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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World vs. The Comic vs. The Adaptation vs. The Video Game

Posted: August 16, 2010 at 4:31 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

That’s right!  We are back with a new round of questions and answers, this time taking of the ever evolving universe of Scott Pilgrim in order to celebrate the film’s release this weekend (and just how awesome Scott Pilgrim is in general).  And this time things get “heated.”  Read on to find out why.


Lauren: Because Zac has taken it upon himself to act as my big ol’ boss man by saying this was “assigned” to me so I could start with my “euphoric” position on the movie, I guess I will before he throws a temper tantrum (JAB!).  Personally I think he should start since I started the last one, but whatevs…  Get ready for some euphoria.

For those of you who don’t know I was lucky enough to get into an advanced screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at Comic Con, which just so happens to be the best group of people to premiere a film like this with.  We are nerds, and all things nerdy have a tendency to bring about mass joygasms when done right.  Of course if Edgar Wright had messed it up it could have gotten the same crowd reaction as the preview forDevil did when the words “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan” came onto the screen.  If he had been there I am sure someone would have been more than willing to shank him over what he did to The Last Airbender considering people were shanked this weekend for much less.  Luckily enough for Wright and the viewing audience he took the preferred route.  When cast members came on the screen with their name tags people erupted in cheers, when an image was perfectly recreated from the book to screen people cheered, when Scott did what he did best and brought about a big “K.O.” to the evil exes people cheered, and when a comedic bit happened, which was pretty much always, it was hard to hear the next thing said because the laughter was booming.  Basically there was much rejoicing, and we had all drank the Kool-Aid.  When the film was over and Edgar Wright came on stage the standing ovation lasted for about as long as the one for Harrison Ford the next day, overwhelming Wright to the point of getting a wee bit choked up.  He might not have expected a reception as strong as this, but he deserved it in my opinion.

So Zac, I take it that it wasn’t that ridiculous watching it with those so-called normal people?

Zac: Well the “normies” at my screening seemed to eat the film up quite a bit as well but were obviously not at your crowd’s level of excitement.  I do think the film will resonate with the non-Pilgrim faithful though.  Early on there was a very in-joke from the comic and only a few people seemed to get it, which implies there weren’t a lot of comic fans at the screening.  I say this because the entire audience was laughing and getting excited in all the right places, and even cheering, as Scott Pilgrim moved up the ranks of evil ex’s.  So clearly this isn’t just a film that fans of the comics will be able to enjoy.

And there is good reason why anyone could walk in and enjoy this film, it is a lot of fun and is superbly crafted.  Edgar Wright was finally given a budget of significance and he doesn’t waste a penny.  It actually gets me salivating at what he might have been able to do in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead if he had this kind of money.  I guarantee you zombies wouldn’t just have gotten knocked over with a head bonk from a cricket stick if Wright had the budget to blow some zombie heads.  But let’s get back to Pilgrim.

The film is fast paced, hilarious, and has action to spare and the Pilgrim virgins, especially those that grew up with an NES, should be able to find something to latch on to and love.  But enough about what the general audience will think about the film, the “normies” should know by now if they will like it or not.  What about the fans of the novels, how do you think it will go over with them?

Lauren: Well I am assuming you can base it on the crowd response from my screening considering no one would sit out on a sidewalk all day had they not already been familiar with the novels.  So basically they are going to love seeing the novels come to life.  When the film starts off it stays rather faithful to the books to get people raring to go with the realization that Wright respects the world and fans he is making this film for, but it does not get overly comfortable and familiar before it takes a path to set it apart from the source material.  When making it he didn’t have the latter half of the books published yet, so no one really has the right to get upset for how the film differentiates from the story they already know.  And in all honesty, I believed that Wright understood the material well enough to get the spirit right, and even when things weren’t quite the same they still felt completely faithful to the Pilgrim world.  Nothing was said or done that could not have just as easily come straight from the books, and I really appreciated that.  In the end I will say that I do prefer the 6th book to the ending of the film, but in all honesty I don’t think I could say that I prefer one as a whole to the other.  I say this because on a second viewing when I was making sure to really pay attention to the film and not just get caught up in all of the excitement I did really notice the stuff that I missed from the books and I could really pay attention to where this film falls a little short, but when I left the theater I was still thoroughly entertained by the outcome.

