The Sad Connection Between Scott Pilgrim and Pacific Rim

A nerd-centric movie that wows the target audience and critics but is otherwise ignored? That's 2010's 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World'

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Michael Tran / FilmMagic via Getty Images

Michael Cera arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Scott Pilgrim VS. The World" on July 27, 2010, in Hollywood, Calif.

Reading reports of Pacific Rim‘s Jaeger-sized stumble at the U.S. box office as I was returning home from San Diego Comic-Con made me think about a movie that, like Pacific Rim, rode a tsunami of good will amongst the nerd cognoscenti only to disappear once it hit mainstream audiences. I’m talking about, of course, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — one of the best movies about being young that most people never saw.

On paper, Scott Pilgrim certainly seemed like a future hit: Adapted from a best-selling (and critically-adored) series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley by the equally-critically-adored Edgar (Shawn of The Dead) Wright, it was that rare comic-book franchise that appealed to non-geeks. Instead of requiring audiences to buy into the costumes and codenames of most superhero comics, all that was required to believe in for Scott was the idea that a guy could fall in love with a girl and be willing to fight her seven “evil exes” in order to win her heart (There were, of course, super-powers, but that’s neither here nor there).

In execution, the movie delivered on that promise. While it lacked the comic books’ depth and heart — what started as a slacker comedy in the first book, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, developed into something much more profound by the final installment, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour — Scott the movie was funny and fast-moving. And it was an inventive visual feast that combined spectacle and storytelling.

And the music…! Scott felt as if it had more in common with movies like Beyond The Valley of The Dolls, Head or A Hard Days Night than Spider-Man, Iron Man or any of the Batman movies. The titular character played in a band, which, in the movie, translated into music written by Beck — with other bands playing material by Metric and Cornelius, and additional music by Plumtree, the Bluetones, and Nigel Godrich. It was a rock-and-roll movie, a musical without the staginess or self-consciousness that that genre has unfortunately acquired; it was just something that looked, and sounded, amazing.

For those seeking to make themselves feel better about Pacific Rim‘s opening weekend, you only have to look at Scott Pilgrim vs. The World‘s performance to make yourself feel better. For its entire U.S. theater run, it grossed just $31.5 million, with its worldwide take just $47.6 million. For a movie that cost $60 million to produce, that’s pretty much the dictionary definition of “flop.”

As you’d expected, there were a lot of people offering up suggestions of just why the movie had died such a disastrous, expensive death with audiences, with those running from “It was over-promoted at Comic-Con” to poor marketing and promotion (Admittedly, the original trailer made the movie look a lot more generic than it actually was; I always wished that they’d used the “Prepare” remix teaser, embedded below) and the possibility that, just maybe, people didn’t know what a “Scott Pilgrim” actually was when it came down to it.

I’m unsure what, exactly, was behind the failure of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but the more distance I get from the oddly heartbreaking realization that a movie I loved so much — a movie that was I admired for its writing, visual and music styles — was so roundly ignored, the more it doesn’t seem to matter. People didn’t go and see Scott Pilgrim, but that’s their loss; despite that, it remains a wonderful film that perfectly illustrates what it’s like to be young and in love. It’s up to everyone else in the future to discover it and appreciate it after the fact.

4 comments
billybobbyjoe
billybobbyjoe

As much as I love Pacific Rim and Scott Pilgrim for pretty similar reasons, I grew up watching Godzilla movies and playing arcade fighters like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this article will be irrelevant in a week's time. The movie just hit #1 at the international box office where it obviously has more appeal than in the U.S. and has already made more than it's production budget of $190 million. That's three times the production budget of Scott Pilgrim's.

dbrunover1
dbrunover1

Scott Pilgrim is a must watch .. 

MatthewSelva
MatthewSelva like.author.displayName 1 Like

Last I checked Pacific Rim is #1 Internationally and still making money in the U.S. Thanks to word of mouth, and great reviews. Maybe you got paid to write a pitch for more Scott Pilgrim sales? Yep this article read like it did.

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin like.author.displayName 1 Like

Are you trying to damn Pacific Rim with faint praise?

For some reason I don't think Guillermo del Toro would be thrilled to have his testosterone-laden Michael Bay fantasy compared to a whiny, gen-y, product-placement-fest.