Lost in Translation 452: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (2023)

A long time back, Lost in Translation looked at the 2010 cult film, Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Based on the graphics novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, which were inspired by the manga available in the early 2000s, the movie starred a Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers, Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Anna Kendrick as Stacey Pilgrim, Aubrey Plaza as Julie Powers, Alison Pill as Kim Pine, Johnny Simmons as Young Neil, Mark Webber as Stephen Stills, Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. The goal, to win Ramona and defeat her seven evil exes, Satya Bhabha as Matthew Patel, Chris Evans as Lucas Lee, Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram, Mae Whitman as Roxy Richter, Shota Saito as Kyle Katayanagi, Keita Saito as Ken Katayanagi, and Jason Schwartzman as Gideon “G-Man” Graves. Scott even had to deal with his own evil ex, NV Adams, played by Brie Larson. The jury’s still out on whether Julie counts as an evil ex.

As can be seen by the cast list above, if the movie was released today, it’d be called star-studded. At the time, other than Michael Cera, the actors were early in their careers. The director, Edgar Wright, struck gold. Wright got the idea of turning the graphic novels into a film after reading them. He filmed on location in Toronto – Scott: “They make movies in Toronto?” – considering the city to be as much a character as the rest. It’s a rare film that keeps Toronto as Toronto. He probably threw the residents for a loop doing that. O’Malley used real locations in his graphic novels, so Wright used the same locations.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World didn’t do well at the box office. Marketing didn’t know what they had. Anime was just breaking into the mainstream, video games were around, but a slice of life film about a slacker and his friends with video game and anime aesthetics was not in Marketing’s vocabulary. It is a pity, really. Scott Pilgrim was ambitious, bringing in comic book and video game ideas to film. Film critics rated the movie well, with current rating at Rotten Tomates at 82% fresh. The music ranged from garage band raw to professional glam to electronica, all fitting with the film’s scenes.

However, cult classics are difficult to kill. Audiences for them grow over time as word of mouth spreads. With increased audience interest comes increased studio interest. In 2020, the film was rereleased for its tenth anniversary, coupled with a cast reunion. The result, an animated series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, released November 2023 on Netflix.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off brings back Edgar Wright and the original cast, with two exceptions who will be mentioned later. The animation, handled by Science SARU, takes its cue from O’Malley’s graphic novels. The locations are an animated Toronto, taken from the graphic novels, the live action film, or photos taken for production of the live action film. There are recognizable Canadian chains and the CN Tower isn’t hidden away. The sets are based on what is in the graphic novels.

The animated series begins much like the first graphic novel and the film, introducing Scott and his friends, him meeting Ramona, and learning about her seven evil exes. The first, Matthew Patel, challenges him at the battle of the bands. But why watch something that has been done already? The unthinkable happens in the first fight and Patel wins.

The series continues from there, with Ramona being the only person trying to figure out what happened to Scott. Along the way, she confronts her evil exes and learns about herself, much like Scott did in the film and graphic novels. Scott also learns about himself. The evil exes make discoveries about themselves. Growth happens for everyone, but it’s not an easy path.

As mentioned earlier, the entire cast returned for the series, except for Shota Saito and
Keita Saito, the Katayanagi twins. They never spoke in the film, though, except through their music. Replacing them is Julian Cihi; the twins do get some lines this time out. Everyone is back in character, recognizable. There are also a few cameos, such as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as security guards at Torontowood Studios and “Weird Al” Yankovic as the narrator of the documentary about the failed filming of the Scott Pilgrim biopic.

The fourth wall gets leaned on hard in the series. The biopic mentioned above is a reference to the live action film using a script written by Young Neil. The failed biopic then goes on to become a Broadway musical, with songs and music written by Stephen Stills and Knives Chau. Yet, it makes sense, in context. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a slice of life magical realism musical series that replaces magic with video game and anime aesthetics, but not really. It defies a proper description, but so did the graphic novels and live action film.

The music is integral to the series. Scott is a member of a garage band trying to break out into the Toronto music scene. Four of Ramona’s evil exes are performers and one is a music executive. Scott’s evil ex is a major name in music. Two songs return from the film, the opening song by Sex Bob-omb, which acts as a book end to the series, and Envy Adams’ “Black Sheep” for the Clash at Demonhead. New songs join the soundtrack, from Necry Talkie’s “bloom” used as the opening theme to Johnny Cash to a cover of “Konya wa Hurricane” that even context can’t explain.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is proof that lightning can strike twice. The same cast and crew return to make more magic happen and correct some issues still outstanding from the graphic novels and the film. That it can do so with time travel, ninja paparazzi, and a rockin’ soundtrack shows the strengths of the cast, crew, and property.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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