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Scott Pilgrim vs. The Expendables

Nerds, we have failed miserably! Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came in 5th this weekend behind The Expendables, Eat, Pray, Love, The Other Guys and Inception. While I’m excited by the staying power of Inception, I’m very upset that the two most fun films of the year did not take the top two spots.

I had planned to write a very different story on these two, but I cannot overcome my disappointment in Scott Pilgrim’s opening. I’m sure the film will earn and it is destined to become a cult classic, but I wanted the nerds to beat the jocks just this once, not come in almost $25 million behind. Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. Nerds never win in a popularity contest or any event that showcases brute strength and I guess box office draw falls somewhere along that spectrum. I had just hoped that our numbers had been growing as we slowly make our way into the mainstream and that Scott Pilgrim would be a chance to make our numbers known. Perhaps we were divided between Star Wars Celebration and the cinema. Whatever the cause, it’s not too late for some great summer entertainment.

Friday night was the guys’ night. My nephew and I braved the opening night crowd and went to check out The Expendables. As a fan of mindless action flicks, I had been looking forward to this one for quite a while. I remember hearing that Stallone was working on a film starring himself, Li, Statham, Lundgren, Austin, and rumored cameos by Schwarzenegger and Willis. According to Stallone; Van Damme, Segal and Norris were asked about making an appearance in the film, but it was not meant to be.

In the case that you weren’t sold on The Expendables because of the cast alone, I’ll give you a little bit about the plot. Stallone plays Barney Ross, leader of a mercenary group that is hired to overthrow the dictator (General Garza, played by David Zayas, best known to me as Angel from Dexter) of a fictitious South American island-nation. The team consists of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) whose weapon of choice is a blade, martial artist Ying Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road – demolition expert (one time MMA champ, Randy Couture), the unstable sniper Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren – Seriously, this guy is a chemical engineer and a Fulbright scholar from MIT?) and heavy weapons expert Hale Caesar (the too awesome for words Terry Crews). Rounding out the good guys is the sage-like Tool (Micky Rourke – I’m not calling him a tool, that’s really his character’s name).

We find out early on that Garza is working with an American named Munroe (Eric Roberts). Munroe’s personal guards include Paine, played by Steve Austin and The Brit, played by the familiar-but-I’m-not-sure-from-where Gary Daniels.

From the opening scene of the team in action to the massive explosion, hand-to-hand combat and gunfire period of over-stimulation that is the climax of the movie, The Expendables delivers; as long as you were looking for shit to blow up, one liners and people to get killed in ways that make the entire theater exclaim “Damn!” I also want to mention that I love the music choices in this one. Southern Rock and action flicks are made for each other and songs by Georgia Satellites, Mountain, Thin Lizzy and Creedence Clearwater Revival belong in this movie like Mtn Dew at a tabletop gaming session. If you can forgive the digitized blood in a few scenes, Stallone has written and directed the perfect action flick.

Sunday was the day that my wife, my niece and my nephew went with me to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The moment the Universal logo came up, accompanied by matching 8-bit song, I knew this would be something I would enjoy.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is about..uh..Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera). Scott Pilgrim is your average 23 year old Canadian slacker who plays in a band, is between jobs and lives with his friend and gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin).

Scott Pilgrim is dating a 17 year old high school student named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Knives loves Scott and she loves his band – Sex Bob-Omb. Unfortunately, for Knives, Scott meets the girl of his dreams in Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Death Proof and Live Free or Die Hard). Also unfortunate for Knives, Scott gets too caught up in trying to win Ramona to break it off with Knives. Also also unfortunate, but for Scott this time, Ramona has seven evil exes that have banded together to control the future of Ramona’s love life. In other words, Scott must defeat the seven evil exes in order to continue dating Ramona.

Scott Pilgrim is filled with video game references. From Scott’s Pac-Man pick-up line to battles between Scott and the exes set to look like boss fights, this is one for the long time video game player.
The best part of Scott Pilgrim is the battle scenes. Comedic, action-packed, exciting and nostalgic I was a bit sad that there were only 7 evil exes.

This week was my favorite week in recent cinema-going history. The perfect action movie and the perfect nerd movie in the same weekend made it a joy to hand over my money. Thank you Mr. Wright and Mr. Stallone, you gave us some great entertainment. Keep doing what you do so well.

How much would I pay to see these again?

