Posted From The US
I finally was able to see the new film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World this weekend.
Some quick hit thoughts:
- Will surely be a slacker-indie cult classic
- Very cool mash-up of retro video game vibes + indie music + slackers + Canada/Toronoto
- Great cast
- Is sadly flailing at the box office - but thus is the fate of going all out indie
- Hopefully will make all the $ and then some somehow through DVDs and word of mouth
- Is the kind of film/graphic novel thingie I love
- Actually read all 6 graphic novels(!) - and liked them better - somehow they have more heart and depth and ambience
Why Avatar scored billions in its box office and Scott Pilgrim will likely barely make back its budget is a harsh lesson for any writer, filmmaker, and studio. They seem to both appeal to the core ComiCon crowd (strange blue aliens vs. indie rock video game slackers) - but somehow Avatar widely broadened its appeal across the world and won over practically everyone.
I think Scott Pilgrim suffers from what I will call the "Williamsburgh/Indie" ghetto mentality - which ultimately makes its world much smaller. If you have ever visited Williamsburgh it has bloomed into a indie arts/music Nirvana of sorts - a very inward, self-referential world - a living Facebook of hipsters and artsy types. It's a really cool place - but it bears little resemblance to the rest of the world. One wakes up, heads down to the local ultra-wicked-cool coffe shop, hangs out with other really cool and interesting people, works on one's band/film/art project, and then at night heads to a loft for an even cooler secret show featuring some amazingly uber-hip band (some TV On The Radio/Sleigh Bells mashup). Williamsburgh has distilled the best parts of college into a persistent art-slacker experience - one you never want to leave. It is the land of the Lotus Eaters - and it's good stuff.
Williamsburgh = Austin = Portland = Toronto = Seattle (sort of). These are coral reefs - very specialized clusters that can only exist under unique conditions, often within vast seas of danger and conservatism and blah. They are the fragmented, bastard children of the Beats and Woodstock and Paris of the 1920s and every idealized art dream. The connectedness to the rest of the world is thin - and often alienating. The battle cry is "your world kinda sucks - I'm dropping out and tuning in somewhere else". This is both the greatness and limitation of Scott Pilgrim - it drops a sharp dividing line between those who get it and those who do not. If you do, welcome in, if you don't, well f--k off - who invited you anyway?
I get it, thought it rocked - but.
The genius of Star Wars, of the Beatles, (maybe even of Avatar) - of a rarefied few was this: we'll bring this other place to you, all of you. We know all of you need to escape every once in a while, and everyone needs to have the world widened. We all may not be able to live in the indie cool villages, but we can all live in the Yellow Submarine. For all of Scott Pilgrim's awesome cool innovations and creativity, I think that they forgot this - they built a small bus for a select few - and it's a great ride if you can get on it.
The harder thing is to crawl over your own walls and beyond those walls of people you think are just not the bees knees - and to somehow get past all of that. That harder thing is what Pixar does well. It's not mandatory - but it can explain success in a small circle vs. wide universal appeal.
I love the fact that Scot Pilgrim exists and I hope that many more films like it can and should get made - but setting expectations correctly up front can help soften the disappointment later.