SD Alternative

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” - Dr. Seuss

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim, Volume 6 and movie:

I saw the movie first. It’s a great movie – I know putting this behind the cut makes saying it somewhat pointless, but if you haven’t seen it, you should, before it disappears from theaters. It makes Scott more of a likable character, less of a mooch and unwitting self-serving jerk. He has a revelation at the end, gains self-respect, pulls the Utena sword out of his own chest and uses friendship and co-operation to beat the bad guy, before starting an adult relationship with the girl. (Remember when we had that debate on [info]canis_m‘s journal about whether we preferred stories where the protagonist self-actualizes outside of the relationship?)

The film also tightens up the plot in a few places – Scott tricks Ramona’s third ex into compromising his vegan diet, everything happens in weeks instead of months, he and Ramona never fall out as badly as they do in the comic. We learn right away that Scott is still rebounding from Envy, because, let’s face it, without that knowledge his motives for dating Knives are obscure (read: he’s easily parsed as jerk). But otherwise, until the movie diverges from the comic around volume 5, the script is word-for-word the same as the comic script – which just shows how strong Bryan O’Malley’s writing is, because it works.

Actually. There was one way that the movie diverged pretty importantly from the comic: it stripped all the characters except Scott and Knives of their geeky backgrounds. Do Scott and Ramona bond over Scott’s X-men jacket? No, she’s a cool girl and it’s not really clear why she likes him. Was Envy, his ex, an anime nerd before she got cool and fronted a popular indie band? No, she was always cool and it’s really not clear why she liked him. Did Wallace and Scott play videogames together? Nope. Basically the only geek in this movie is Michael Cera, who we are supposed to believe attracts cool girls due to his awkward charm…

It’s a pretty big omission, in my opinion (and in R’s!), since the thing I loved most about these comics when I was reading them in college was that they posited a world where you could be an anime, manga, comics and videogames nerd and yet also be in a band and go to parties and have cool friends. You know, as if your coolness level wasn’t frozen forever at your high school coolness level.

And it’s a real shame, too, because a more geek-friendly plotline would probably have helped this movie to push beyond the audience of geeks-who-have-discovered-they-can-be-cool, and into the realm of geeks-who-still-think-of-themselves-as-geeks, which would have expanded its audience. (There’s a lot of people on LJ who won’t see it because it’s about indie bands, and they are not “cool” enough to be into bands, for instance.)

My only other complaint about the movie, which I am relaying from R: they should have cast a gamer girl in the Ramona role, because she (a hot babe in real life) and Cera (an awkward nerd in real life) had no chemistry. :p

Now on to the comic. I really wasn’t prepared to read the comic version of volume 6. ^^ Well, part of the problem was that I accidentally skipped volume 5, so the plot developments in 6 seemed to come out of nowhere. But!! When I went back and read volume 5, they still seemed to come out of nowhere… or at least, that’s how I felt about Scott’s depressive funk. Thanks to the movie, I was almost expecting the wasted months and memory lapses in volume 6 to be a result of Giddeon’s mind control, or something that Scott would be able to do over. Nope. Those months you spend after your girlfriend leaves you, holed up in the apartment your parents paid for playing videogames, while your band breaks up and you lose touch with your friends, are never coming back.

Once I got over feeling like I’d been randomly punched, I was able to recognize that there were plenty of signs that Scott might act like this, freed from all obligation to do something with his life. And then it became a pretty good sketch of mid-twenties depression. But man, if it wasn’t a shock.

The second thing I realized, on second read-through, is that the best way to view the ending is as the biggest collection of epic finales from videogames and anime you have ever seen. XD There’s the Utena-swords. There’s the battle with Evil Scott (Mortal Kombat) and triumphant return to finish what was started (Lion King). There’s a giant pyramid (Utena again?), a final boss (every videogame ever), a collection of former girlfriends in capsules (Sailor Moon), and even some scenes where you learn that Scott is an unreliable narrator, which Sabina pointed out are lifted straight out of Final Fantasy VII.

So then it becomes the Epic End to End all Epic Ends, and can be enjoyed as such… really, though, what was up with Giddeon’s mind-control stuff? Do we really need him addling Scott’s brain (after all), collecting popsicle girlfriends, playing sexual games with Envy to know he is a bad guy? Can’t he just be a douchebag but (via Envy) “not such a bad guy”? Or would that make him too much like Scott?

When Giddeon says, during the final showdown in Ramona’s head, that he can’t be defeated in mental subspace because he “spent so much time in [his] own head,” that’s an interesting statement, but it’s never really followed up on. Instead we get the revelation that really, the League of Evil Exes came about when Giddeon posted a drunken rant on Craigslist (LOL).

Sabina’s take on Giddeon in volume 6 is that after five volumes of build-up, O’Malley thought he had to deliver an epic villain. XD Meanwhile, I wondered if it wasn’t a way to differentiate him from Scott, since O’Malley makes a point about their similar tendency to mentally edit the past in order to paint themselves in the best light. (By the way, R says I am like Scott in this respect.)

More on this… Volumes 5 and 6 show that Scott is not good dating material because he has a selective memory and instantly forgets all the times he was a jerk, and will never become a better person as long as he doesn’t remember and correct his mistakes. You – okay, I – want to see Scott realize his mistake and take steps to correct it. He is just on the verge of this realization when the comic ends. But he doesn’t completely clean up his act before resuming (or the movie’s case, starting) the relationship with Ramona. See earlier comments about self-actualization inside vs outside of relationships. The movie ending is less ambiguous and more wholesome, then, because the outer evil has definitely been conquered, and the inner evil (Nega Scott) was never an issue in the first place. The comic ending might be more realistic – people don’t instantly change, and people like Scott (and me) don’t change at all unless we have an immediate and overwhelming reason to do so.

In the final analysis I want to say that this is a work of finely observed psychology, dressed up in anime and videogame idioms. XD On that note, Critics who complained that the movie “literalizes” growing up by comparing it to gaining levels in a videogame are missing the point: growing up is like gaining levels in a videogame!

Final note, the Canada and Wikipedia/Craigslist references in this volume are hysterical. Also, I focused on Scott above, but what’s going on with Ramona is just as interesting. She shows up initially as this tough, cool chick with a past who doesn’t date scrubs. But when she’s actually dating Scott, she makes a lot of compromises, almost unconsciously – grows her hair longer, wears more feminine clothes, does household chores. You can see why, as someone who values independence but can’t seem to not acquiesce in a relationship, she’d run away from them so often. As Sabina says, her personal growth in the series is that she learns that after running away, she can run back.

Final final note, I seem to have come out vaguely on the comic side, but R liked the movie more. Different strokes.