The Expendables: Out of $10, I would pay $8 to see it again. I could never get tired of some of those explosions and watching as the group takes on impossible odds.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Out of $10, I would pay $10. I love this movie and if I had any question about any future Edgar Wright projects, they are gone and I’m sold!

Jay Fralick is the co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie? Podcast
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Images: Universal, Lionsgate

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  1. Lucy says:

    Aww, Scott Pilgrim post! My friend read the graphic novels as they were released so the movie was a huge deal to her. So huge a deal that she got me hooked on it too. We saw it three times. I’m still bummed it did so crappily in theaters but I know it’ll be huge in DVD sales. Small victory.

  2. Joey_Vee says:

    Here is a comic to help illustrate what happened at the box office between Scott Pilgrim and The Expendables.

  3. NeuroMan42 says:

    Scott Pilgrim rocked the Triforce, and I saw The Expendables today. I can sum it up like this… The Expendables = 2HRS OF HUGE FUCKING EXPLOSIONS. It was fun but it makes Avatar look like a fucking Oscar film. 🙂

  4. spacekicker says:

    @Thom – nothing in the books did. It was a longer story though and he was much more tolerable. I think in the shortened time to have a character that is hard to root for makes it harder to watch.

  5. Catie says:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did come across this great article by Linda Holmes for NPR that criticizes lazy film critics for reviewing the audiences (or perceived intended audiences) for Scott Pilgrim. I think it’s spot on and worth the read –

  6. Thom says:


    What in the books made you think Scott was worth cheering for or Ramona was worth fighting for? Isn’t it kind of the point that they’re very immature and have inflicted a lot of emotional pain on others?

  7. spacekicker says:

    Expendables a jock movie?! WHAT????

    Listen as a geek that grew up through the eighties they were the superheroes, the ones fighting aliens, the ones that were real life versions of my G.I. Joes! Martial arts and action movies are as much a draw to geeks and nerds as slacker video game refrencing flicks are.

    I saw Scott Pilgrim too. I loved the books, and the movie was a cinematic feat…BUT…it lacked a little heart. There was nothing in the movie to make me believe Ramona was worth fighting for, that Scott was worth cheering for, but it was a fun ride to be sure, and I too am a bit surprised in how it opened. Bizzzarrre. What’s more bizarre is why they didn’t have it come out this week opposite “Vampires suck”.

  8. Richard Howk says:

    These were two of the films we were choosing between last night when we decided to go to the movies on a whim (the other being The Other Guys). I’m glad we made the choice to go see Scott Pilgrim. This film was made for me and other geeks just like me. My wife (being a geek, herself) and I absolutely loved it. The scene where Scott jumps out the window when Knives shows up unexpectedly at his apartment was the funniest thing I’ve seen in years. I could not stop laughing! Great read, J.C.!

  9. Joey H says:

    I blame the marketers for Scott Pilgrim. The moment the trailer came out online, I was stone cold pumped about this particular movie. The music sounded awesome, the visuals were fantastic and the dialouge sounded hilarious. What do I get from the mass marketing on television (and lets face it most people are still getting info on movies from those commercials)? I get really lacking 30 second spots featuring what looks like a movie for just teens. This movie goes far beyond that. They marketed it just like Kick Ass and that was another awesome movie that tanked because it looked like it was a movie for just 13 year olds rather than a really good genre breaking movie. I feel that the people in marketing thought that this movie (Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim) would only do well with really young people and wouldn’t appeal to adults who grew up in 8-bit culture. Were they every wrong. This movie was awesome (SP) and it would have done better if more people were exposed to the stunning visuals on television.

  10. Erik D says:

    The reason it came in 5th is because some of the nerd/geeks that are suppose to go see it are watching it online. I’m not saying its right but that life.

  11. Carl Carter says:

    Great reviews, I wasn’t sure about The Expendables but will give it a go now!

  12. Holt says:

    Why make the choice? My nerd clan from college all congregated in Austin (some driving 7+ hours) for a double feature of “Scott Pilgrim” and “The Expendables” last weekend. We had to go to two theaters and I forked up cash for a sitter so you know this was no joke. Absolutely worth the trouble. Vegan Police and a tsunami of faceless badguy corpse parts. What could be sweeter?

  13. Tony says:

    Scott Pilgrim chose one of the absolute worst weekends it could open on. Just based on trailers and public viewing habits, think of stereotyping average viewers.

