Scott Pilgrim and the Lackluster Box Office
“Oh, sorry, I got distracted by the Internet.”
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Chapter 3
It’s been a while since I’ve had any interest in checking box office grosses. Rationally, I know that I gain nothing from looking at those little numbers, but it feels comforting to see a film I like earn a ton of cash. Unfortunately, watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World crash during its opening weekend reminds me that the numbers chase isn’t always in my favor.
Analysts with far more skill than I have are already dissecting the perceived failure of Scott Pilgrim, attributing it’s anemic U.S. earnings to everything from a split audience (The Expendables, which premiered in the same weekend, arguably drew the macho/date crowd) to an over-previewed, download-happy core interest group. Something about the breakdown is stinging, as if the filmistas are saying “This movie’s made for you, and you’re not watching it!” I think the kernel of truth in that is proving hard to swallow, but it’s attributable to bad marketing as much as an apathetic base.
I had initially written off Pilgrim as some kind of 20-something indie band flick. On a whim, I picked up one of the comics and fell in love with the contrast between a coming of age story and a fantastic romp through video game clichés. Watching the ads for the movie, I realized it was very difficult to capture just what Scott Pilgrim was about in a 30 second teaser. Part of the problem is that the movie and source comic are a bit off kilter, while the trailer is, at heart, still a movie trailer. It presents beats, glimpses of the game-inspired world, but isn’t edited with that in mind.
As a result, it gives all us bitter nerds of the world a perceived reason to skip out. “Oh, it’s just trying for the gamer market. What-ever.” This kind of territorial act doesn’t exactly make for great audiences, but there can’t exactly be a wish for the mainstreaming of the art while holding on to Gollum-esque notions of ownership.
I’m sure that Pilgrim will find a profitable life through DVD sales, but my concern over the numbers game at the local cinema comes from the narrative that will spring up shortly. Namely, “Gamers don’t watch movies.” That may not seem like a terrible thing, but being cut out of a market isn’t usually a positive thing. Among other consequences, it means that external forces get the right of commentary. At the very least, this means folks are free to claim that the hapless slackerdom and hyperactive breaks with reality form the bedrock of the gamer’s view on the outside world. Or, more concerning, the lack of care for source material means we get treated to more Double Dragon-esque adaptations.
If you’ve ever played through a Nintendo game, you owe it to yourself to give this film a chance. Sure, it’s loaded with references to the gamer culture of old, and yes, it does use the concept of gaming to great comedic effect. There’s more to it than just a bunch of Mario Bros. name-drops and pixilated landscapes. At least, in my view, it’s a sweet look into the moment that a gamer grew up and made something of his own.
For the moment, it’s enough to temper my disappointment with the cash flow.