“Scott Pilgrim” adapted on Netflix: geeky and nostalgic, a hero ahead of his time

“Scott Pilgrim” adapted on Netflix: geeky and nostalgic, a hero ahead of his time

Movies

A comic book, a big budget film, a video game. All Scott Pilgrim needed was an animated series. This has been done since Netflix put eight episodes of Scott Pilgrim Take Flight online on Friday, November 17.

Born in 2004 under the pen of the designer Bryan Lee O’Malley, this comic in six volumes has become a treat, a pop culture reference of that time. Scott Pilgrim is the story of a 23-year-old Canadian, nonchalant bassist in a rock band, who sees his life transformed into a real tournament worthy of a video game when he meets the mysterious Ramona Flowers. Because before he can have perfect love with her, Scott Pilgrim will have to face a duel with all the exes of his new conquest.

Beyond the comic strip, it is also its faithful adaptation into a feature film by the creative Edgar Wright ( Shaun of the Dead , Hot Fuzz , Baby Driver) in 2010 with Michael Cera in the lead role which raised Scott Pilgrim to the rank of cult work. “Upon its release, the film had little success in theaters, although it aroused a lot of enthusiasm and received a very good critical reception,” recalls Nicolas Labarre, professor of American civilization at Bordeaux Montaigne University and specialist comic strip (BD). According to him, despite some audience successes ( Sin City ), films bringing together cinema and comics – like American Splendor (2003) or Dick Tracy (1990) – rarely meet the general public.

A hybrid work

Scott Pilgrim initially stood out when it was released on American comic book shelves, which were more accustomed to stocking color booklets. The boards by Bryan Lee O’Malley, a young designer aged 25 at the time, are in black and white and in a format closer to manga (the comic will be colored in subsequent editions). If the author does not hide being a fan of Japanese comics and a fan of the mangaka Rumiko Takahashi, his choice was initially economic: “Black and white allowed production costs to be lowered,” he explained to Le Monde in 2019. The fact remains that albums hybridizing “autofictional graphic novel and the format as well as the lightness of tone of the manga” , in the words of Nicolas Labarre, are still rare at the time of the first publication of Scott Pilgrim .

To stage the clashes with Ramona Flowers’ suitors, Bryan Lee O’Malley was heavily inspired by the mechanics of video games from the 1980s and 1990s, notably the fighting game River City Ransom (1990) , released on the console NES, from Nintendo. If references to role-playing games or quests were rather commonplace in comics, Scott Pilgrim then used elements in a fairly original way, such as the pixelated typographies that we find for example on “game overs”, the taking of experience points or life level bars. Indie rock music is also omnipresent in this series, another favorite of O’Malley, who also named his hero after a song by Plumtree, one of his favorite groups.

“The series was based on my own life, but I wanted to make it more fun, so I basically mixed a bunch of concepts from video games, anime and manga [ into my] daily life” , defended in 2019 the cartoonist. Scott Pilgrim plays on a nostalgia for retrogaming “at a time when it is starting to take hold in a general way ,” contextualizes Nicolas Labarre. It’s a time when lots of emulators [programs allowing you to play, on a computer, games released on old consoles] are coming out, for example.” For the professor, Scott Pilgrim also arrives at a time when, in North America, the publishing world is “reorienting itself, abandoning a very masculine vision of comics and opening up to more female creators and a more adolescent readership », citing for example authors like Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

Nostalgia and multiple references

Scott Pilgrim thus highlights a form of late adolescence. For Ryan Lizardi, assistant professor at SUNY Institute of Technology (New York), who wrote in 2012 in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics , “Scott must face his past through flashbacks, constant visual and narrative references to vintage video games, his inability to grow in relation to the other characters” .

Although highly referenced, Scott Pilgrim is also not a series that invokes its influences in an elitist way. It is, in fact, not necessary to be initiated into indie rock, manga or video games to appreciate the plot or the characters. The work nonetheless remains a product encapsulated in its time. Scott Pilgrim is very self-centered, he represents a sort of Canadian bohemian class. It is not certain that his carefreeness fits our new era,” explains Nicolas Labarre.

At first glance, this new adaptation seeks more to satisfy the early audience and pin a cultural nugget on its table than to conquer a younger audience. The platform seems to have stuck to the original material, decade and plot (with the notable exception that Ramona no longer works for Amazon but for Netflix); she also brought together the cast of actors from the 2010 film to voice her characters.

But if Scott Pilgrim will perhaps now go unnoticed by younger generations, it is also because all of its innovative or striking ingredients during its creation have since become widely popular. And Bryan Lee O’Malley confided to Le Monde in 2019: “Geek stuff wasn’t very widespread in 2004. Scott Pilgrim was a little ahead of his time; I found myself in the right place, at the right time. (…) It still makes sense to people. Afterwards, it is true that time has passed: it was before smartphones and YouTube. »

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