    Ok, we have a Julia Roberts chick flick. That will take out majority of females and female leading couples. (Hey just a quick majority analysis here). Then we have the star led Expendables with Michael Bay like explosions. Of course this will take the majority of guys and male leading couples. What’s left is Pilgrim fighting Inception for third. You have Cera opening an action movie against a movie with the biggest action movie actors ever.

  14. Tammy says:

    I wanted to see Scott Pilgrim this weekend, but every movie theater near me (and there are several) were only playing it on one screen. One screen means less times to go see it. This equals more difficult to fit it in the schedule.

  15. Dude says:

    Didn’t surprise me at all. From the first time I saw the trailer I said “THAT movie is gonna be a HUGE flop!” and I was right on the money! The whole concept is stupid for a movie. I thought who wants yo see this other than a hyperactive 10 year old!

  16. Jaron says:

    Too many fucktards see Michael Cera’s face and then immediately shut off their brains.

    Forget that Scott Pilgrim is the most original thing they’ll see all year.

    Forget that Cera kicks ass in this movie.

    Forget that WE are the movie’s target audience.

    Forget that Edgar Wright has genius comedic timing and the movie is full of geeky in-jokes and audio cues.

    I am disgusted by my own people this weekend.

  17. kalita says:

    There is also a big problem with the assumption that because they made a ‘nerd film’, nerds automatically are going to love it. I have no interest in seeing Scott Pilgrim.

  18. Crunch says:

    Here’s the problem – this movie should have been made for Youtube, a’la “Dr. Horrible”. Plot, boss scene, denouement. Repeat, releasing 10 minute intervals and saving lots of money while generating buzz. I can’t see it due to having a generation gap. My daughter loved other movies he’s been in, and it was so annoying that I can’t watch them until she moves out next year. Until then, I happily hang up my geek card and will wait to dust it off at such time that I have time to be geeky. Geekiness is a very personal thing – I appreciate Cera’s position. He’s trying to represent something very personal and individual in the geekiness thing. It’s hard for one geek to relate to another well, let alone go pay 15 bucks for an actor to represent one properly. Kudos to him for being cutting edge and at least attempting something normally reserved for Revenge of the Nerds. He truly stands alone, and that deserves respect.
    Sorry it isn’t working out right now, but take comfort that American Idol is finally struggling as well. It’s about time, and I’ll take that trade any day.

  19. GuanoLad says:

    There are fewer video game and comic book nerds than you think, especially as most people are unfamiliar with the Scott Pilgrim comic itself.

    It’s aimed at too narrow a demographic to be a big hit, and expect similar disappointment with the oncoming onslaught of second-tier superhero movies.

    Plus, Michael Cera isn’t funny. His popularity confounds me.

  20. Dave Neckoway says:

    I think we were too busy trying to find the download, than rather venturing out of the house.

  21. Aaron says:

    I think it’s fairly obvious that America missed the boat on this one. All you really have to do is hit the interwebs and see all the “why is Scott Pilgrim not doing well?” articles that are being writen.
    Also, screw anyone that didn’t see this movie purely on Cera’s involvement. He’s pretty good at the one character he usually plays anyway but here he actually makes a focused effort to play against that type, and does well. Seriously people, please see this movie.

  22. Kelly says:

    @eddie – I don’t think America thinks about Michael Cera. Though they should. I think the simple answer is Americans are boring and predictable, especially with their summer viewing choices. Inception challenged the mainstream audience and a lot of them hated it once they saw it. They tried something new and didn’t like it with that movie and went back into their little jocky lives. Wow, I sound really hateful. I apologize. (I love action movies and will, at some point, watch the shit out of Expendables)

    And I’m a “chick” who went with two ladies and two guys (age range 25-32) to see Scott Pilgrim, and we all loved it. Granted, we also all piled into a car and drove 60 miles to get to a decent theater to see it in, so we kind of knew we were going to love it anyway. Any girls who hate it probably just aren’t geeky enough to be in on the jokes.

  23. Jason says:

    I’m fairly clued in to pop/fringe/comic culture, and I’d never heard of Scott Pilgrim before people started talking about the movie. Add to that Michael Cera Fatigue (or, more correctly, Cute Indie Movie Fatigue—See also: Juno, (500) Days Of Summer, anything with Jonah Ray or Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and I wasn’t lining up to go see it.

    The trailer for The Expendables, on the other hand, looked like something I wanted to go see, mostly because I get a kick out of seeing people like Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, and Terry Crews in big shoot-’em-ups. But I didn’t go see that, either.

