Fact: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a great movie. It is my “best movie of the year so far” by far. A nice simple statement there.
Another fact: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has bombed. Horrifically. At the time of writing, it has made back $33 and a half million of its budget, which ranges anywhere between 60 and 90 million dollars. If this seems like a good thing, it’s been out in America for 3 weeks now. So, to reiterate, Scott Pilgrim has bombed.
Some sectors of the internet took offence to this. The Escapist in particular being one such battle ground due to the views of their resident film critic. I can’t claim the moral high ground, seeing as I got a bit pissed off too when those figures came in. But I’m a reasonable and respectable wannabe movie journalist (SHUT UP I AM!) and I happen to know exactly why Scott Pilgrim has failed. So I’m going to list them for you right now. After all, that’s the point of the article.
1] Michael Cera is in the lead role.
Newsflash people: Michael Cera is not a popular guy. In fact, most of the internet generally regards him as a bit of an insufferable prick. There are two reasons for this and they both stem from the same cause. The less main reason is that Michael Cera plays the quiet unassuming type who is perfect in every way but just needs to get girls to understand him. He does by the end of the movie, obviously, but the fact that he is perfect in every way and always gets the girl infuriates most normal human beings. Why can’t they be the lucky bastard who gets the girl all of the time?
This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it wasn’t for the main main reason: Michael Cera always plays the exact same role. He always plays Michael Cera. He always plays the quiet unassuming type who is perfect in every way but just needs to get girls to understand him. He always gets the girl at the end. He never plays anything else. So all of the goodwill he gained from Arrested Development, Superbad and Juno has been obliterated by his obstinate refusal to step outside his comfort zone.
But in Scott Pilgrim, Cera does play someone different. He plays a whiney, self absorbed, selfish dick. He is likeable, but he has more flaws besides “Girls just don’t understand him”. And it is those flaws, and Cera’s ability to step outside of his comfort zone so willingly, which make Cera more likeable than he’s been in years.
Unfortunately, neither the trailers nor the promotional material have done anything to change this perception of Cera. And since it looks like yet another film in which Michael Cera chases after a good looking girl for 90 minutes, most people are going to skip it on principle. Which is a shame, seeing as the time he’s stepped out of his comfort zone is the time that it’s failed miserably.
2] The release date was wrong.
Just allow me to set the scene for you here. The week before Scott Pilgrim’s American release we saw The Other Guys and Step Up 3D make their way to screens. The same week in America that Scott Pilgrim was released; Eat Pray Love and The Expendables were also released. Finally; the week after Scott Pilgrim was released in America, there was the triple whammy of Vampires Suck, The Switch and Piranha 3D to contend with. Do you see what I’m getting at here?
In the UK, it was perfectly timed. The only films coming out the same week as Scott Pilgrim were Grown Ups, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and Piranha 3D. Very little competition for the film to find an audience and it showed, reaching no. 2 in the UK box office (only beaten by Grown Ups. Ugh.). But in America, there were too many films coming out at the same time for a niche film like this to find a mass market. If it had come out during a week when there was nothing interesting out and people really wanted to go to the cinema, a niche film like this could’ve done well. Actually, that brings us very nicely to the final point.
3] Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a niche film.
This appears to be the one thing that The Escapist’s MovieBob forgot about when moaning that The Expendables beat it open weekend, so much as to declare everybody who saw The Expendables retarded sheep. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a niche film. It is not for everyone. It does not feature many big name cast members (save for Michael Cera, but we’ve already talked about him). The Expendables, meanwhile, is a mainstream movie. It is for just about everyone. And its cast list is filled with big stars and big names. So that is why The Expendables won and Scott Pilgrim lost.
It’s not just The Expendables you need to compare it to either. You need to compare the contents of the movie to everything else on the market. The film is basically genreless. It’s not a romantic comedy in the traditional sense. It’s not an action movie in the traditional sense. The cast is comprised of mostly unknowns, except to some nerds. The film contains tonnes of videogame references. Mostly references that occurred around about 20 years ago that only nerds are going to get. And it’s also a love letter to every bit of geek culture of the last 20 odd years.
Now, you try telling me that a niche film like that is going to find a mass market audience. You can’t, can you?
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World bombed for those three main reasons. Michael Cera being in the lead role, the poorly timed release date and, the big major reason, the fact that it is a niche film. In mainstream cinemas, Scott Pilgrim is not going to find an audience. But the good news is that it will most certainly make all of its money back with DVD sales and become a cult classic which will be every serious movie geek’s required viewing within a few years in the process.
So to all of you people getting your knickers in a twist that Scott Pilgrim is being obliterated by something like Eat Pray Love, just ask yourself this one question. Which movie do you think people will still be watching and still talking about in, say, another five years? Then sit back and feel smug that you saw it first before all of those posers did.