Scott Pilgrim: Love The Comic/Hate The Movie

So, the comic series Scott Pilgrim is my all-time favorite work of fiction. It’s honest, it’s inspirational, it’s punk, and I relate to it on so many levels. While personally I’ve never been in a band that actually got to play shows, or dated a seventeen year old in my twenties, I have lived on couches for years, been unemployed, tried to run away from my past, and faced the demons of a lover’s past. Scott Pilgrim is about so much more than just a boy fighting a girl’s exes, but the movie takes all that away. But don’t worry, this isn’t a list of all the differences and changes, just me going over some of the things that made me love the comic that weren’t properly executed in the film.

My first and biggest problems with the film in all honesty, are Scott and Ramona. In the movie, Scott’s personality is essentially boiled down the essence of the kind of character Michael Cera is known for: emotional: panicky, and overall pathetic. He gives off an overwhelming sense of negativity that just doesn’t suit the true character of Scott Pilgrim. In the comics Scott may have his occasional panic or emotional outbursts, but his usual demeanor is fairly relaxed in my opinion. While movie Scott is thrown into fights and seems completely out of his elements, it’s addressed at the beginning of the first fight in the comics, that Scott is considered one of the best fighters in the city, and thrives on it. He’s not an overly violent person, but he’s definitely not a coward. The difference changes our hero, and in turn, the overall tone of the story in a way that honestly makes you wonder why he’s putting himself through all this for Ramona. Though nothing contributed to that more than the changes that were made to Ramona herself. These changes come from the decision to make the story take place over a week instead of a year. Without proper time to date and be around each other, Ramona keeps her sarcastic and cold exterior up the entire film, whereas in the comics, Ramona is a sweet, kind, and supportive girlfriend by volume 2, because her and Scott have been together for over two months at that point. Ramona doesn’t judge Scott for his living situation, however dating her does motivate him to get a job. When Envy comes to town, intent on making Scott miserable, Ramona hates her. In fact, the entire fight she has with Roxy in the film, was taken from her fight with Envy in the comic. Even more, it’s actually Envy who has the “back of the knee” weak spot and Ramona who uncomfortably pokes it. Why Edgar Wright chose to take that away from Scott I’ll never really understand. In the battle with Roxy, there are other enemies that confront Scott, but more importantly, that fight is when he earned the power of love, and uses it to split Roxy in half. That is also when Scott and Ramona move in together. I love that moment because Scott’s no longer just a boy crushing on a girl, he’s a man in love. He starts to be a little more mature and walks with more confidence in himself. I never understood putting the power of love sword at the end, and making it too weak to defeat Gideon.

Ramona isn’t some standoffish sarcastic ice queen with colored hair, she’s a sweet girl whose been wronged too many times. She’s broken, and trying her best to put herself back together. She’s terrified of changes outside her control, and more than anything just doesn’t want to be hurt again. That’s why it really hurts her when she finds out Scott cheated on Knives with her, even though in the movie I don’t think either relationship was ever completely set in stone and both were too short lived to be anything more than casual before they ended. Ramona has been manipulated and damaged in deep ways that even she doesn’t understand, but the movie leaves that out. In the movie she’s just got a mind control chip attached. See the problem there? It’s like the movie sold you scrambled eggs when you were promised an omelet. These changes weren’t simply “the cost of converting to film” either, as many movies take place over multiple years, this was some ridiculous decision to make Scott and Ramona’s story directly tie in to an also inaccurate and wildly ridiculous hipster band adventure, and sacrifice deep character moments in exchange for Michael Cera to give his trademark look of confusion and sadness.

My biggest, and final complaint, is the misuse of my second favorite character: Nega Scott. In the movie, Nega Scott appears after Gideon is beaten, in a last “hey look at us we’re inspired be video games” joke, which just leads to Scott and Nega Scott bonding over brunch because they are both not combative people so of course they would be able to talk out their differences. This not at all who Nega Scott is. Nega Scott is the physical manifestation of every bad thing Scott has made himself forget he’s done. Ramona has her evil exes but Scott just has himself. For years, Scott has pitied himself and put in almost zero effort to be a better person, even blocking out most of his memories so when he’s asked about his past, he either doesn’t remember, or has some insane retelling of events that is wildly untrue. This denial is also the heart of his issue with Ramona, because even though they are two people shaped by their past, Ramona is a victim in most cases, while Scott was actually the bad guy. Scott’s confrontation with Nega Scott is one of my favorite moments in the entire series and in all of fiction. We can’t ever escape our past, no matter how much we run from it. We have to confront it in order to move forward into our future, and this moment delivers that message perfectly. Perhaps Michael Cera couldn’t have pulled off this scene, or Edgar Wright decided it wasn’t fun enough to include, but it was unbelievably necessary. It’s the key moment that changes Scott, makes him a hero, and makes him suitable for Ramona. It’s his half of the journey they both had to go on in order to try again. Without this, and the later reveals about Ramona, you honestly have no reason as a reader to want them to end up together aside from “that’s the story” which could have led to the very How I Met Your Mother-esque mess of a bait-and-switch where he would have ended up with Knives.

There’s loads more I could say about the movie not measuring up to the comic but I think I’ve made my point and I’d rather not spoil the story more than i already have. I don’t think it’s wrong to like the movie but I do hope anyone who enjoys it reads the comics. The final volume was unfortunately completed after the screenplay for the movie had been written, but it’s nothing like the movie at all. It’s my favorite because it’s honestly such a thrill ride and made me feel so many emotions. If you played through the Scott Pilgrim video game then you have some understanding of what the final volume was like. But yeah, Scott and Ramona are my favorite love story of all time, and the adventures of every character in that world, the twists and turns they go on, I love with all of my heart.

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