  24. Lindsey says:

    I’m going to grimace and say maybe you shouldn’t be putting Scott Pilgrim up as the Nerd in the Nerds v. Jocks fight. For all of the really vocal “this is the greatest movie EVAR” fans of SP, there are a couple of, yeah, it was okay but not that amazing people like me standing behind them mumbling.

  25. Kevin says:

    Scott Pilgrim is my favorite movie ever. I’m seeing it for the 3rd time tonight, and the 4th time tomorrow night. I wish that more people would see it, it is amazing. I loved every single second of it. There was not a single line in the movie that I didn’t love. I want to memorize it and perform it Shakespeare in the park style.

  26. eddie says:

    I have a couple of theories.

    1. America is tired of Michael Cera’s as the “akward teen”.
    2. Kick-Ass proved that unless the comic book or graphic novel is really graphic (violent), or more like a novel (300, Sin City, Batman) it won’t attract more than a few devoted fans.
    3. Video game movies have never been successful, real gamers don’t even go to the movies, they are the ones who download movies and stay at home playing video games.
    4. The Expendables banked on stars, as “meh” as I feel about it, anyone of those dudes has brought in audiences at different times in their lives. Stallone had a good idea, you got to give it to him.

    It’s kinda sad that the best we can say is “this will become a cult hit”; I have if anybody has ever made any money out of that, but I hope it helps. America you lost on this one, cuz’ its a great movie.

  27. Estragon says:

    I was surprised when I saw that Scott Pilgrim didn’t do well over the weekend. My wife and I went to an early showing on Saturday morning, in a theater that is usually vacant at that time, but it was still hard to get seats even thirty minutes before the show started. Maybe I just live in a nerdy part of the world? I think it will do well in the DVD market, or maybe I just hope that, either way I plan on picking it up when it comes out.

  28. Autumn says:

    I think people are just tired of Micheal Cera. He plays the same character in everything. I might as well stay home and watch Juno or something.

  29. Larry says:

    I agree Scott Pilgrim didn’t get the billing it could have. I refuse to believe it’s THAT targeted a demographic. The target is ANYONE who has ever played a video game in their life…anyone who has ever read a comic book…anyone who likes over dramatized fight scenes (all anime and live action kung fu flicks)… The “cheating” aspect is not bad enough for girls not to see it. … You don’t know about it until you SEE the movie, so why would that ever come into play? Did one girl see it at comiccon and start a worldwide ban of the film because of a minor mistake by a character? Not to my knowledge. It’s actually played very big in the previews as a girly film cause it’s the ‘nice guy fighting for the honor of the woman he loves’.

    I blame movie theaters only listening to who ever bought the biggest posters/spent most money on the film/has the biggest names as a judgement of how ‘good’ a movie will be. Out of local 20 theaters, 4 didn’t have, 5 had only like 4 showings… I went to the deluxe Carmike in the area which was showing it EVERY HOUR…and has awesome statues of RA as lobby decorations. I think Expendables was showing every 20 minutes, HAHAHA.

  30. Bethany says:

    I work at a movie theater – Right off the bat, it was put into a smaller theater to make way for Expendables and Eat Pray Love. We near sold out showings in its 90-seat theater Friday and Saturday. Older crowds went to see Expendables while all the geeks and nerds flocked to Scott Pilgrim. Sunday night, I had a 35-40 year old tell me Scott Pilgrim was a waste of two hours. It’s definitely a movie made for geeks. Plus, people hate Michael Cera. I, personally, want to marry him, but to each his own.

  31. Don says:

    I honestly think Scott Pilgrim will pick up legs over the next couple of weeks, from word-of-mouth. I took my niece (she’s 12, I’m 41) and we both thought it was great.

    I think it did take on tough opening week contenders in The Expendables and Eat Pray Love. Those are parents who might have taken their kids to see Pilgrim. Plus this was the first week of school for a lot of kids so the theaters were slow. (At least it was here in north GA.)

    Of course, it should kill at DVD sales, like Kevin Smith’s films do.

  32. Ashish says:

    Eat, Pray, Love, The Expendables, and The Other Guys played on multiple screens at the theaters near my house. Scott Pilgrim only played on one screen per theater. Even Inception is still playing on more than one screen at those theaters. So even if all the showings of Scott Pilgrim sell out, it still takes in a significantly smaller box office gross than any of those movies. Sad stuff, because that was the first movie this year that I really enjoyed.

