No matter how much the mainstream pop culture scene has progressed in the last few decades or will continue to do so in the future, Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel of the same name, will forever be the epitome of coolness. It was the makers’ passion and understanding of the source material medium’s visual language, which they were able to translate perfectly into the movie, and a strikingly cool amalgamation of live-action visuals and classic video game aesthetics that made Scott Pilgrim one of the best comic-book adaptations ever, surpassing most of the mega-franchise blockbusters.
Even with the creative quotient expressed so strongly in the live-action version, there was a possibility of moving even beyond that with an animated adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim lore, as it provides a greater scope for maintaining authenticity to the source. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, the recently released Netflix original animated series voiced by the star-studded cast of the original movie, “lets the sparks fly”, and deviates from the movie version in a number of thematic and narrative aspects. Let’s take a look at the changes adopted in the series to appreciate both versions.
Starting with the obvious one, the animated series is quite expectedly a totally reworked version of the original movie, as well as the graphic novel series. The creator of the original graphic novel series, Bryan O’Malley, wrote the script for the animated series as well, and he imbued it with the vision of a new direction he had for the source material. With the first episode, the series seems to be treading in a familiar direction. From our protagonist, charming stupid bum Scott, falling in love with his dream girl, Ramona Flowers, to the league of her evil exes led by villainous mastermind Gideon Graves plotting to decimate Scott, the series follows the movie almost frame by frame. However, just as Matthew Patel, the lowest-ranking ex of Ramona, clashes with Scott, the latter seemingly dies, and the story takes a different turn.
While the movie followed the straightforward plot of Scott going against Ramona’s exes while coming to terms with his own issues, the series handled multiple narrative threads: Scott’s death-turned-abduction mystery investigated by Ramona, time travel scenarios, and the individual journey of Ramona’s exes. The original storyline is treated as an alternate reality, which a jaded, future version of Scott tries to prevent from coming into existence as it entails the fear of separation from Ramona. Through the course of the series, two different points in the future timeline are shown, and the story again returns to a familiar route by pitting the future version of Scott against the world, represented by the present version of himself and all his associates and enemies. This entire set-up adds a new flavor to the well-known plotline, allowing fans to revisit the story from a new perspective.
Sympathetic Treatment Of The Characters
Quite obviously, such a change in the storyline also added a new dimension to the characterization as well. Despite the story of Scott Pilgrim being Ramona-centric, the movie’s attempt to encapsulate a six-issue story arc left little space to explore her character. The series rectifies that by making Ramona the central protagonist and providing an emotional heft to her character through her relationships with the people associated with her. This is especially shown through how Ramona’s past relationship with Roxy Richter is explored, where Ramona finally owns up to her mistakes and apologizes for abandoning Roxy without acknowledging their relationship.
Aside from Ramona, her exes are given much more space, and moving away from depicting their usual villainous antics, the series shows them in a new light. After being defeated by Matthew Patel, the megalomaniac supervillain Gideon Graves finds humility, abandons his evil schemes (temporarily), and joins hands with Julie Powers. A reckless and extravagant lifestyle puts the infamous Lucas Lee out of stardom, which prompts him to spend some quality bro time with Gideon by watching anime, playing SNES games, building stuff, and whatnot, before finally settling down as a rockstar barista. Despite gaining virtually everything he wished for after defeating Gideon, Matthew Patel wishes to pursue his dreams of becoming a Broadway actor and returns his acquisitions to Gideon. Roxy’s more sympathetic gaze confronts Ramona about her own problematic tendencies. This rounded portrayal is so consistent that at the end when Scott begs the exes to fight him, they flat-out refuse to do so.
More Introspective Perspective
Finally, both of the aforementioned changes contribute to a more introspective approach while charting out a character-driven roadmap for the story itself. Two of Scott’s older selves try to sabotage his relationship with Ramona, contemplating the predestined future where their marriage fails and they get separated from their dream girl—missing the very basic thing they should have focused on from the beginning—working on themselves. Despite being an apparently likeable douche, Scott used to be far from being a decent life partner, as his insecurity and callousness time and again caused his undoing. Finally, in the climactic scene, when older Ramona makes his older self realize this simple truth, the entire fiasco is resolved.
However, previously older Scott dropped a truth bomb on Ramona as well, calling out her tendency to abandon people whom she loved, lacking the courage to profess what she feels, which inadvertently caused much sorrow to herself and others as well. As a form of reconciliation, older and present Ramona merged, creating a composite, super Ramona, who reverts everything to their normal state—not before providing present Scott with parting advice—not to judge anyone for their past. This approach to making characters question themselves will surely be appreciated by fans, as it adds a certain emotional maturity.
Stories stay relevant by adapting to changing times, and Scott Pilgrim Takes Off perfectly exemplifies that through its narrative changes over the source material.