Scott Pilgrim began it’s life as a series of graphic novels that debuted in 2004. The series spanned six volumes in all, and they told the continuing story of the eponymous “hero” and his battles with the Seven Evil Exes of the supposed love of his life, Ramona Flowers. The books were heavily inspired by music, movies, comic books, and video games from the last twenty years, and as such appealed heavily to people that came of age in the nineties.
The franchise became popular enough to inspire a feature film directed by Edgar Wright. That film premiered in August of this year, and was recently released on DVD (and Blu-Ray if you’re into that sort of thing). The movie, unfortunately, didn’t do exceptionally well at the box office, despite it being one of the most energetic and visually appealing films to be released in a long time.
But the question that brings us here today is: how does the book compare to the movie? Well, in being objective, the book and film are wildly different. Now in a lot of cases that would serve as a huge demerit to one or the other, usually the movie (I’m looking at you, The Lovely Bones), but given just how much source material had to somehow be crammed into a realistic running time, Edgar Wright, I think, really did the best job he possibly could have in stripping it down to it’s base story and removing all unneccessary distractions.
It boils down to the books being plural and having the advantage of space to sprawl out in, which a movie, any movie, lacks. It’s what you do with the space you’re given that counts. And while I loved, say, Kim’s story in the books (and I was secretly rooting for her and Scott to wind up together), it would have required too much time and effort to fit that into the film, so Wright wisely removed most of her subplot (but still kept her as the source of some of the funniest moments [on this topic, much props go to Allison Pill for still managing to convey the entire emotional spectrum of her largely excised subplot basically in two facial expressions]).
And while each book essentially deals with a new evil ex, the film can’t devote nearly as much time as that, so Wright had to boil most of them down to one encounter apiece. All of this isn’t a problem though, because had he devoted large chunks of time to each villain, he likely would have wound up with one sluggish film. Plus, he realized that while the Seven Evil Exes are the hook that draws people in, the real magic of the story is the heart underneath the shininess. It’s the relationships formed and maintained between the characters that’s the real draw, the battles are just window-dressing, really awesome window dressing.
Speaking of the characters, all participants from the book make it to the screen largely unscathed. The biggest deviations, oddly, happen with Scott and Gideon, the final Evil Ex. So our protagonist and our antagonist account for the biggest changes. Many people complained about Michael Cera’s performance, saying his Scott wasn’t the Scott of the book, and they’re right, but they’re wrong in thinking that that’s a problem. See, the Scott of the film is kind of stupid, because he’s lazy, the Scott of the book is just kind of stupid. He lacks personality, especially in the early novels, and while it reads well enough, on screen it would have been very difficult to relate to the character at all. The changes with Gideon aren’t as big a deal since they basically just afforded the character the opportunity to be more Jason Schwartzman-y, which is a bad thing exactly never.
One other interesting thing to note is that despite the aforementioned deviations, the books and film actually line up really well for about the first three exes. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together is where they really veer away from each other. It’s also where the books transcend from good to great, so take from that what you will.
So where does that leave things? Well, regardless of whether you read the books or see the movie, you are going to be supremely entertained. They’re different entities that just happen to tell basically the same story. If you would prefer that story fleshed out in beautiful ways, then the books are the way to go. If you want the story told in a bright, fast-paced, and hilarious manner, then the movie might be more your speed. But really, I would check out both.
So where to call it then? Well, for the first three books, the movie lines up really well, and is actually more fun, but from the fourth ex on, the books really come into their own. So in the interest of objectivity, the film wins the first half, and the books win the second, it’s a draw. Although the movie has Kieran Culkin’s brilliant portrayal of Wallace, so…
Posted under Kyle's Adventures in Pop Culture
This post was written by Kyle on November 23, 2010