  33. CM22 says:

    It’s a combinations of a couple of things.

    The biggest is that it’s a niche film. It really is for nerds and geeks. The best it does to expand out is that it can be really appealing to film geeks because of all the high style and amazing directing, but ultimately you still have to readily accept having some geek in you to be able to enjoy this movie. And, despite being more vocal, and having a greater presence now, I don’t know that nerds are actually any more plentiful.
    Second is, it came out on a bad week. Inception is still doing really well with film nerds etc, Expendables takes all of the “jock” demographic movie goer, Eat Pray love takes all of the “chickflick” movie goer. All Scott Pilgrim vs. The World really has left is it’s core demographic who were already going to go see it anyways.
    Third, and I think another big one, they showed this movie too much. It came out in a solid 400 or so less theaters than the other movies, and to make matters worse they had already played it. I knew numerous people who went to advance screenings and despite loving the film, being hardcore scott pilgrim fans, they had already seen it weeks ago, and were kind of “over it”. Now multiply that times all of the people who saw it at comiccon (that’s what, like 700 less tickets sold right there?). You’ve got a demographic of people who are fantastic fans, but don’t have the longest or most hardcore attention span, and range from either having way too much expendable income to absolutely no expendable income. I saw the movie Friday, and I wanted to see it again, but honestly I don’t have the 10 dollars to spend.
    There are a lot of reasons it did poorly. But I think the mostly glowing reviews, and overwhelming positive response from the people who actually did see it are more important. It’ll make its money back worldwide, with merchandising, and if it has to ultimately on DVD.

  34. Rocky says:

    When I heard about a Scott Pilgrim film I was 100% in. When I heard it was Michael Cera I was 100% out. Can’t stand that guy.

  35. Hunter Boone says:

    Me and my friend saw it a second time yesterday, saw it first at Comic Con!

    But we both has this same conversation. It seems people don’t want to go see it but when they do, it’s the best fun-packed film of the year!

    I’ve also noticed a lot of chicks hate it…probably because of the whole cheating aspect.

    Hope the videogame does better!

  36. Samantha says:

    I blame the fact that Scott Pilgrim was not as easily accessed. It was not playing at the theatre in my town. I was ready to see it until I saw that my movie theatre had decided against showing it. Although my cinema seems to make choices just to anger me I’m sure this was a more common occurence. The Expendables was probably in every theatre.

  37. I think you might have just explained why Scott Pilgrim lost against The Expendables in the box office: many (if not most) Nerds will happily go see a big action film, but the rest of an action film’s mainstream audience will not go the other way and see a quirky, nerdy little film about Canadian slackers.

    But whatever. A lot of great movies do most of their business on DVD sales (Kevin Smith wouldn’t be nearly as successful as he is without the DVD market). And I think we can all safely expect some great DVD extras on this movie.

  38. The Drummer from Def Leppard's Arm says:

    Barney? Seriously, Barney? That’s the best name they could come up for Sly’s character. Doesn’t exactly invoke fear or lack of bladder control. Makes me think of the bit from that guy on Last Comic Standing about black guys named Kyle. (Paraphrasing) “Kyle looking for you!” Eghh. “Tyrone is looking for you!” Oh shit.
    I’m glad to hear the movie lived up to the hype. Can’t wait to check it out. Thanks

  39. Marc Alaniz says:

    Scott Pilgrim was my most anticipated movie this year, and I’ve loved the graphic novels since I first read them. Wright did what seemed like the impossible: He made it completely faithful to the series and told a completely coherent story to non-book-knowers. He made it so amazing and brilliant and while it does suck that it didn’t make what it deserved to make, it is Wrights most successful American release and apparently he and the cast are absolutely proud of it. And I’m glad that the 10 million this movie made was almost completely extreme nerd-fans about the graphic novels. Plus, I know this movie will sell like crazy on DVD and Blu-Ray.
    Fight Club made 11m$ upon first release. Scott Pilgrim will inevitably become a cult classic.

  40. I was really sad to see the lackluster earnings for Scott Pilgrim. It deserves so much more. I haven’t seen Expendables so I can’t judge, but Scott Pilgrim is doing something new and interesting, and I hate to see new and interesting go unnoticed.

    That said, if I wasn’t a total nerd, Scott Pilgrim might lose me a bit at parts.

  41. dragoncores says:

    Ummmm I haven to see either of them so I cant really say anything about this. *walks away*