By saying that I obviously had a few things on my list that I would have loved to see in the film, but I want to hear your opinion about this first.  As a fan were you satisfied with the adaptation?  And what do you feel was missing from the film?

Zac: I think the fans will be over the moon happy with the first 3/5 of the film or so since it is basically watching O’Malley’s book in motion.  But as an adaptation I think there are a lot of things you could kind of pick apart about those final 2/5 of the movie.

For starters I think it was kind of a big mistake to try and convince us Knives was still a viable option for Scott by the end of the picture.  In fact, I don’t think the film does anything to show that Scott is still thinking about Knives once Ramona shows up, just like in the books, but all of a sudden in the finale she is being put on a pedestal as a choice for Scott.  I couldn’t help but think, “Her?”  The chip on Ramona was also very odd and I didn’t quite understand what it did exactly.  Hopefully this makes some sort of sense the second time around.

There were also a couple other things I would have liked to see that didn’t quite make the cut as well.  I would have loved to have seen Scott’s fight for Kim from the second book; as well as Lisa.  The glowing heads would have been nice as well, but Wright’s ending eliminated the need for that anyways.  Also, “CASUAL SEX”, proper placement of the Knives/Ramona fight, more Kim and Stephen Stills, Joseph, the Bionic Arm, and I am sure there are more I will think of.

Beyond this, I think that you could argue that the 4th ex on loses the true spirit of the comic.  Sure the fights are fun, well executed, and look fantastic, but Wright ditches those great moments in between the fights which I really loved about the book.  I understand that when the script was wrapped up O’Malley had only released three books, but why did Wright and Bacall decide to just run with the action and get rid of the quieter moments.  They had a plethora of great characters to create some original humor with, and the pair showed they could create some good original gags that fit right in with O’Malley’s material earlier on in the film, so what the hell happened?  Instead we get a rushed third act, a very simplified break up, and Scott doesn’t have to deal with a whole lot to come to his decision to fight on.  Were Wright and Bacall afraid to create whole plotlines that weren’t in the book? Or were they worried about pushing their runtime?  I don’t know, but I must say this is probably my biggest issue with the film; both as an adaptation and as a stand alone work.

So Lauren, what are your biggest issues with the film/adaptation process?  And any insight on to why you think they streamlined things in the third act?

Lauren: Honestly I think I have to agree with pretty much everything you said.  I missed the bionic arm, would have preferred the fight between Ramona and Knives to take place when it was supposed to, as well as the additional confrontation in a later novel in the bathroom that progressed into a fight between Knives and Envy Adams (who I would have also loved to have seen more of, including her backstory and where her character went after her boyfriend cashed out), and then Scott Pilgrim’s nature sabbatical thing.  Also, I didn’t think that they showed just how much of a moocher and poor Scott Pilgrim is, but instead leaned on his Coke Zero dependency.  I mean, I was actually thrown off when he would pay for things in the movie, though I supposed the collected money after the exes were defeated does add up.  But I think the thing I missed the most story wise was the glowing heads for sure because they were just so laughably ridiculous in idea and in how people reacted to them (like Kim taking a pic of Ramona to prove that she was glowing), especially considering they don’t get explained until the end.

So yeah, the chip was kind of a weak point for me and after seeing the film two times I am still not quite sure about it.  But I will say this, she has the chip in the “Scott’s dead” world when talking to him about being obsessed with Gideon but I am almost positive we don’t see the chip once Scott comes back to reality.  She rubs the back of her neck, but I am pretty sure that is the only allusion to it, so it is most likely just symbolic of her feelings.  If that is the case than I am not as strongly opposed to the chip (because it isn’t some crazy mind control thing), but I would have still much rather had the glowing heads.

