It’s November 2nd, which means absolutely nothing for the majority of those reading, but for me it means today is my brother’s birthday. As a present, I’ve decided I’ll discuss one of his favourite movies ever, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The film is based on the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series that consisted of 6 volumes. The basic story behind Scott Pilgrim is it follows the titular Scott in his quest to date some girl that he is suddenly infatuated with. The twist is that before he can stay with her, he must fight her “7 evil exes” and defeat them each in combat. This seems simplistic, but the true purpose behind these fights are to serve as ways to develop Scott’s character. While this may sound like the plot to a romantic/action comedy, Scott Pilgrim is mostly a coming-of-age story that forces Scott to confront who he is and his flaws, with those flaws being reflected back at him with the 7 evil exes he encounters.
It is in this regard that the film and graphic novel diverge significantly, for better or worse (although I’d argue in the film’s favour in this case). In the graphic novel, Scott is unambiguously a callous jerk who views himself as a goofy and lovable paragon (which colours his perception and subsequently the audience’s perception of everything that goes on around him), while in the film Scott is still somewhat insensitive, but his most prevalent flaw is his flakiness. He doesn’t take anything seriously so it’s hard for others to take him seriously. The other differences come down to what they had time to show, since the film couldn’t possibly cover the same things the 6 volume graphic novel could.
The positives to the graphic novel’s approach to Scott is that he was a more complex character. He’s not always someone we want to root for, some of his personality flaws are eerily realistic, and it’s all the more sweet when he finally comes around at the end. On the negative side, he’s really hard to relate to because of his flaws. Most people aren’t perfect, but Scott is living in his own little world for most of the series, treating people like garbage, but always twisting events around in his head to appear in the right. By the end of the series you start to wonder if he was a sociopath, or at least on his way to becoming one like his final opponent (Gideon Gordon Graves). I suppose that was the point but I feel we should have gotten more background as to what twisted him into being such an unrepentant ass hole in the first place.
What the movie does very well with Scott is making him much more relatable. He isn’t just some clueless asshole from the start, he’s just a young man with no priorities and no will to commit to much of anything. It’s not just that he doesn’t put any effort into improving his relationships, he also doesn’t put much thought into how to improve himself. He overcomes this in the movie and that in turn manifests into the final weapon he uses to beat Gideon, “The Power of Self-Respect”.
In the graphic novel, he receives “The Power of Understanding” which made more sense for him because he finally gained the ability to understand what an ass clown he’s been, but it doesn’t have the same impact as self respect. Understanding is something most people have down by the time they reach twenty, but self-respect is something a lot of us go our whole lives without. If you have no understanding or empathy, you’re probably just some ass hole who will continue to be one for the rest of your life, but if you don’t have self-respect than you are essentially nothing and you will continue to be that way until you get it.
I’m not saying that the movie is “better” and you should only watch it and ignore the graphic novel (you should definitely experience both!), but I am arguing that the way Scott was handled in the film resonated more with me personally (I also think Michael Cera did a great job). What the movie can’t possibly match however is the fantastic use of the supporting cast that they just did not have time to explore, although the Evil Exes are still absolutely hilarious in film form (even more so in a lot of cases).
Oh and most importantly, happy birthday bro!
Quote of the Day:
Angel: Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters… , then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.
Kate Lockley: And now you do?
Angel: Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don’t think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.
– Angel (series)