Scott Pilgrim Fans Vs. The World

hisuiconThe fandom around the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was a fascinating phenomenon to me. I saw a dozen of news articles, blog posts, podcasts, forum debates, twitter discussion, and Facebook rants after the movie’s first weekend in theaters about the question: “Why did Scott Pilgrim Bomb?” The best analysis of why the movie did not do well the theaters was the article on Cinema Blend as its five reason were pretty much spot on. But what interested me more than the fallout at the box office was the strange cult of Scott Pilgrim fans that made the movie into a line in the sand on which the future of entertainment was based.

Not fall fans of  Scott Pilgrim are this insane. I saw many a person who enjoyed the movie and then maybe urged some of their friends to see it as well. What I am talking about was this vocal minority in the fandom that seem to think that the fate of independent comics, comic book movies, and even entertainment in general was intimately linked to the how well this movie did. You were either for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World or you were with the cultural barbarians trying to tear down the noble Camelot of free artistic achievement. I went to the movie and I even enjoyed the film quite a bit but I cannot see why this film would provoke such a fanatical response.

In my opinion Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was doomed to be a cult classic from day one. It is one of those movies that bombs in theaters but goes on to do decently on DVD. It will be constantly talked about by fans  who recommend it to others with a zealot like glee to like-minded friends for years to come. The direction by Edgar Wright is spot on and plays up the quirks of the comic brilliantly earning a place in the hearts of many people who saw the movie. By the same token the movie wears its bizarre quirkiness on its sleeve in a way that does not allow anyone who was not predisposed to the movie to want to see it. Despite all the positive buzz it had it never had the legs to be the break out hit its fans wanted it to be. I cannot understand why fans thought otherwise.

The most important thing to take away from this is that no matter what happened the future of independent comics is generally unaffected by what happened to Scott Pilgrim. When Northrop Davis was on the ANNcast he mentioned that an anime movie bombing does not mean Hollywood will never look at anime for another movie to produce. When the Dragonball: Evolution failed it mostly means that Dragonball become radioactive but not all anime properties. So when Scott Pilgrim failed other independent comics still have the same chance they used to. We don’t have independent comics being snatched up left and right but they are far from untouchable. The cult of Scott Pilgrim has to sit back and gently sell the movie they love on its merits and not resort to bizarre scare tactics.

11 thoughts on “Scott Pilgrim Fans Vs. The World

  1. Wimtermuted says:

    Well put. EVen in all of my ravings about the film, it was done well within the feeling that the product was niche-geared at best. If anything, my bluster was a means to rally up more interest in Bryan Lee O’ Malley’s comic, which has gained immense ground in popularity since the film’s release.Seeing him, and the throngs of diverse fans in Sawtelle a few weeks ago was great proof of just how cross-subculture it really is. And despite this, the numbers were simply never there to ensure anything more than a cult classic. Also, the film is terrific in how it takes such source material, and treats it with such reverence that it can only have the appeal of cult. The vernacular with which the film works with, fans must keep in mind that it is pretty bizarre for a major release. Not to mention the moviegoer burnout on Mr. Cera, and you had something that could only infiltrate the culture on a word of mouth level, and not within the summer movie horserace. In my opinion, the film will continue to grow in popularity through other means, and will likely have a Fight Club-like shelf life, which is not a bad thing at all.But more importantly, it’ll raise awareness of independent comic artists, and their ability to play in a larger sandbox of genre.

  2. Alex Leavitt says:

    The irony is that similar films are similarly bombed. A lot of pre-hype marketing and showings were done for the Firefly film, Serenity, but after its first week in theaters for realz, it completely tanked. :(

    • reversethieves says:

      Well I think they both realized that the only way either movie would be a success was if it had considerable word of mouth success. The problem is Scott Pilgrim never took off like that despite their efforts.

      If anyone knows what the magical alchemy to transform a cult classic to a mainstream success on a regular basis is has the formula to be a millionaire. Universal Pictures put in a decent amount of effort but in the end it never made that transition and I think was destined never to do so. So it remains in it’s cult classic track.

      And maybe that is not the worst thing in the world.

      – Hisui

  3. Wimtermuted says:

    And both films were released by Universal, utilizing the same “free showing” strategy. By the time that the film was released, at least an eighth of the intended audience had already seen the film. That said, I’m not of the camp that believes that doing less of these showings would have made any real dent.The very approach of the film was enough to make the average viewer scratch their heads, feeling as if they had to be in the know long beforehand. Which tells me that Wright, and his producers knew exactly what they were doing. But to see it actually made should be commended. It implies that someone out there is actually willing to take such risks, and will likely leave an effect that works best over time. Even Wright himself during interviews compared Pilgrim to another cult classic, Brian DePalma’s Phantom Of The Paradise. The risk always lives, and the geek community is all the wealthier for it.

    • reversethieves says:

      If anything the free showing strategy had the potential to give the movie some legs thanks to positive buzz. And from what I saw the movie got tons of publicity and rave reviews from the free screenings. It proves they had a film that they felt was good and would gain this massive following if the right people talked about it. The problem was that never helped it in the end. But as you said it did not hurt it. If anything it probably help cement some ticket sales and many more DVD sales it might not have gotten otherwise.

