A Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Primer

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For whatever reason this summer there are only two movies due out that really have me excited: Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. With Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright’s film version of Scott Pilgrim just a little over a month away from hitting theaters, it occurred to me that many of the regular visitors of this site may not be particularly familiar with the character. I worry that people will think it is just another Michael Cera playing Michael Cera movie. To prepare you for the film and really just as an excuse to post the awesome trailer below, I’ve put together this little primer on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s deliriously fun series.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is inspired by a six book series of at-first-glance-crudely-drawn graphic novels, the last of which will be released in July. I don’t pretend to be an expert on what O’Malley was thinking when he came up with Scott Pilgrim, but it seems to me to be inspired by by the best elements of 90’s slacker romantic comedy flicks, manga, classic video games, and life in a band with some weird extra fantasy elements sprinkled on top.

Scott is a complete idiot, at least when the series opens. He’s oblivious to the world around him including the lives and interests of his friends. If he were a middle-aged dude in a sitcom, there’s no way I’d be so tolerant of his level of stupidity, but he’s young and dumb and mostly doesn’t know it. Who can’t relate to that? Scott is a guy who is ok with basically freeloading off of his roommate Wallace and who has no concept of working or how to be an adult. He opens the series as the loser in an epically bad break up and really the entire series is about him trying to put his life back together one year later.

When he meets Ramona, literally the girl of his dreams, and they start to date, his big journey begins. Of course she comes with some hefty baggage of her own as the trailer below reveals.

In a lot of ways, that’s exactly what the series is like except that it spends way more time on the relationships between Scott, Ramona, his friends, and their enemies. Hopefully those relationships aren’t missing from the movie.

Interestingly to me, classic video games act strongly as both an influence on the basic story telling techniques employed in the book and frequently as a metaphor. For examples, see the pages below.

A first reading of the first volume can be quite jarring because while there are some fantasy elements to the story, it doesn’t take that hard right turn into complete insanity until the climax when the first of the Evil Ex-es unexpectedly turns up. On a second reading, however, the appearance of the first Evil Ex is set up nicely earlier in the book. With each new volume, readers are pulled deeper into this insane world.

There’s a lot in this series that I find personally easy to relate to… particularly his relationships with his band. It just all rings too true. The whole series has a strong nostalgic feel to it that particularly resonates with me. However, I have trouble believing a film based on a series this quirky can really succeed in a United States that gets behind stuff like The Blind Side. Though clearly even if the film flops like the U.S. World Cup team, that won’t take away any of the enjoyment I’ve gotten out of the series. I dig Edgar Wright’s work too, so that’s just one more reason I’m pulling for it to succeed.

As we await the debut of the sixth volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, which hits stores in about three weeks many mysteries remain to be unraveled. Who is Gideon and why is he so powerful? Will Scott and Ramona end up together in the end? What was Ramona’s life like in America and why did she move to Canada? And for that matter why does her head glow sometimes? Is this a video game reference I just don’t get?

This is a series that I think has something for everyone. It’s very funny, witty, and a quick read. Definitely worth the effort. If the first book doesn’t immediately resonate with you, I promise that it just gets better as the series continues.

Also, look for a Scott Pilgrim video game to hit sometime this summer. It’s a side scroller that looks like it was released in 1988. Perfect! I believe it will be downloadable from the Playstation Network around the time of the film’s release in August.

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