Scott Pilgrim fought the world and lost, he lost badly. Opening up against The Expendables and Eat Pray Love was going to be tough, people figured that, but when the numbers came in and Scott Pilgrim landed on his hipster ass at the bottom of the top 5, things took a turn.
As it stands right now, unless there’s some explosion of Pilgrim love in Europe there’s no way the movie will recoup its 60 million dollar budget. Bad news for everybody involved, especially the uber talented director Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz) who might have some issues raising capital for his next venture.
So what went wrong? Already the Pilgrim Positive Posse has launched their excuse ship in hopes of salvaging the film. It didn’t open in as many theaters. People don’t get it. It was released unfairly against bigger movies. I’ve heard so many reasons it inspired me to really analyze the film and figure out why it failed so miserably. I’m not a fan of the comics nor did I particularly like the movie, but that’s not what this is about, these are legitimate (at least to me) ideas on why Scott Pilgrim won the battle but lost the war. Here are the Top Ten Reasons Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Flopped At The Box Office.
10. A Rock Movie Without Any Rock
Scott Pilgrim is a movie centered around music, but it completely lacks any really good music. It’s to the point that even the band Scott Pilgrim is in are convinced they suck. So much of the film happens during a battle of the bands and yet no bands really battle. There’s a weird pitiful Goth band and two Asian DJs who play one note one a keyboard but that’s about it. The folks making this movie got so involved in how cool it would look they forgot about the actual music.
During the battle of the bands its way more about how the sound from the amps turns into dragons and monsters and fight then it is about the music itself. Even the incidental music and outside soundtrack stuff is boring and in some cases covered completely by the visuals. People walking into the movie expecting it be a ROCKING good time left thinking that it sucked.
09. It’s Not For Anybody Part 1: Old Folks
To the Scott Pilgrim fan base I would be considered an old person. I’m 39, I have a job and responsibilities and have long since left the band, hang out, band, chick drama world behind me. That being said I was raised in the era that gave birth to this era so I understand irony, weird comedy and the idea of playing with the structure of film. Scott Pilgrim wasn’t interested in giving me a story or characters I could care about, instead it wanted to beat me with the hip stick until I bled skinny jeans and Converse one stars.
I’m all for clever but not condescending and that’s how the tone of Scott Pilgrim comes off. It’s as if the whole time the cast and crew are saying, “This is a cool party and you’re not invited”. The problem is the bag of tricks they use are just bastardizations of film tricks folks my age grew up on. So instead of the bits going over our head, the entire endeavor seemed insulting. The older folks don’t mind wacky but we need it to come with characters, plot and dialog. Clever only takes you so far and that leads to some in the over thirty crowd walking out saying “that was crap”.
08. Not Everybody Plays Video Games
Young or old the video game age hasn’t touched everybody, not to the extent Scott Pilgrim wanted it to. Even those who adore video games don’t often want to watch one for two hours. Everything, and I mean everything, in Scott Pilgrim had to do with video games. Graphics appeared on screen, video game sounds were heard constantly, during fights there were actually “life remaining bars”, Christ when an evil ex died they turned into coins. It was video game overload leaving anybody who doesn’t love video games cold.
Using arcade graphics and sounds in the actual fight scenes would’ve been cool, even for those not dedicated to all things video game. However Scott Pilgrim Vs The World doesn’t stop with the fights, it allows that kind of intense graphics and audio to play out against the entire film. After fifteen minutes kids rocking Xbox shirts were crying that they wanted the bad man to stop.
07. Too Long. Way, Way, Way Too F*****g Long
The other side of the “Not Everybody Plays Video Games” equation is that Scott Pilgrim drags significantly in the middle. This movie should have been ninety minutes long at absolute most; instead it lumbers along for a hundred and five. With the middle such a mess the last twenty minutes of Scott Pilgrim feels like an eternity. The film also has several false endings, scenes that feel like the credits should roll on but instead we’re subjected to another cut.
It also didn’t help that the final fight is incredibly anticlimactic. Casting Jason Schwartzman as main bad guy Gideon Gordon Graves was a bad idea. Yeah he can play an asshole but he can’t play a threat. Schwartzman is so busy being pompous and fake that he never rises into anything sinister. When the final confrontation comes it’s like watching two metrosexuals slapping out in the gayest arcade ever constructed. A lackluster final fight and a dragging middle length played a big part in negative word of mouth.
06. It’s Not For Anybody Part 2: Young People
When I saw Scott Pilgrim I was accompanied by my soon to be brother-in-law Tyler who had just turned 18. I figured if I wasn’t pleased with the movie, considering my age, he probably would be considering his. While Tyler didn’t dislike Scott Pilgrim I don’t think he felt it was made for him or his friends. This is a movie about a kid whose biggest problem is which incredibly hot girl he has to bang and if his band will win the battle of the bands. Most kids don’t grow up or exist in that environment at all. Scott Pilgrim suddenly became too overbearing for the older folks and way too cool for the young ones. So who is this movie for exactly?
