In The Wrap's latest article on the topic, the site suggests five reasons why the film failed. The list consists of exactly what you'd expect, but a few quotes liven up the subject a bit, especially the ones from folks on the marketing side of the industry.
The first finger is pointed at genre confusion. What is Scott Pilgrim? Is it an adventure, romance or comedy? Based on the promotional material, it's impossible to know. Come to think of it, even after seeing the film, there's no way to give it a clear-cut label. Scott Pilgrim is just something we've never seen before and while it should be praised for daring to be different, moviegoers are running scared. Even the film's posters sent out a confusing message. At first Cera looks super cool rocking out on his guitar, but then we see he's just a geek in the commercials. A marketing executive suggested, "They couldn't decide if this was a true superhero movie and they should make him look like a hero, or if it was an underdog story and you were supposed to root for him to get the girl."
Then the blame shifts to comic books. X-Men, Batman and Spider-Man are one thing, but now we've expired the best of the best and are delving into lesser known material and lesser known material means far less interest. Just look at what happened with Kick-Ass and Jonah Hex. How many people out there actually knew who those characters were prior to the feature film buzz? I certainly didn't. Another marketing team member said, "There is too heavy a reliance on the fanboy and fangirl crowd, and they don't always branch out to the mainstream." Diehard fans may show up to Comic-Con and flood the halls, but when the film goes beyond San Diego, fans just don't have a significant presence throughout the country. Fanboy word-of-mouth isn't enough.
Now for problem #3, Michael Cera. Yes, people pick on him for playing the same role over and over again, but why is that such a big deal if he's good at it? I've even taken a jab at Cera for always playing the lanky loser, but not once have I ever criticized his acting ability. He's good at what he does. Sadly being a talented actor or being in a film that gets raves reviews doesn't always correlate to a film's box office haul. Cera hasn't been part of a solid hit since Juno. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Year One, and Youth in Revolt all underperformed. The sad thing is, I quite liked Nick and Norah and Youth in Revolt.
The fourth issue is something I actually never considered: The Wrap calls it "Slacker Fatigue." A marketing exec explained, "In recessionary time, who wants to see a movie about 20-year-old slacker do-nothings who are in a band? You'd rather slap them than go watch them in a movie." Personally, I might get a little bit of an ego boost knowing I'm putting more effort into my work than someone else – even if it is just a fictional character – but it's certainly reasonable to suspect some folks just don't want to see someone sitting back while they've got to work their butts off.
Lastly we've got Scott Pilgrim's hefty price tag. A nice chunk of the fun of the film came from those snazzy visual effects, but those are the items that bumped the cost up quite a bit. Another person in the marketing biz said, "This should have never been a studio movie. It feels like an indie movie and if they'd released the movie through Focus [Features] it would have felt more organic." Yet another said, "It's too damn expensive. If it was made for $25 to $30 million, nobody would be beating up on it and it would go on to make a good chunk of change at the box office. At this point it may never make its money back." It's sad but true. People expect the big studios to deliver exactly what they want; an action movie with action in it, a comedy with good jokes, a romance with some lessons in love. Apparently, when those big studios don't follow through, moviegoers rebel.
This is all sad, but true. People want what they want and when movies don't fit their desires accordingly, they take a pass. As juvenile as this sounds, at this point the only thought that's looping in my mind is that it's not fair. More so than a fantastic movie not getting the box office success it deserves, I'm much more concerned for the future of filmmaking. I want more movies like Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass, but after their weak releases, odds are, we won't get very many more. Hopefully there are still some big studios out there willing to give crossgenres a chance, but it looks as though that duty will soon fall solely to indie producers. As long as they keep them coming and make them as good as Scott Pilgrim, that's fine by me. Let's just hope they don't give up.
Regardless of Scott Pilgrim and the industry's fate, thumbs up to Edgar Wright and the gang for making a great flick and also to Universal for giving the marketing their best shot.