Recently I reviewed Doom, a movie that adapted its source well for the most part but still fell flat. If the parts that didn’t work were fixed, what would happen?
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Okay, a bit of a stretch. Scott Pilgrim and Doom are in two different genres of movie. Doom went with a cross between horror, science fiction, and action. Scott Pilgrim isn’t as easy to define.
Before I get too far ahead, the background. Scott Pilgrim started, as creator Bryan Lee O’Malley puts it, as a “manga-influenced comic”. O’Malley wrote six manga-inspired graphic novels featuring the titular character as he tries to win the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers while still dealing with the rest of his life, his current girlfriend Knives Chau, and the other people in his band, Sex Bob-omb. Complicating things are Scott’s sister Stacey, his roommate Wallace, and life in Toronto. Oh, and Ramona’s seven evil exes. Through the six volumes, Scott must defeat Ramona’s evil exes in order to stay with her.
The movie adaptations, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is a partial adaptation, like Blade Runner was. The graphic novels take place over the course of a year; the movie treats the time as malleable, with most of the events taking place in a snowy April. The core arc of the graphic novels, Scott dealing with Knives, Ramona, Ramona’s evil exes, and maturing, was kept; the rest had to be removed to keep the movie under two hours. However, that parts that were adapted are taken directly from the comic. “Taken” might not be the accurate word. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may be the most accurate adaptation reviewed in Lost in Translation. Scenes that do appear in the movie appear exactly as the did in the comic, sound effects and titles included. The comic was the storyboard for the movie. The DVD extras includes a gallery that shows a side by side comparison of a panel in the comic and its corresponding scene in the movie.
Helping with the accuracy of the adaptation was the location for filming. O’Malley used real locations in Toronto in the comic. Edgar Wright, director of this movie and the Cornetto Trilogy, decided that Toronto should play Toronto, something that the city seldom plays. The fight at Casa Loma was filmed at the real Casa Loma, complete with the scaffolding up for the refurbishment the building was undergoing. The Pizza Pizza beside the Goodwill does exist.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World didn’t fare well at the box office, though. Both the comic and the movie can be described as a slice of life fantasy coming of age with video game elements. The movie really didn’t fit into any one slot. It’s a video game movie not based on a specific video game*. It’s a romance, but from the man’s point of view. It’s a comic book movie, without superheroes. The audience needed to know about video games, especially the fighting genre of games, comics, metafiction**, Toronto, television sitcoms, and music. Universal’s marketing department must have gone mad trying to figure out what approach to use to advertise Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The movie is seeing a better reception through DVD, though, becoming a cult hit.
The lack of reception, however, does not take away that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may be the best adapation reviewed here at Lost in Translation. The director kept to the plot of comic, consulting with the creator to ensure that the original vision reached the screen.
* There is a video game based on the movie, though.
** Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has shout-outs to the idea of it being a movie and the nature of movies. To quote Scott, “They make movies in Toronto?”