Released 10 years ago today, the comic book adaptation remains a one-of-a-kind modern classic.
When Scott Pilgrim vs. the World hit U.S. theaters 10 years ago, movies based on comic books were nothing new.
Superhero movies date back as early as the 1940s, bringing life to comic book saviors in the form of multi-chapter serial films. The 1978 arrival of Richard Donner's Superman is widely considered to have ignited the match for feature-length superhero films on the silver screen. Since then, there have been countless movie adaptations of our favorite heroes and villains, with more niche characters like Deadpool and the Black Panther getting their own blockbusters.
But no other comic book film has amassed a cult following quite like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
But before Scott Pilgrim was a comic book character, he was a song. Carla Gillis, lyricist of the Canadian power-pop band Plumtree, was 19 or 20 years old and "in the throes of probably half a dozen crushes" when she wrote "Scott Pilgrim," a gem of scrappy, '90s lo-fi rock. The song's title wasn't a reference to anyone in particular, but rather a mashup of two of Gillis' friends' names: Scott Ingram and Philip Pilgrim.
PLUMTREE - Scott Pilgrim music video www.youtube.com
It wouldn't be years later until Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley heard Plumtree's "Scott Pilgrim," but he was instantly hooked; after hearing the song's infectious central lyric, "I've liked you for a thousand years," he conceptualized a story of an average guy, Scott Pilgrim, who has to battle seven villains before he can win the girl of his dreams.
O'Malley was also heavily influenced by Ranma ½, a Japanese manga series by Rumiko Takahashi about a young boy under a "curse" of turning into a girl when splashed with cold water. O'Malley wanted to create a similarly comical series that would appeal to teenage boys. The first volume of the Scott Pilgrim series, titled Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, was published in August 2004. O'Malley's expectations regarding the franchise's success were low, until the positive reviews came rolling in.
"We don't have [Japan's] infrastructure for comics here," O'Malley said in an interview with Comics Alliance. "The whole history of comics in America has been about Marvel & DC superhero characters. New stories and ideas have been in underground or independent comics. I'm generalizing, but that's certainly how it feels to me. I never thought I could have success with my books to the point where I would sell a million copies and have a movie adaptation. It was astronomically unlikely. I would have expected to sell maybe 1000 copies."
Scott Pilgrim effortlessly drew from beloved themes of Japanese manga with a North American twist. By the time of the film's 2010 release, there were at least one million copies of Scott Pilgrim in print. But, despite the moderate success of the novels, O'Malley was still a self-described starving artist; he was initially apprehensive about a film adaptation, but if it would make him more money, then so be it.
English director Edgar Wright was eventually offered the opportunity to direct Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which would recap all six volumes in the comic series. "The challenges of bringing it to the big screen were the same ones that attracted me to the books," Wright told Den of Geek. "Everything that I found interesting about the book, and why it felt fresh and unique, was irresistible to adapt."
Next came casting the actors who'd personify Scott Pilgrim, his friends, his love interest Ramona Flowers, and of course, Ramona's seven evil exes. Wright had always had Michael Cera in mind for Scott, after the lovably dweeby actor became well-known for starring in Juno and Superbad. But the film caught a number of Cera's co-stars just before their own big breaks: Chris Evans would go on to play Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Anna Kendrick would make major waves with Pitch Perfect, and Aubrey Plaza would become a household name thanks to Parks and Recreation, all within two years of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's release.
But why wasn't Scott Pilgrim those actors' big breaks? Well, it was a commercial flop; it made a disappointing $10.6 million its opening weekend, compared to its whopping $60 million budget. (The coinciding release of The Expendables was likely to blame for the upset.) But after being released on DVD and Blu-Ray, it slowly, yet surely grew a cult following—in part thanks to the movie's immaculate soundtrack.
The Toronto music scene is crucial to the setting and plot of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, evident in its shooting locations and soundtrack. Chris Murphy of the Toronto-based band Sloan was the guitar coach for the movie's actors. Singer-songwriter Beck wrote the songs for Scott's band, Sex Bob-Omb, while members of Broken Social Scene wrote the songs for one of Sex Bob-Omb's rival groups, Crash and the Boys.
Broken Social Scene also contributed the film's soundtrack, as did their fellow Toronto band Metric, who were the inspiration for the Clash at Demonhead, the fictional band led by Scott's ex Envy Adams. The film's score was largely composed by Nigel Godrich, longtime producer for Radiohead, and remains the only movie score he's ever done. And it makes sense that the music of Scott Pilgrim would be so stacked, considering the movie's music supervisor, Kathy Nelson, had also worked on Repo Man, High Fidelity, Coyote Ugly, Pulp Fiction, Dangerous Minds, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for starters.
"I've worked on a lot of movies, but rarely have I had so much fun in the moment and while looking back like I did with Scott Pilgrim," Nelson told Stereogum. "Edgar truly has such an excitement and passion about him. It's infectious. Creatively, he used the music with such perfection and specificity that it made my job incredibly easy. It was in the same vein as working with Tarantino, where he knows exactly what he wants and your job is just to get it. That's rare. Edgar has a broader knowledge of music than even I do!"
And as if its cast and soundtrack weren't enough of selling points, the cinematography and animation details of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World make it feel like no other movie has felt. Wright reportedly didn't let the actors blink on camera in certain scenes, giving an added cartoonish effect in addition to the movie's dazzling special effect. Each of Scott's battles with one of Ramona's seven evil exes feels like a video game battle, making his quest for Ramona's love feel even more victorious. Somehow, a movie that intersects video game culture and comic book culture—perhaps the geekiest combination possible—managed to transcend geek culture entirely.
In the decade since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World debuted, its lasting legacy has entirely made up for the hit it took at the box office. Even today, the movie feels like a treasured time capsule of 2010s DIY rock. A clear post-Scott Pilgrim cultural shift is evidenced in the rise of mega-indie rock bands like Canada's own Arcade Fire, who shockingly won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011. Ramona Flowers' baby-banged, chameleonic hairstyle and mysterious aura has become so foundational to today's alt fashion trends that countless girls online have the shared experience of being compared to her.
'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' Reunion Table Read | Entertainment Weekly www.youtube.com
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World isn't immune to criticism—was it really necessary for 22-year-old Scott to date a 17-year-old at the beginning of the movie?—but it remains inarguably one of the most unique films of the 21st century. It's why ten years later, a virtual table read reunion with the cast has amassed over a million views on YouTube in less than a month. In a sea of over-the-top superhero movies, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World reminds us all that even if it doesn't look like you have anything going for you, life is always prone to throwing adventures your way.
There's an entire genre of YouTube videos that consists of nothing but news bloopers, and they're equal parts hilarious and panic-inducing.
"Right after the break, we're going to interview Erik Weihenmayer, who climbed the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, but he's gay—I mean, he's gay, excuse me, he's blind."
Back in the early 2000's a young news anchor in New Mexico had a slip of the tongue on live TV that has enterred the annals of news blooper history.
Gay Mount Everest www.youtube.com
Cynthia Izaguirre had just gotten done reporting on a separate story discussing activism for gay rights, and was setting up a segment with the first blind man to climb Mount Everest, and her thoughts got twisted on the way to her mouth, resulting in a 14-second clip that would live on in infamy.
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If you're anything like us, you're probably overwhelmed by the sheer number of albums being released on a weekly basis.
We're here to make your music discovery a little bit easier. Popdust's weekly Indie Roundup finds the five best albums coming out each week so that you don't have to. Every Friday, we'll tell you what's worth listening to that might not already be on your radar.