However, the biggest failing of the film for me was with this version of Ramona Flowers because she was just such a Debby Downer.  Sure she definitely had her self-loathing brooding going on in the books, but she was also able to have some more lighthearted moments that made it more understandable why Scott would put himself through a marathon of battles in order to fight for the chance to date her.  I know he was fascinated by her constantly changing hair, but that alone isn’t worth all this.  We still got to see her bust out in her BA kung fu prowess fashion, like the hilarious scene in which she forced Pilgrim’s hands while fighting her ex Roxy (though I would have loved to have seen his face peaking out of her bag while she fought as well), but emotionally she didn’t get to have the proper arc that she should have.  Instead her character always seemed a little standoffish, defensive, and unsure of the relationship.  We just never got to see her walls come down as she transitioned, putting Mary Elizabeth Winstead in an uncomfortably static position.

Which brings me to Knives.  The only thing I can say about the ending was that she was never who Scott would choose for himself, which he makes clear during his second life through the final boss level (“level 7”) against Gideon.  Knives was psychotically infatuated with him to the point that she stuck around to the bitter end, so maybe in some way Ramona thought even this was better for Scott than she could be.  Which is why I will again reiterate that the 6th book handled itself stronger than the film.  If Ramona had disappeared for herself in order to find herself and not simply just gone back to Gideon, her presenting Knives as an option for Scott would make more sense.  Maybe she was still having difficulty not leaning on her tendency to run, but she seemed to just want to make him happy, and she thought that somehow Knives could do that (because Knives “loves” him and because Knives isn’t Ramona).  After all, if you love someone you have to let them go, right?

As for the third act, I can say that while watching the films I was counting down the exes: okay, 5 more to go… now 4 more… and they did start to feel rushed together as the film progressed and they moved away from the published source material available.  This became all the more apparent when I wasn’t riding the high of the Comic-Con audience experience.  Seriously, each of the first few battles have a good chunk of time between them for some less action oriented story building, but once #3 is taken out all it takes is a location change and we are already to evil ex #4, with 5, 6, and 7 falling shortly after.  Maybe they just didn’t want to lose the momentum building during the film.  Maybe they understood how much people hate having to wander around leveling up in RPGs when all they want to do is progress past the next battle in the game, so the filmmakers started cutting down on the other stuff.  Maybe they just didn’t realize where these characters could go, so they wanted to keep them on a shorter, safer leash.  I don’t really know.  I can only speculate about what happened with this rush but I will say that it just felt as if they were afraid to wander too far off the path laid out for them because it might really tick off some people.

Goodness, the more I think about it the more you have me questioning my “euphoric” memory of this film.  But let’s stop complaining for now.  With all that music, fighting, and hilarity surely there is something for you to rave about like a true fan should.

Zac: “Cashed out,” well done my friend.  Well for all the picking we have done, yes there is plenty to love in the film.  From the brilliant shoe-tying placement in the pre-Gideon ramp up, Julie Powers ability to bleep herself and the entire first two thirds of the film or so; there is a lot to love.

I think they did a great job with Young Neil (and him being anointed Neil was a high point) as Wright and Johnny Simmons did a great job at expanding and breathing life into a minimal/thinner character in the book.  Also Mark Webber perfectly captured the Stephen Stills freak outs and the crazy eyed looks he would give in the comic.  In fact, I think Wright nailed all of those crazy over the top reactions really well and I was very curious how you capture that same intensity found in O’Malley’s panels.

One of the things I loved the most though about the film was the superb Vegan Police cameos.  Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins Jr. were just perfect for some reason and I can imagine they only could have been topped by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in those parts.  Though I don’t know if Frost could pass as a vegan; sorry buddy.

