Re: Scott Pilgrim V. the comic and the movie

I heard of Scott Pilgrim by good old-fashioned word of mouth. A story about twenty-somethings in a band didn’t sound like my sort of thing, but a friend of mine mentioned just often enough to get me to pick up a copy at my local comic book store and flip through it. The few pages had me laughing out loud. So I bought it. And the next one. Etc.

I like its silliness. I like the way the artwork gets tags sometimes to give you extra information about what you’re seeing. I like how the imagery of gaming becomes visual metaphors. The story got me involved before it injected the fantastic elements. And it’s funny as all get-out.

The title character is a total freeloading dolt, and yet so earnest and naive, you root for him anyway. Though he is 23, he manages to make hanging out with a high school girl, Knives Chau, look innocent. Scott plays in a band. They’re terrible, but Knives is impressed. And when he meets his dream girl, Ramona, in his dreams and seeks her in the real world, somehow Ramona doesn’t mind if he fights off her seven evil exes so they can keep dating. Wackiness worthy of “Urusei Yatsura” ensue.

Since I came to it late, I got to read all the comics over the course of a week. It was interesting to note how well the story is structured. Volume 1 introduces the concept. Volumes 2 & 3 play some variations. Volume 4 is flat out hilarious. In Volume 5 things get hairy. Volume  6 dives into an all-out fantasy world fight, and finishes up with a sweet ending. It’s nice to see a storyteller finish a story in the space alloted without getting bogged down (cough, GRRM) or going nuts (cough, Dave Sim, cough).

The book left me looking forward to the movie. The first five minutes capture the feeling of reading the book perfectly. And just as  I got that “This is going to be good” feeling, the movie rushed off,  like reading the book on a roller coaster.

The book about winning your love by growing up. Scott takes baby steps, like getting a job as a dishwasher (with the standard career path to prep cook.) But it’s not until the last volume that he allows himself to remember the past he’s ignoring, to acknowledge that he has done not just stupid things, but bad things. This honesty is what gives him the strength to man up and become someone Ramona can take seriously.

The movie is more about winning your love by kicking ass. Since Scott has to fight seven evil exes, there’s a lot of fight scenes. A lot of fight scenes. Some are plain old fisticuffs, movie style. Video games style. HK action movie style: one evil ex pulls some moves that are straight out of Drunken Master II (if I can trust my memory, which I don’t.) Even musical battles.  I’m amused at how much I enjoyed the video game aspect considering that it’s years since I played a video game. I’ve played pinball more recently. And the closest I’ve gotten to World of Warcraft is reading Knights of the Dinner Table.

In the movie, it’s even harder to see what Ramona likes about Scott. If you enjoy the fight scenes, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this. If you’re bored by fight scenes, you get way too much time to think. The end of the movie compresses the last two volumes. The biggest loss is those baby steps that make Scott seem like he might someday be worthy of Ramona. Although there’s no time left on the rollercoaster ride for anything that would slow the movie down, somehow it manages to squeeze in so many fights and losses and victory, it feels like it has more endings than “Return of the King”.

Either way, the story is terrific fun.