Scott Pilgrim: A comprehensive review of “The Pilgrimverse”

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Cole Bennett

In 1997, a little band called Plumtree wrote a song. They described it as “Positive but… also bittersweet.” They released that song, along with 11 others, in their second full-length album, Predicts The Future. What Plumtree didn’t predict was that a comic book geek/occasional artist by the name of Bryan Lee O’Malley, would hear that insanely catchy tune, and turn it into a bizarre, fun, and positive yet bittersweet multi-media franchise. That song of course, was titled Scott Pilgrim.

Recently, the video game Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game, was re-released after having been delisted, which is a fancy way of saying they stopped selling it. Seeing as I loved both the comics and the movie, I was pretty excited when I found a pre-order receipt in my stocking. I decided, since it’s near the tenth anniversary of the game, and since the game has just been re-released, that I would write a review about it. Then I got to playing it, and realized I should re-read the comics. Then after I read the comics, I realized I should re-watch the movie too. What can I say, I’m a Scott-aholic. In one week, I have experienced just about every form of Scott Pilgrim, and now I’m here, ready to give you a full breakdown and review of the franchise.

From 2004 to 2010, Bryan Lee O’Malley released six volumes about the adventures of Scott Pilgrim. Inspired by manga such as Beck (Not the musician. He comes in later) and Nana, he set out to write a romantic comedy action drama. That may sound like a pretty big undertaking, but he pulled it off almost flawlessly.

In short, the story details the adventures of average guy Scott Pilgrim, who falls in love with a manic pixie-dream girl by the name of Ramona Flowers. Everything is going okay until he finds out that in order to be with Ramona, he has to defeat The League of Evil Exes, composed of her seven previous partners. From there, hijinks ensue; Vegan Police, subspace highways, cyborgs, roller blade sword fights, robots, costume parties, ninjas, half-ninjas, and “demon hipster chicks” are all a part of the sprawling narrative, and yet somehow, it all works. It’s all so unbelievable that there’s really no choice but to accept it as believable, and somehow, through all of these frankly bizarre events, O’Malley still managed to weave a storyline that not only makes you sympathize somewhat with the main character, but also the side characters around him, whose lives have been changed, for better or worse (mostly worse), by Scott. Without giving too much away, the story provides an exceptional example of a flawed protagonist.

However, the story is only half of what makes The Pilgrimverse so unique. The other half comes in the form of humor and style. The comics, the books, and even the game, are really funny. The jokes flow naturally, because the entire story in general is so ridiculous that making jokes about it isn’t that much of a stretch. The other reason that Scott Pilgrim is so amazing is the style. It plays around with traditional comic book style, utilizing overlapping boxes and fun transitions to give the story a more exciting, rapid-fire atmosphere. Between the engaging story, the cheesy/charming one-liners, and the refreshing style, Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1-6 is a unique comical comic experience. It only took me about 45 minutes to an hour to read one volume, so it’s not a huge time commitment by any means.

O’Malley said that he only really planned to sell around 1000 copies, but when volume six was released in 2010, the series was so popular that a movie based on it was already in production. That style that makes the comics so different is cranked up to eleven. Director Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead, etc.), is very good with giving his movies flair. Visuals are his specialty; He utilizes things that could only be done in a movie, like visual gags, sound cues, and cool transitions. Throughout the entire movie, I don’t think there’s one cut to black that doesn’t serve a specific purpose. It’s all clever transitions, and it all happens fast. The action as well is very stylized. The movie utilizes a lot of video game elements throughout the story. In particular, the fights with Matthew Patel and Gideon Graves play out like a dramatic round of Street Fighter. It fits, because the concept of the story itself sounds like a videogame.

