Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pilgrim's Regress

Last week we talked about the concern -- as voiced by X-Men: First Class helmer Matthew Vaughn -- that after too many years of too many comic-based movies at too low a level of quality would lead the genre to very quickly burn itself out. Then, last Friday, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright's big screen, big budget adaptation of Bryan O'Malley's much-loved indy graphic novel series, hit theaters armed with plaudits from critics and hosannahs from fans -- and instantly enacted the box office equivalent of hara-kiri.

I had the opportunity to see Scott Pilgrim a few months back, and I left the theater with two distinct impressions. First, I was genuinely impressed at how effectively Wright infused his quirky comedic sensibilities honed on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz into an effects-heavy Hollywood production. Second, I was genuinely curious as to how it would play to a mainstream audience not schooled in the videogaming minutiae that gave the movie its distinctive voice. While I hoped Pilgrim would break out, I wondered if it was simply too much of a question mark for most audiences.

Well, after its release last weekend, the tale of the tape was predictable, if disappointing, with the Michael Cera-starrer easily bested by Testosterone: The Movie and Julia Roberts' Travelogue. A cloud of buzz and goodwill couldn't stop Universal's $85 mil budget buster from dying a slow death at the turnstile that will see it retake only a fraction of that initial outlay. Bad news for Uni (who inexplicably just committed $200 million for Battleship: The Movie. Yep, that Battleship.), worse news for graphic novel adaptations, as this is the third disappointment in a row based on lesser-known comic material after April's Kick-Ass and The Losers (which I finally saw -- and enjoyed).

I had every intention of doing a full-on review for Scott Pilgrim, and I really do think it's worth seeing sooner rather than later, but various constraints have made that difficult, so (as I exhorted my Twitter followers earlier this week) jump over to the Los Angeles Times and check out my friend Todd Martens' terrific write-up on what makes the movie work. After you finish that, jump over here and read Ben Fritz & John Horn's dissection of its ignominious box office demise, whether it has any hope at all of making its budget back, and what this means for the future of the genre.

1 comment:

lue lyron said...

yah, looks like we have a slow-boil cult movie. Not enough retail politics. We're not in a regular Friday night movie going habit ourselves. I wish them well on the rebound. Maybe I'll make it out to see it soon, too!

I really like your blog's set-up and links and so on, as well as its content.

To think, I remembered to visit again today based on your open invitation to Chris Back's parties.