Scott Pilgrim's Weird Movie and Comic Divergence
It's been 10 long years since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World hit theaters, bombed, and somehow became a cult hit. Many folks have been revisiting the movie recently, and we have to say, as beloved and unique as the film is, it has one glaring weak spot: the ending. The climax finds Scott battling his girlfriend Ramona's final "evil ex" Gideon, when he has a major revelation which (this being Scott Pilgrim) takes the form of a giant flaming sword.
Scott earns "The Power of Self-Respect" -- but his problem in the movie was never that he didn't love himself, it was that he didn't respect other people. He treats women terribly and continually indulges every selfish urge that pops into his Nintendo-addled brain. This is very much what the movie is about, but the ending never fully reconciles these issues. Even when Scott comes face-to-face with his evil doppelganger, "Nega Scott," the two just decide to go out for brunch.
Which is funny, but tells us that Scott fundamentally hasn't confronted his most deep-seated issues. The climax of the original comic, on the other hand, plays out way differently than the film. In a Game of Thrones-esque pickle, the last book of the series wasn't finished when Edgar Wright began filming his movie adaptation (it ended up hitting stores just weeks before the movie's release). So while the broad plot points are the same, the rest is very different. And way better.
The comic's ending focuses, not just on Scott but also on Ramona, who needs to rid herself of the emotionally-abusive ex who has poisoned her ability to invest in subsequent relationships. She helps defeat Gideon by conceding that part of her life will always be defined by their relationship, but she has an army of independent selves who extend beyond that time.
Meanwhile, Scott can only save the day after pausing to reflect on his past behavior towards his friends, eventually accepting that he too was a pretty giant dick. He unlocks "The Power of Understanding" after recognizing that Gideon's toxicity mirrors his own. Destroying Gideon means evolving beyond his own petty narcissism and history of bad behavior.
The Scott Pilgrim series is ultimately about reconciling the emotional baggage of past relationships. The movie gives us a story in which Scott's jealousy and insecurity are reinforced by a violent climax. He literally rescues his girlfriend, Super Mario-style, from her old boyfriend. On the other hand, the book is about two people purging their respective psychic waste to grow as people and build a new relationship together. But with swords.
Top Image: Bryan Lee O'Malley/Oni Press