Scott Pilgrim vs the Box Office

If you’ve heard of the Internet, you’ve probably heard of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Pretty much everyone I know was talking about this movie, right up until the point it was actually released, and then it kinda dropped off the radar (I mean apart from me discussing it with a friend of mine who’s seen the movie three times).

My home town is also the home to the life changing Mana Bar; and they held an exclusive pre-screening and after party that you had to win tickets to. The afterparty included giveaways of the comics and movie soundtrack. In short, the single most awesome event I didn’t win the right to attend.

But the buzz around the internet nowadays is not “what an awesome movie Scott Pilgrim was”, but rather “how could such an awesome movie flop so spectacularly?”

So let’s stop for a moment: Scott Pilgrim was awesome. The story was awesome. The soundtrack was awesome. The adaptation from comic to movie was awesome. The visual aesthetic was awesome. The attention to detail was awesome. Hell, the only thing about this movie that wasn’t awesome was the ending. This movie was one tightly-bound package of awesome, delivered awesomely.

I loved this movie to pieces. I am currently waiting for copies of the comic to arrive from overseas so I can read them. I’m getting a PS3 so I can buy the game. I’ve seen the movie twice, I plan on seeing it once more in the cinema; and I will be buying this one when it comes out. It sits firmly in my Top Three Movies of All Time, alongside Doom and Hot Fuzz. There is even a good chance that this movie will take the grand place at the top of that list as my “go to” movie that I put on when I don’t want to think too hard about what movie to watch (an honour currently held by Doom). I don’t even like Michael Cera (though closer examination reveals that this is literally the first thing ever I have seen him in, so I can’t explain that one apart from “he just bugs me”).

Everything about this movie was fun. It’s a silly romp in a perfectly normal world where everyone has completely unreasonable super-powers. The world is portrayed as being just like the one you and I live in every day, then BAM! (said the lady) someone throws a fireball and no one is surprised because apparently that sort of thing is utterly within the realm of their existence. It messes with the pre-conceptions of how the world is supposed to work in such a delightful and understated way; it’s really no big deal.

The movie cracks on at an excellent pace, rocketing towards the conclusion without ever stopping for breath; but it never feels rushed. The action scenes are well balanced with snapshots of the character’s day-to-day lives, without ever stalling the movie.

Well, almost. There is one complaint that I can – and will – make about Scott Pilgrim, and that was the ending. Having seen this movie twice, I didn’t find the ending quite so grating, but expectations being what they are, the first time I watched the movie I found the ending incredibly irritating. Normally, I despise romances (yes, I am that bitter, what of it?), and Scott Pilgrim almost managed to slip this teen romance (the worst kind of all) right past me, until we got to then end.

One of my main motivations for finally hunting down and ordering the comics over the net was that I wanted to read how the sixth volume ended. The final installment of the comics wasn’t released until earlier this year, well after the script for the movie was completed and production had begun. The comic creator, Brian O’Malley is quoted as having said that no material from Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour would appear in the film, and that the endings could possibly be entirely different.

So, in case you can’t tell, I’m about the SPOIL the ending. If you don’t want to know, please skip ahead now.

The movie played the “you have to tell her how you feel” card, and while this is normally irritating (95% of romantic comedies would have just never happened if people who just tell the other person what the hell is going on), it’s done is a hilariously stupid way thanks to Wallace’s biting wit, Keiren Culkin’s incredible delivery, and Scott’s sheer bloody-minded ignorance.

However, at the very end, they just played out the old airport trope (just without an airport). She’s leaving, you have to stop her before it’s too late! You really love her, and you never told her, ZOMG! After the writing had been so clever and silly and funny up to this point, the ending fell so flat. Disappointing.

At the end of the day, the ending clearly didn’t ruin it for me, as I’ve seen it twice now and still want to see it again (and again, and again).

I’m done SPOILING now, you can start reading again if you skipped ahead.

Having only read the first volume of the comic, I don’t really want to comment yet on how they compare. I’ve been reading some comments about it, but I’d rather hold off until I’ve had a chance to assess for myself. That being said, in just the first volume, I noticed that the first two scenes are played out almost word-for-word from the comic; though one of my favourite gags of the movie wasn’t part of the orignal (dating a 17-year-old is the mourning period) – a case of coming up with a witty retort a little too late, perhaps?

One of the things I really enjoyed about this movie was the visuals. It was done in a very comic-book style. The strongest impression I have of Sin City was the way they brought that comic’s distinctive visual style to life. Scott Pilgrim is like this, but silly, with lots of visuals taken directly from the comic – and I don’t just mean using comic panels for the flashback sequences. The title cards for the characters, the ownership diagram, and the on-screen captions are done directly in the style of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life.

I’ve heard rumour that this movie is also filled with, for want of a better word, Easter Eggs. As a friend of mine from the xkcd fora commented: “The whole thing felt like they had made a movie and then gone back through to watch it and asked each other ‘Hey, you know what would make this scene even funnier?’ or ‘Hey, you know how I would react to that in real life?’ and added all of that in.” Another adds: “For instance: In the coffee shop, there is like 1.5 second shot that lets you read one of the signs that looks like it’s advertising new coffee flavors or something. The sign reads experience what attention to detail feels like. The best part that it never comes back into focus.”

I guess the final thing to comment on is the soundtrack. Part one: the sound effects. The movie is filled to bursting with old-school video game beeps and bloops, which is incredibly immersive, adding to the air of the movie being like a fighting game. Part two: the music. I have the soundtrack, and if it were a conventional CD I might have worn it out by now. The music is exactly the sort of thing I love listening to. Though I do wish they had written “full length” versions of the Sex Bob-Omb songs.

Well, that was kinda epic, but I guess it’s time to have a quick word with the elephant in the romm: what went wrong? If this movie was so epically awesomely incredible (as I just described), why didn’t anyone go see it?

I don’t think Cracked‘s theory is right, where they claim that movie piracy resulted in people staying away from the cinema. Though I have to admit that I didn’t exactly do my part. Despite seeing the movie on the release day, (I thought) I had just earned enough points for a free movie through my cinema’s loyalty program. Turns out that they have just halved the points cost of the free tickets (and I fear this heralds the coming end of that particular loyalty program), and both my trips to see this movie have been free. I don’t know how that skews the box office taking statistics, but I still feel oddly guilty about the situation, for some reason.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah.

While reasons ranging from “it just couldn’t compete with Expendables” to “no one likes Michael Cera right now” to “it was just released at a bad time” have been thrown around – and perhaps all of these things are contributing factors – I think the biggest factor in Scott Pilgrim’s sad takings comes down to it’s niche factor.

Scott Pilgrim is the best movie I’ve never recommended to anyone.

Everyone I knew who might like the movie knew about it before I did. I didn’t even recommend it to my WoW-playing younger brother, because I just didn’t think he’d get much out of it. Sure, I <3 this movie a thousand times over, but I’m not like normal people.

So, now that I’ve exhausted my allowance for saying the words “awesome” and “silly” for the rest of the year, let’s end this review on a high note. Here’s a link to a great animated short, showing some of Scott’s back story: Linky.

Whoops, forgot my stars. Here we go, six of them:

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~ by ghostwolfe on September 12, 2010.

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