      – Hisui

  4. Erin says:

    I recommended the comic all the time, but the film inspires me in this way that basically makes me an insane zealot who cannot be trusted. This is a borderline friendship-killing film. YOU DID NOT LIKE IT ENOUGH AND YOU’RE GOING ON MY BLACK LIST.

    I realize this is not a rational position.

    In any case, my film friends think the marketing failed because the poster didn’t have Ramona Flowers on it. Nobody thinks Michael Cera is cool.

    Someone had scribble prophetically on a movie poster on the L subway like in sharpie: “OH YES nothing is sexier than white geeky guys!” I generally do not see movies because of the sexiness of the lead actors, but I think the mainstream does. I also heard the movie was heavily criticized for not having any African Americans in it (African Canadians?).

    • reversethieves says:

      My question is do you know what about the movie inspires such fanatical zealotry. In a way half the reason for this post is to get soemone to explain to me (if they can) what inspires such fanatical devotion. I liked the film but I hardly feel the need to join the Coo-Coo-Cola cult.

      But how many other movies don’t have African Americans in them? African Americans throw their money at good (an some less than good) movies with African Americans in them precisely for this reason.

      But Yeah banking on Michael Cera instead of pretty much anyone else was probably a bad idea overall. They probably should have played up the Edgar Wright connection much more as well.

      – Hisui

      • Wimtermuted says:

        Coo-Coo Cola..Nice RR callback. No. There is no real reason to in down this kind of fanatical behavior, outside of deep love, and a raging response toward fanatical fandom of other properties.Many are tired of not seeing their lives expressed on screen. And in an era where Twilight receives as much hyperbolic response as other tentpoles, this film can almost be seen as a vindication that there is also a movement of fans equal to greater for material along these lines.Of course it’s irrational, they’re fans wishing to feel that geekdom has attained a new plateau of respectability in mainstream pop culture.

        The thing they forget is that despite all of the coolness of the film, the niche factor still stands, and works in fits & starts–never in any massive overflow. Not unless one plays it safe, and does a major bestseller, or a superhero adaptation. Placing this type of expectation on what is still an independent comic, with a cult readership is more than a little unrealistic, and unfair.It is even less well-known in the lexicon than Speed Racer for goodness sake.

        So, in short..I love supporting the film, and also love spreading the word about it. But expectations are realistic, and the filmmakers knew full well what was happening here was a huge risk.It is as it was meant to be, not some watered down facsimile of the comic, but a well-played love letter to it. And the achievement alone will be appreciated by numbers of future fans who eventually pick up the books, and see what the noise was all about.To see the original artist win out of all this is the real victory. And I think many Scott Pilgrim fans will attest to this. It is a gift that we received this strong a piece of work, and it should be appreciated as such. Not as some prized race horse for their respective lifestyles. Once out of the gate, film endures through those who discover and love it, and that is awesome.

  5. Anatole_serial says:

    >> I also heard the movie was heavily criticized for not having any African Americans in it (African Canadians?).

    What.

    No, seriously.

    WHAT.

    Does this mean that you can never have a movie, EVER, that does not have any sort of minority? Even if the movie takes place in a region of the planet in which minorities are incredibly rare?

    Of course, the most hilarious thing about this train of thought is that one of the most important characters *IS* part of a minority…

    But I guess that, for Hollywood crazy people, Knives Chau should’ve been African-Canadian instead of, you know, Chinese.

    Also, Sex Bob Omb should’ve been a RAP GROUP…

    You know, to appeal to the broader demographic.

    Ever since the film was ANNOUNCED, it was fairly obvious that it was NOT MAINSTREAM AT ALL. It’s a Geeky Comic, that uses Geeky References and is hilarious in a Geeky kind of way. It bombed, awesomely… In a Geeky kind of way.

    >> and will likely have a Fight Club-like shelf life

    One of the biggest, if not THE classic Cult Hit That Bombed At The Theaters.

    One should take heed of that: Even if a movie fails at the theaters, that does not mean it is a failure as a movie.

  6. Joe says:

    I too was disappointed over the performance of the film at the box office, especially since it seemed poised to take advantage of a lack of any real competition (for its target demographic) during its first few weeks out. It didn’t make any sense to me why it wasn’t a big hit, but I guess all the reasons you came up with make sense. At least most of us enjoyed it, and with any luck it’ll take on a Fight Club/Office Space life once it hits DVD. We can only hope.

  7. Wimtermuted says:

    Add Blade Runner, Big Trouble In Little China(and YES, even TRON) to this hallowed list…Never underestimate the ripple effect of geekdom. Wright made a one-of-a-kind anomaly on the face of Summer Movies. And much like Shaun, it seems to get better with repeat viewings.Like a great, fun garage band, it’s like catnip for a disaffected age.It also clearly was made with love and obsession, another big attraction of it. (remember–no single shot is repeated–over 4000 set-ups in total) The film is an impressive feat of film geekdom, and will remain so for years, I feel anyway.

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