One of the bigger differences between the books and the movie is the music. In the books, Scott Pilgrim plays bass for Sex Bob-Omb, a struggling three member rock band. There are also other bands, such as Crash and the Boys and The Clash at Demonhead. However, the problem with having bands in a book is that you can’t hear the music. When it came to making the movie, they had to essentially build the soundtrack from the ground up. Wright contacted Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who had the idea of assigning each fictional band to a real band. He based Sex Bob-Omb on the music of Beck, who wrote the original songs for the band: We Are Sex Bob-Omb, Garbage Truck, Threshold, and Ramona. As Nigel Godrich puts it, “We were trying to create this band that could be completely crap, you can’t tell. They’re sort of genius, but it’s just on the edge of being terrible.” As well as Beck, Broken Social Scene wrote music for the movie. They wrote both songs for Crash and The Boys: I Am So Sad, So Very Very Sad, and We Hate You, Please Die. The Clash at Demonhead is based on Metric, and they perform a cover of Metric’s hit song Black Sheep. Wright is known for his use of music in movies, from the Don’t Stop Me Now scene in Shaun of the Dead to his later project, Baby Driver, which has entire scenes synced up to songs, so it’s no surprise that he and Nigel Godrich went above and beyond to create a truly original soundtrack.

Between the music, the style, the comedy, and of course the story, Scott Pilgrim has become my favorite movie of all time. It’s jam packed with so much detail that on my fifth viewing, I still picked up new details. The star-studded cast (Micheal Cera, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, and Anna Kendrick, just to name a few), the hilarious characters, the interesting character arcs, the amazing music, and the awesome editing all come together to make one truly unique movie.

The parallels between Scott Pilgrim and classic video games are hard to ignore. So hard to ignore in fact that Oni Press, the publishers of Scott Pilgrim, went ahead and made the story into an actual video game. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game was released alongside the movie in August of 2010. The game combines elements from the books and the movie. It’s a side-scrolling beat em up game, done in 8-bit style, like it’s straight out of an arcade. There are lots of classic video games referenced in the books and movie, like Zelda and Tetris, so the style makes sense. Sadly, when the movie came out, it flopped at the box office. Not a lot of people went to see the movie, which in turn meant that the video game never gained popularity either. The game was taken off the market four years later due to the license running out. However, the movie gained a cult following and took off in popularity. So, a few months after the tenth anniversary of both the movie and the game, Oni Press re-released Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game.

I have been playing it on and off for a few weeks now, and I enjoy it. I’m not a huge video game nerd, I get easily frustrated at frankly futile things, and I’m used to first person open world games, so it was a new experience for me. After dying about seven times on the first level, I got the hang of things, and beat the next three levels with relative ease and minimal shouting at the TV. I’m stuck at level five, so I can’t really give a full review just yet, but for people who enjoy beat em’ up games, I highly recommend it. For those who are fans of Scott Pilgrim, I highly recommend it as well. There are lots of fun easter eggs sprinkled throughout the game that I only picked up on because I’d just read the books. For those who are less accustomed to that type of gameplay, I’d still say give it a shot. It’s fun, even if I’m still figuring out the controls five levels in.

 

My official ranking of the Pilgrimverse:

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Movie): 10/10 (Rated PG-13)

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1-6 (Book): 9.5/10 (Rated T)

Scott Pilgrim (Song): 9/10

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game (Game): 7.5/10 (Rated T)

Content Warning for the books and movie: Mild Sexual Content, Portrayal of Asian Stereotypes.

Content Warning for the game: Cartoonish depiction of violence toward animals

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1-6 are available anywhere where books or comics are sold.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (movie) is available to stream on Netflix.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game is available across all modern consoles.

 

Collis C. 2020 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Oral History: Bonus Level!!!, EW https://ew.com/movies/scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-oral-history-extended-edition/

Winning J. 2010 Q&A: Scott Pilgrim Creator Brian Lee O’Malley, Games Radar, https://www.gamesradar.com/q-a-scott-pilgrim-creator-bryan-lee-o-malley/

Kaplan B. 2010 Scott Pilgrim Marches to the Beat of a Plumtree (Oh, and Metric too.), Archive Today, https://archive.vn/20100816120717/http://www.nationalpost.com/arts/Scott+Pilgrim+marches+beat+Plumtree+Metric/3387032/story.html