The Scott Pilgrim conundrum

Vanity Fair had an article this week about why you should go see Scott Pilgrim. I agree with it, even if they weren’t quite blunt enough for my taste. So, here’s my take on what are actually two issues:

Scott Pilgrim – or Hollywood’s continued lack of understanding
Anyone who thought Scott Pilgrim was ever going to be anything more than an indie cult hit was foolish.

And it’s not because Michael Cera can’t carry a movie or because the audience didn’t know what the movie was and not even the comics and geek aspect, except perhaps Hollywood’s inability to understand comics and geeks. Several sources have cited these as if, had they been done differently, the movie would have made more money. So, let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with this movie.

It’s a well made movie with solid writing and characters and Michael Cera is absolutely, exactly who they should have cast. It’s fun and irreverant but still has heart and even though I haven’t read the source material it seems like a pretty good adaptation to me.
The only problem with this film are the expectations heaped upon it.


When Scott Pilgrim opened to $10 million I thought that was a solid opening for a movie like this. Until I learned that Universal spent $60 million on it. That was their first mistake because a video game movie about a bunch of kids, some of them with oddly colored hair, was never going to make more than $30 million domestically. Not much more overseas, either, because it won’t translate well in international markets no matter how much it tapped into the sensibilities of the 18-24 crowd. And this movie totally speaks 18-24. But it’s expressed in a video game/comic vernacular a lot of kids won’t listen to.

Comic Con hype might have blinded people to what this movie actually is, but if Serenity taught us anything, it’s that geeks can’t carry a movie alone. That audience, though fervant, just isn’t big enough. You need broader appeal for a strong box office.

If you want to change that reality you need to understand…

Money – or why it’s America’s fault Hollywood keeps making bad movies
You pay to go see them.

That’s it. If you want Hollywood to stop making bad movies, stop watching them.

Now, the difficult thing about this system is that the only way to find out if you like a movie or not is to go see it. But by then it’s too late. Your vote has been cast at the box office and every dollar you spend says, “Yes, please. Make more movies like this.”

The hard reality is, every time you go see a movie because you have a sentimental attachment to the the tv show, you’re the reason Hollywood keeps turning tv shows into movies. Every time you see a sequel because you liked the original, you’re the reason Hollywood keeps making sequels. And every time you go see a remake because you liked the original version and/or are curious to see what they’ve done with it; yes, you are the reason Hollywood keeps remaking films.
Well, ok that last one isn’t entirely true. Sometimes they remake films because the artists involved loved the original so much they want to be a part of it so they do it all over again. But you get the point.

You can complain that Hollywood makes bad movies, but every movie you go see, good or bad, you’re telling them they can make money which is what most of them are in it for. So, Vanity Fair is right. If you want people to make good movies, go see good movies. Pay for them.

Your dollar is the largest voice you have in all of pop culture.

August 28, 2010 | Commentary | this post contains affiliate links