters from the comics were cut out of the film. Some characters (Kim Pine and the twins, for example) get short shrift in the movie, while Knives Chau sees an expanded role. Examining the film it’s easy to see why those choices were made, and I’m sure it helps the movie work as a more streamlined entertainment. I also think Wright uses sound and motion brilliantly in the film to add to the source material’s humor and style. But there is a richness to the books, on the story level, that is missing in the film.
Short answer: if you loved the film, you’ll love the comic. (Consider it the director’s cut!) I read the original black-and-white books, but it’s currently being re-issued in a new color version, so now might be a good time to check it out. I found it every bit as entertaining as the film, if not moreso.