I can’t wait to see the film again though to try and catch all of the video game music cues hiding underneath the sound design.  My favorite had to be the Zelda chest discovery noise when Knives was spying in the window.  Or the Fairy Fountain music, that was stellar as well.  If only they would have thrown Cera in the link costume.

Of things I was ecstatic to see carry over in the adaptation were Lucas Lee’s skateboard demise, “Cocky Cock,” the near shot for shot recreation of the Mathew Patel fight (especially the juggling), Scott stalking Ramona at the party, and there are countless more.  But the single best part of the film could arguably be the music, especially Beck’s Sex Bob-omb creations.  Those opening credits rocked my fucking socks off and it really gets you into the movie as Sex Bob-omb rocks out and your toes get tapping.

How bout you Lauren, what rocked your world?

Lauren: Well Zac, if you must know Michael Cera rocked my world.  I never thought I would have the opportunity to say that, but that boy really knew what he was doing.  Sure I might have laughed more than I should have at his kissing face; I just couldn’t help it.  But other than that I was so pleased to see that he didn’t ruin the role for me, throwing my previous doubts in my face.  I know you will argue that Scott Pilgrim really isn’t that far from classic Cera, but for me there was a big difference here than in his previous work because I actually didn’t feel like I was just sitting there watching him while watching the movie.  He was Scott Pilgrim, so mad props Cera.

Similar to Cera’s ability to transition a favorite character from the page to the screen, almost everyone was capable of doing just that (minus what I previously said about Ramona…).  One of the performances I was pleasantly surprised by was the way Alison Pill read her lines for Kim Pine.  Even though she was always a negative character who hates the world I still read her with my voice, so it was really nice to hear how Pine chose to make her really monotonous in her tone and incredibly deadpan.  I thought it was pretty hilarious.  Plus, I can’t go through this thing without mentioning Superman.  One of my favorite dialog moments came from Brandon Routh with his maid spiel, as well as the way in which the Vegan Police took him down.  Sure the green might have just been a veggie reference; but come on, they weakened him with green lasers!  It’s Kryptonite!

In addition to the characters a great amount of detail went into transitioning the feel of a comic book to screen, which I really appreciated.  The editing of the film was done in a way that alluded back to how quickly reading through different panels goes in a comic, and when necessary they also used split screen type stuff to further emphasize the source material.  I also really loved that they didn’t lose the animated text within the pictures/shots, instead of just sticking to the audio that you obviously can’t use in a book.

And then there was the source material of the comics, namely video games.  As you mentioned before a lot of audio cues alluded to video games, like Sonic, Legend of Zelda, etc, and then as well as in the fight scenes with words like “VS,” “solo round,” and “two player mode” flashing across the screen, but I really liked how Wright took this one step further in his final confrontation with Gideon.  I might have already talked about how this last act of the film was a weaker point for me, but I thought the way they incorporated Scott’s use of his extra life and then how he made a second attempt at the final boss battle was pure genius, and I could completely sympathize with that through my gaming life.  That and the use of adding up the XP points throughout as he continued to level up was just icing on the cake for me.

So yeah, with that and the fights, music, and comedy, this movie sure was all that and a bag of barbecue potato chips that somehow manage not to leave your breath stinky.  That’s right, that good.

Zac: Barbecue chips, blah, gross! Your BBQ chip love distracted my rant you deserve.

Lauren, what the hell are you talking about!?  Let’s quote you, “I know you will argue that Scott Pilgrim really isn’t that far from classic Cera, but for me there was a big difference here than in his previous work because I actually didn’t feel like I was just sitting there watching him while watching the movie.”

What, I, what? I have been one of the biggest proponents that Cera was a great choice, has a range that no one gives him credit for, and that I thought he was going to be the perfect Scott Pilgrim; which he was!  How dare you doubt my faith in Cera, I’m one of his biggest supporters.  Maybe you were just trying to deflect your doubts of him onto someone else, but I say, “How dare you!”

