I caught “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” on DVD earlier this week and it was a mixed bag. The stylized visual gags were very well done – I particularly liked the use of on-screen text to give the viewer bits of amusing information. The pace was non-stop and the story was generally interesting.
With what seemed like so many good ingredients in place, many have wondered why the film ultimately didn’t perform well at the box office. I don’t know that it was a case of a public at-large missing out on a perfect film. Rather, the film playeds perfectly to a selected sub-set of the movie-going public: the pop culture geek. What is the film’s greatest strength – in terms of making it unique – then became its greatest weakness in selling tickets to a mass audience.
Compare, if you will, to a film like “Dark Knight” – my parents went to “Dark Knight” and enjoyed it. Under no circumstances could I envision them enjoying “Scott Pilgrim.” By the same token, I suspect that those who are currently teens wouldn’t really appreciate the film either. Many of the pop culture references dig back into the late-1980s and I don’t know that teens of today are in touch with that era en masse.
The most common comment that I saw amongst mainstream reviewers was that the typical audience would just find the film too ‘weird.’ Sort of like how the mainstream looks at attendees to Comic-Con and thinks that they look ‘weird.’ Many have speculated that the film will find a cult audience on other mediums like DVD, but I don’t know that it will ever find that mainstream audience that it missed the first time around.
Given that I appreciated much of what the film was trying to do and understood many of the pop culture references, what held me back from thoroughly enjoying it? Simply put, I didn’t like any of the characters. Scott – played by Michael Cera as Michael Cera – himself came off as self-centered and indecisive; simply not a guy who I wanted to root for. A lack of characters who an audience has to root for has deep-six-ed many a film and “Scott Pilgrim” is yet another example of where it can cause problems – at least, that was the case for me.
On a side note, it is interesting to me how Michael Cera has been largely been upstaged in recent months by Jesse Eisenberg, as the two seem to play very similar roles, bringing a similarly-understated acting style to the screen. Cera has to be wondering how he’s gone from being the ‘it’ guy for such roles during the post-“Juno” accolades to being in the shadow of Eisenberg’s wider financial success via “Zombieland” and “The Social Network.” Both actors remain interesting to watch, as both have established a track record for selecting interesting material. Time will tell as to which ends up being the bigger star.