Is it uniquely for hipster twentysomethings who live in urban areas, talk this way, love video games and play in bands? If that’s it then no wonder it only made ten million bucks, it’s exhausted the fan base. Scott Pilgrim seems to have created such a niche market that it trapped itself there. Everybody is a part of demographic marketing but when you’re film seems to be made for one group of people you can’t be surprised when only that group of people come to see it.
05. Expectations: Comic-Con Isn’t The World
Much to the chagrin of the large studios, San Diego Comicon isn’t the world it isn’t even close. Getting kids who showed up to watch you talk about your movie excited about your movie isn’t hard but thinking that excitement will generate outside the hallowed halls of Comicon is full on stupid. I think the movie execs watched the frenzy at Comicon and decided Scott Pilgrim wasn’t just going to vs. the world he was going to own it. That kind of over confidence led to not only a media blitz but also to the ego of opening the film against The Expendables and Eat Pray Love. I’m not saying it would’ve been number one opening alone but it would’ve rated higher than it did.
The other lesson to be learned here is that Viral Marketing Campaigns aren’t the key to everything. Did Scott Pilgrim learn nothing from Kick Ass, a movie that beat everybody to death with its viral campaign, and still shit the bed when it opened. I figure big excitement at Comicon as well as the hipness of a Viral Marketing Campaign gave the studio big wigs unrealistic expectations about the opening.
04. Media Blitz
This is an easy one and one that I’ve heard repeated a few times. The endless media blitz around Scott Pilgrim drove everybody insane. It was sickening how every time you went to any site an ad or a trailer automatically opened up for the movie. There were ads everywhere, behind the scenes videos, mass interviews, clips, funny moments, anything and everything that could be crammed down our throats was.
My dislike for the comic series really never went any farther than “Eh, I’m just not interested” until the movie media blitz hit. Then it got ramped up to pure unadulterated hatred. I was rooting for the movie to fail so the ads would go away. It also did a great job of showing just how uninviting the movie was, how it seemed like a cool party where nobody talked to each other; instead staring at everybody else to see if they looked hip enough. Who the f**k wants to go to that? It’s like advertising for a Frat Party you’d get beaten up and pantsed at and wondering why people don’t come out.
03. Wow, Is She A Bitch
One of the biggest problems with the movie was also one of the biggest problems with the books. The female lead Ramona Flowers is a cast iron bitch. She acts like she’s better than everybody else, she’s cold and bitchy to Scott Pilgrim and her reasons for being this way are fifth grade chick drama. The entire time anybody with half sense in one eye is wondering why the hell anybody would lift a finger to carry her bags forget fighting to the death for her. I wouldn’t piss on Ramona Flowers if she was on fire much less do battle to the death for the right to make out with her.
What’s worse is that Mary Elizabeth Winsted plays Ramona Flowers even harsher than she was in the comics. Yes Ramona is hot as the sun but so is Scott Pilgrim’s other girlfriend Knives Chau and Knives is sweet and kind to boot. You can’t for the life of you figure out why Scott Pilgrim would go through all of this for Ramona Flowers. Either he’s a shallow dick who deserves his ass beat or has lower self-esteem than even I did at his age.
02. The Source Material
Okay everybody relax I’m not coming down on the comics I’m saying that they don’t make for a good movie. Much like Watchmen (no I’m not comparing them) Scott Pilgrim is a story meant to be told through the comic book medium. The visuals, the style, the dialog, it’s all something that translates well in comics but not so much on film. What seems creative and cool on the page can become pretentious and annoying on screen.
The other part is that comics in a niche boutique style are cool and hip; movies in that same niche are failures. Scott Pilgrim was never marketed to be some enormous cash cow; in fact what success it did have was probably a shock to everyone involved. The very idea that you could translate what the book was into a movie was a gamble, to make it into a big budget movie seems like fools gold to me.
01. Michael Cera Sucks
Well at least that’s the going opinion of him. Nobody likes this kid or they’re sick of his one-note performances. The whole stuttering, dorky, unsure of himself ironic thing is getting really, really thin and Cera won’t stop it. He’s gone from the adorable nerd kid in Arrested Development to that frustrating asshole you want to punch. It’s not just that people don’t want to see Michael Cera in movies, they actively hate his guts.
With a backlash already brewing against Cera to have him not only star in the film but also play Scott Pilgrim exactly the same way he plays everything sank this movie from the start. Director Edgar Wright should have done everything he could to steer Cera away from that type of performance or hire somebody else entirely. The way he was allowed to play the character the film should’ve been called Michael Cera’s One Note Performance Vs The World. People hate this kid and that doesn’t bode well for successful box office.
So that’s it, my ten reasons that Scott Pilgrim Vs The World failed at the box office. I do think it’s part of a bigger problem, having to do with Hollywood not being able to connect with its audience. Next week I’ll try and tackle that issue.