Moving on, enough chastising, I think you have learned to never doubt my love for Cera (That doesn’t sound right).

I have seen the film twice now since we started this back and forth and the film plays even better the second time around, especially for fans of the book.  The adaptation issues I had barely bothered me the second time out and I was able to really enjoy the film on its own right without picking it apart along the way.  I still think I will keep the same grade I gave it before though, a solid A-.

Before we wrap this up I also wanted to comment on a couple things that really are quite amazing in the film and stay so the second time around.  The original music in this film can not be praised enough and I really think it would be incredible if one of Beck’s songs got nominated for an Oscar.  What would only make this better is if Sex Bob-omb performed on stage at the awards!  Also, we didn’t mention the awesomeness of Roxie “bamf-ing” around like Nightcrawler which was one of the finest little touches in the film.  Finally, of all the editing brilliance of the film I think its finest hour (see what I did there) has to be the Clash at Demonhead performance.  Just spine tingling incredible and a pitch perfect blend of music and editing.

The video game is also just fucking amazing and is available now on PSN and in a couple weeks on XBL.  The animation is brilliant, the music rocks, and the game has made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions.  All the little nods to the book are just the cherries on top of an excellent upgrade system and brilliant design that is influenced by every great beat em up since the NES days.  It is very light on story and what not, but where that lacks it perfectly captures the world of Scott Pilgrim and the games that inspired it that you don’t really care.  If you are playing the game then you probably know the story.  I cannot recommend this enough for fans of the film and especially the books; buy it now!

And that about does it for me, any final thoughts to share before we wrap up this epic Q&A?  Two times through I am still not sure when that chip was put on Ramona’s neck; any thoughts on that?  Was it always there and that is why she was obsessed with him?

Lauren: That’s it; I am going to have to go out with a list of bullet points (and a lot of defensive glaring):

  • *BBQ potato chips are just as delicious as they are (not) nutritious.  I might not love them as much as Scott Pilgrim loves garlic bread (if I throw in a random reference this seems more relevant), but they are still amazing.
  • *Let me break this quote down for you before you start smashing windows with your forehead during your tirade: ““I know you will argue that Scott Pilgrim really isn’t that far from classic Cera, but for me there was a big difference here than in his previous work because I actually didn’t feel like I was just sitting there watching him while watching the movie.” – Back in the day when this film was still in production I said that I was iffy on Cera because Cera seems the same in all his roles to me, which is why I wasn’t sure if he should do this.  And you said to me that Cera wouldn’t ruin this because Scott Pilgrim is very similar to Cera, making him the perfect choice.  That’s all I was referencing.  Nowhere in there did I question your fealty to Cera.  I was just expressing how excited I was that he brought this character to life without changing the character to better suit himself.  I guess I must have just touched a nerve with my sexy double meaning of Cera rocking my world.  You can have him if he means so much to you, so direct your stink-eye away from me and back to your shrine.  And to end this retort with style and grace:    :p
  • *I did see what you did there, but it was hardly an hour.  Literal snap, son!
  • *Like I said before, I think the chip was just some symbolic thing that was only in the dream/death world and not actually in the real world, so it was “placed” on her neck when she became obsessed with Gideon.

Other than that there are no more final thoughts from my end other than the books are great, the film is great, and I cannot wait to play this game that you deem deserving of an F-bomb (I was going to throw in a joke about f-bombs and sex bob-omb but I have been so wounded by your attack that my usual awesomeness has faltered).

Zac: Wow, things really escalated quickly there.  Oh well, good talk, what should we do next?  Any thoughts, give our dozens of readers something to look forward too?

Lauren: Yeah, I’ll need to think on that one a bit.  We could do a reiteration of our favorite films of the summer, or perhaps a discussion of the meaning of life.  It’s a toss up with those for me… No, just kidding.  So now I will point the finger at the readers.  Yeah, you!  Is there anything you would like to read us blabber on about with a slight ebb and flow of aggression?  Write them down below!  K thanks!