‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ review: anime adaptation can’t meet sky-high expectations

‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ review: anime adaptation can’t meet sky-high expectations

Why bother remaking Scott Pilgrim vs. The World if you’re going to be this faithful? The first episode of the new Netflix anime adaptation muddles through as fans of Edgar Wright’s cult 2010 film might expect: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). They fall in love. Flowers casually has a League Of Evil Exes that Pilgrim must defeat to date her. But just as you’re about to switch it off… boom! It hits you with an almighty twist that obliterates everything you thought you knew about the story.

Yup, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a complete diversion from both its graphic novel origins and the live-action movie. The series takes some serious risks, namely by doing away with its twee video game structure in favour of a whodunnit format. It’s a move that will most likely alienate newcomers, but will keep fans somewhat compelled.

Another bold choice is to put Pilgrim, Toronto’s slacker guitarist, firmly in the background. That’s good news for its tapestry of colourful characters and impressively A-list cast, all of whom reprised their roles from the film. Chris Evans slips back into Lucas Lee, the gormless beefcake ex of Flowers. Aubrey Plaza is her deliciously sweary self playing Julie Powers, and Kieran Culkin dazzles as Wallace Wells, the dry, self-assured “cool gay roomate” of Pilgrim. It’s worse news, though, for our central relationship. Changing up the screen time doesn’t do justice to the overall concept: two clueless young adults who are literally fighting for their love while carrying around their own baggage (if you can call seven evil exes ‘baggage’).


Another problem is the dull script, which fails to match the perfectly stilted humour and snappy pacing of the film. Unlike the oddly charming Pilgrim, it’s difficult to root for Flowers, who is apparently too cool to have a personality. Winstead’s delivery of her deadpan vocal fry does not help either, which is mysteriously sexy in short bursts and incredibly grating across entire episodes. Elsewhere, Brie Larson returns as the fateful ex of Pilgrim, Envy Adams. In the film, her allure is captured by her performance of ‘Black Sheep’ (written by Metric). They too return with a new song which fails to capture the magic and raw sexuality of the original. Even Pilgrim and Flowers’ meet cute is jarring instead of endearingly awkward.

It’s a shame, because the series is beautifully animated (courtesy of director/animator Abel Góngora and Japanese studio Science SARU). Scott Pilgrim combines the thick, expressive strokes of the graphic novel with the dramatic style of shonen anime fight scenes, and the results outshine the limitations of the live-action film.

By episode seven, the narrative does begin to click into place, and lo and behold a stunning final boss battle, which elevates the romantic stakes into a delirious sci-fi fantasy. Scott Pilgrim has never shied away from presenting its main characters as flawed, but this epic face-off hammers the point home in a clever manner. The new Scott Pilgrim takes off slowly, and it just about manages to stay aloft.

‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ is available on Netflix from November 17

The post ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ review: anime adaptation can’t meet sky-high expectations appeared first on NME.

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