Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is an amazing movie. A truly unique and fantastic film that should be seen by everyone. Any movie where our hero headbutts someone so hard that they burst into coins is the definition of awesome. But Scott Pilgrim is more than just clever sight gags and beautifully executed video game references. It builds sympathetic and interesting characters, warts and all, and manages to make you care about them. This movie is great, and it’s just a shame that nostalgia and starring vehicles will crush it at the box office.
Which brings me to my topic: Movies and how I am so glad I am not making them.
Oh, yes, I have a few books optioned for film, and I am excited about that. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m hopeful, with a little luck, that they might become good films. I like movies, probably even a little more than books (if I’m honest), and I have tremendous respect for good movies. Heck, I even respect bad movies because, when you get down to it, even a bad movie is a lot of work by a lot of people. And when a great movie is made . . . that’s nothing short of a minor miracle.
I’ve dipped my feet in the Hollywood pool, and I’m only too happy to be invited to the party. But, at the end of the day, I’m glad to be a novelologist, and Scott Pilgrim is a perfect illustration why.
Moviemaking is rough. Scott Pilgrim is the #5 movie in the USA. This qualifies it as “a bomb”. That still astounds me. If I had the 100th most popular book in the country, I’d be a success. If I had the 5th most popular movie in America, I’d be a disappointment.
In addition, this is Scott Pilgrim’s one shot at being a successful film. It doesn’t get a do over. It might end up being popular on DVD, Blue Ray. It might even make a modest profit, most likely will be deemed a “cult favorite”. But to Hollywood, it will always be a failure, and there’s just no way around that.
I can’t imagine that pressure. I can’t imagine working in an industry where that kind of pressure is commonplace. Dabbling in Hollywood is fun. It’s a great opportunity, great money, great chance to gain gobs of exposure. But make no mistake. It is brutal.
When people ask me if I’m “excited” about the prospect of one of my books becoming a movie, my reply is “Of course, I am.” I would love to have a movie come out. I’d be a fool not to. But I also know what that entails, that a movie can sink like a stone through no fault of its own, and that in the space of one weekend, 3 days, a film’s ultimate fate is decided.
I’m sure everyone will have a reason for why Scott Pilgrim didn’t do as well as it should’ve. I’m sure right now people are saying it’s “too smart”, “too niche”, “too silly”, “lacks starpower”, etc., etc. But these are just guesses. It seems to me that where a movie ends up has less to do with its quality and more to do with its competition and fickle moments of fate. And anyone who thinks they understand how it works, how to beat or control the system, is just fooling themselves. Otherwise, Hollywood would produce nothing but hit films, and that just ain’t happening.
Scott Pilgrim’s fate is sealed. A wonderful film destined to be mocked for its box office failings, perhaps loved by a few but otherwise cast aside to the cruel gods of film. You probably didn’t see it (or maybe you did because if you come to this site, you just might have the imagination and proper attitude to enjoy a strange story with a great deal of heart), but you definitely should while you can. I don’t say this often, but this is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen. It has some lively set pieces that are really cool. (My favorite might be The Battle of the Band’s sequence, where music is personified as an ape fighting dragons.)
Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,