Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Moment of Reflection

            Kick-Ass   &   Scott Pilgrim
                            VS.
The Box Office


A tremendous amount of good will and favorable reviews couldn't get people into theaters.
So what the hell happened?


Two of the most anticipated geek films of the year, two of the most original films of the year, two of the most current graphic novel adaptations of the year, and finally two of the biggest box office let downs of the year. Where were all the rabid fans that were glowing after seeing the footage of Hit Girl slice and dice her foes at Comic-con 2009? Where were all the video game and comic book geeks that seemed to be completely behind Scott Pilgrim? I don't think there were two stranger and unpredictable failures of the year. How exactly did they fail...? Read on...

They were most certainly not artistic failures with both films backed by fantastic direction and fantastic source materials. They didn't fail to get the backing of the majority of critics out there (Kick-Ass with a 76% and Scott Pilgrim with a 81% on rotten tomatoes). They didn't fail on a casting perspective, even with some not very popular choices at the times they were announced, both films had a cast ready and willing to give it their all. Where both films failed and this is the only common bond I believe they share, is that for some strange reason they failed to bring in their target audiences.

What were the target audiences for these films? If you are reading this and don't know the answer then you my friend are part of the problem. Geeks hardly ever get their due and here we had two glowing gems of geekdom that showed up to a party without any people. Any fan of video games that was alive during the 80's or 90's should have had it hardwired into their brains to go see Scott Pilgrim the second they saw that first trailer. Same goes for comic book geeks with Kick-Ass, here you had one of the few hardcore comic movies that had no qualms about what it was, but everyone else seemed to though.

Many have blamed the advertising campaign for Kick-Ass with how it tried to sell it as your typical super hero movie but with mostly teenagers as the leads, which I agree with somewhat. I believe what truly hurt Kick-Ass was that nobody really knew what it was...was it an action movie? Was it a comedy? Was it a kids movie? Unfortunately for the movie those are not really very easy to answer. Once you have seen the film you can start to see why it is so hard to describe what it is. It is a strange mixture of all those (sans kids movie) and more, but that is what made it so good and unique.

Perhaps they could have played up more on the fact that the film was more for adults? The trailers (aside from the online red-band ones) played as a candy coated super hero film. The R rating the film earned probably didn't help matters either by limiting a potential audience base. It was a daring film to make, which is why no studio wanted to touch it, and while that dare paid off in the end to help recoup their production costs, it still proved why no one wanted to make it. It was too difficult to get across to people what it was and it suffered financially because of that.

Scott Pilgrim had a similar problem with it's advertising campaign, but I believe it was hurt more so by this. Where Kick-Ass did appeal to at least some of the comic crowd, Pilgrim had quite a few issues that it couldn't get past. First and foremost was it's star, Michael Cera, while he did really good in the title role he still isn't popular enough to have a fan base and is still hated enough to make people not want to see anything he is in. The video game aspect was used heavily in the advertising, but somehow that backfired and most of the video game geek world saw it as trying to hard to please. Most everyone I know that is into video games all had the same outlook on it which was, "It looks kind of stupid". That is an actual quote I got from more than one person by the way.

So why is it such a big deal that these films failed to perform at the box office? For fans of these films it is unfathomable that they are not catching on with anyone...especially with their target demographic. They did everything right yet even the people that usually champion such films have dismissed them for some reason. You could be lazy and say that Scott Pilgrim was destined to doom when going up against The Expendables, but you and I both know that isn't true. What it comes down to is that the message to their target fan bases got lost in the mix somewhere down the line and they have suffered because of it.

Somehow both of these films, while pandering to and relying on the geek crowd, alienated them by being too different...even for the type of fans that usually applaud difference in what they watch, read or play. The real story here though is that since both films have under performed (even by the low expectations they already had for how much they would make) and we will most likely not see films like these again for a long time to come. Now, I'm sure that they will have their dedicated fan base that will preach their goodness forever (me being one of those people) but I am afraid that these are all we will have for the time being. In some strange way though I am happy about that, the fact that there will most likely not be any sequels to taint them is kind of a relief.

Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim were both defeated at the box office this year despite the early buzz that both films had they ended being modest hits at the very least. Regardless of why that happened, it is important to note that they will eventually go on to be something greater than they are now. Even today I am still introducing new people to the wonders of Hit Girl and her badassery and I am sure I will be doing the same with Scott Pilgrim once it is released to home video. So don't worry that they didn't do well at the theater, just fill your role and expose as many people to each film as you can. You are not only helping others, but helping out that inner geek in all of us.

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