Edgar Wright’s 2010 masterpiece, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, may have bombed at the box office upon initial release, but in the years since, it has leveled up into an endlessly rewatchable cult classic. As an audience member, I eagerly awaited a chance to see this story continue in one way or another. A sequel may not have been in the cards, yet showrunners Bryan Lee O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski hand-crafted something even more satisfying for longtime fans. Previous iterations, including the video game, were based on the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by O’Malley; this new Netflix attempt remixes and recalibrates everything we know about the story. Even though it takes awhile to get off the ground, eight-episode animated series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off presents an exciting new entry point that utilizes each and every returning cast member in fresh ways.
For the first episode anyway, Takes Off feels like a lower-budget version of the movie, punctuated by an excellent animation style. Nerdy Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has his life completely upended by the mysterious literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Scott’s “cool gay roommate” Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) wants him out, mainly so he can be free to be as gay as he desires in private, thank you very much. Scott’s band Sex Bob-Omb, led by Stephen Sills (Mark Webber) and Kim Pine (Alison Pill), struggle to break into the big time. When Scott finally bumps into Ramona in person at a party, he prioritizes her over all else, including his actual 17-year-old fangirl girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Meeting Ramona is easy. Maintaining their relationship is another story entirely, especially when one considers the swirling League of Evil Exes ready to fight to the death to keep Scott away.
Those seven ex-boyfriends are just as varied and frequently hilarious as they were in the movie, and keeping virtually all of the talent behind them identical to what came before makes Takes Off wholly more satisfying to watch. These include (but are not limited to): super-charged vegan Todd (Brandon Routh); vapid movie star Lucas Lee (Chris Evans); unhinged bi-furious brawler Roxie (Mae Whitman); and mastermind leader Gideon (Jason Schwartzman). Every single ex gets more to do than just square off with Scott, relegated to coins collected, then vanish completely. Which leads directly into another of the greatest strengths this series has to offer—every character (other than Scott himself) receives exponentially more depth than they did before.
As a result of a major narrative change, Scott becomes sort of sidelined in his own series. What frustrates initially ends up being a strength to set Scott Pilgrim Takes Off apart from what came before. Personally, I am a huge fan of alternate reality/what if scenarios, so this major pivot just worked for me. The series swings meta in more ways than one, and features gigantic payoffs for nearly every storyline. The reshuffling of events lead to new character dynamics, as well as opportunities for those who never interacted before to have significantly more to do. One-note caricatures become fully-formed, and animation allows for creative swings that would be harder to pull off in a live action setting.
Stellar editing that punctuated the movie version takes a backseat here to flashier fights and bigger visuals. Stylistic flourishes do carry over nicely though, including video games noises, and a whimsical sense of adventure. Introductions to characters are handled with a flashly blurb indicating their age, and a brief description. The darker humor too has not been left behind. Julie Powers (Aubrey Plaza) still spouts her trademark curses, bleeped out in the same way. Instead of a straightforward plot progression, a mystery emerges early on that drives much of the story in a tantalizing direction. Surprise vocal cameos and even more surprising plot twists are sure to leave people with a plenty of quirks to digest.
Without talking any spoilers, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off establishes a status quo that could be very exciting to follow going forward, should the cast and creatives be allowed to move forward with a second season. After over a decade passing in between the movie and television series, I felt disappointed at first with what was presented. The deeper I went into the episodes though, the more I understood exactly what they were going for. The pieces slide nicely together in the closing couple episodes, recontextualizing all that came before. Watching the series back-to-back with the movie makes it fun to spot all the differences, references, and generally makes for a wonderful companion piece. Assembling a cast this impressive again could not have been an easy feat, so it remains to be seen whether a second go-round could be in the cards. If given the chance, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off has the potential to be the next great animated Netflix series, and is a major win for fans of the Scott Pilgrim brand.
See a whole new side to the story when Scott Pilgrim Takes Off premieres globally on November 17th, exclusively to Netflix.