Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Remains One of the Best Comic Book Movies Ever Made
Ten years ago, the comic book movie adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World landed in theaters. The film was sadly a box office bob-omb, making $48.1 million against a substantial budget of $85 million. Despite that, the 2010 movie directed by Edgar Wright is considered a classic and is, in my mind, one of the best comic book adaptations put to screen.
Based on the graphic novel series by Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley, the movie tells the story of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), who meets the mysterious and beautiful Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to date her, Pilgrim must do battle with each of her seven “evil exes.” The cast was like a crossover event itself with Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin, and Aubrey Plaza among its stars.
I was one of those who actually went out to see it in theaters and despite having really no idea what it was about, and I was riveted. Michael Cera ended up being a surprisingly good combat actor, and it was funny. I loved how it incorporated all of these video game and comic book elements. I went out to get the comics right after, and despite it not being a perfect adaptation, the film clearly understood what was needed to move the story around and what needed to go.
Scott Pilgrim has been criticized at times for engaging with the “manic pixie dream girl” stereotype concerning Ramona, and that all the characters are pretty morally grey people—especially Scott, who dates Knives, whom the narrative makes a big deal about being seventeen. For me, the interesting thing about the story (in both incarnations) is how it discusses the baggage we carry from relationship to relationship.
Ramona is mysterious, but that’s because she has no idea who she is. Just like her hair, she is in a constant state of reexamining herself and figuring out who she is going to be. Scott can project coolness onto that, but that is a reflection of his own shallow immaturity. He initially enjoys the novelty of Ramona, just like he enjoys the unquestioning adoration of Knives at the beginning. The comics highlight this a little bit better, but part of the reason is Scott has constantly gotten into unhealthy relationships.
It’s a romance about people who use others as crutches for their own insecurities—just with video game-like fight scenes and vegan police. No one is a perfect person. All of them are striving to figure out who they are, and I think that makes for a fun watch. I think because of Michael Cera’s reputation of playing this type of character, plus the whole optics of the “dogged nice guy” who ends up with girl out of his league thing, it might be a turn-off to some people, but I think that’s an oversimplification of a much more emotionally nuanced film.
Edgar Wright initially had an ending where Scott ended up with Knives because he thought that’s where the story was going, but honestly, I prefer the ending with Scott and Ramona because Scott doesn’t deserve Knives. She’s way too cool for him, and she should date someone her own age. Scott would never see Knives as an equal. At the end of the film Scott and Ramona both end up with someone on their emotional level, and that’s pretty darn cool.
So yeah, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a great adaptation of a fun comic, and if you haven’t checked it out, there is plenty of fun to be had … if only for the cameos. Also, the music is awesome.
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