When I obsess over a movie I do things like look at the source material and see how it differs from the adaptation. So if you grokked “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and want to know what you can get by dropping $60 for the comics on Amazon (I assume some omnibus version will be published at some point), I checked.
1. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Basically, it’s all in the film. Back-of-the-envelope guess: The first 35 minutes of this 110 minute film are based on this first book. That makes perfect sense, because the film rights were optioned after this book, surprisingly, took off. And this is the story that a million nerds who are too cool for Twilight* fell in love with. So we only get a few unimportant amputations and changes. We don’t get the creepy meeting between Scott and Knives on the bus, although I can swear a scene from this (Scott winking) was used in trailers, so it may have been shot. The movie takes away some dialogue I liked, and I think would have worked (Wallace comparing Scott’s Knives quandary with that of Ewan MacGregor in “Trainspotting”) while adding a scene in which Scott and Knives play a made-up ninja dancing game. This was obviously added to establish that we’re going to be seeing a lot of video game logic in the film, so fine, whatever.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Aha! Here’s the first big, successful change — the 30-page high school flashback that opens the book was cut from the film but used for a totally excellent Adult Swim animation. And here come some more changes, because the film takes place over, I think, seven days, while the comics take place over a year. That’s fine by me. Instead of losing money from a miniseries that will be adored for decades, some studio is losing money on a movie that will be adored for decades. But it obviously alters the rhythm from the languid, slackerish, pace of the comics, a pace that makes the romance so believable and relatable. So all of the Book 2 scenes wherein Ramona integrates into Scott’s world are scrapped, as are the characters of Hollie and Lisa. The battle between Ramona and Knives is moved, in the film, all the way to the finale, where it’s part of the setpiece battle at the Chaos club.
3. Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness
From now on let’s just assume that time is passing in these books that doesn’t pass in the movies. So there’s no confrontation with Todd at Honest Ed’s, and the battle between Ramona and Envy never happens. (The film trims a lot of girl problem plotlines, actually.) I’m a bit sad about the loss of this exchange:
RAMONA: What the hell is this? Why are they all rooting for you when you’re obviously a huge bitch?
ENVY: Ramona, sweetie, I’m famous.
But it’s gone — the whole book is dealt with in basically 10 minutes of movie time.
4. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Everything’s different! Roxy is introduced before Todd. The Ramona battle is inserted into this storyline — she fights Roxy, not Envy — and the adorable sequence from the full-color Scott Pilgrim comic, where Ramona guides Scott’s fists for him because he doesn’t want to punch a girl, is slotted into there. The Lisa plotline is cut, as is the character of Mr. Chau. Fine by me. Oh, and in the movie Scott and Ramona don’t move in together — he wins the “power of love sword” in the final fight, not in the fight here.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
Behold, the most perfunctory use of source material! Almost nothing from this, the most depressing volume, makes it into the movie. Instead of fighting with robots and Double Dragon moves as they do here, the twins fight with a sound deck that creates a sonic dragon of some kind. (The “amp to amp” fight is a great Wright invention, though.) Ramona does not disappear — and it’s really goddamn hard to understate how sad her disappearance was for those of us who read the book as it came out — but instead gets with Gideon.
6. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
Remember what I was saying about truncation? This book opens with Scott recuperating from a monthlong depression over Ramona leaving. He clumsily tries to make out with his exes, Knives and Kim, and confronts what an asshole he was to them. He defeats the “Nega-Scott.” (The Nega-Scott appears in the movie in an extremely Wrightian manner.) He defeats Gideon Graves inside of Ramona’s head, then he and Ramona team up to beat Graves in reality. The movie takes the last part of this, sort of, and you can’t say it “changes” it because the script was finished before O’Malley’s comic was. Wright just makes the decision to involve both Knives and Ramona in the fight, and — in the only change I find unsatisfying — lets Scott make the final move on Gideon. In the comic, Ramona and Scott do a Chrono Trigger-style X-slash that slices Gideon. And goddamn it, that tells us they’re soul mates more than Wright’s version.