The popular vote is with Sylvester Stallone, but a lot of people are still wondering how The Expendables was able to trump Michael Cera’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. First of all, I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both movies. But they cater to very different audiences. Stallone has a track record a mile long for churning out cinematic testosterone. Scores of men look back to their childhood and fondly remember Rocky and Rambo. And those men have wives who they’ll bring to the theater. And those men have sons that have to be introduced to a man’s man like Stallone.
Michael Cera? A large percentage of his fans think Ellen Page’s insipid ramblings and the Cera/Page duets of yore should springboard them to Stallone status. Wrong. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was an interesting experiment in beta-male celluloid tales, in that it tried to give us the touchy-feeling emotional male that Hollywood wishes we all were, coupled with random flashes of Kick Assery. On a personal level, I can’t help but think it’s cool to see Cera in a Smashing Pumpkins teeshirt, throwing blows while old school NES graphics and sounds flash around him. I’ll refrain from talking about Jason Schwartzman, who is also in the movie, because I think the guy is a genius.
Here’s the deal: Scott Pilgrim didn’t perform as The Expendables did because it had an uphill battle to begin with. It had to compete with a starving Stallone fan base and, quite simply, Universal didn’t market it very well outside the kind of people who are going to make it a cult classic.
With that said, the reason why Stallone satisfies while Cera does not is that his characters clearly stand for something, while the wishy-washy beta males are only sure about what they feel at a given moment. Scott Pilgrim literally dies in the movie because he couldn’t get his feelings straight. It’s only because he got an “extra life” from his video-game existence that he was able to essentially become a hero. Stallone’s character, Barney Ross, is crystal clear about where he stands when he walks into a would be suicide mission, and his moral clarity is rewarded.
If you get a chance, see both movies. They’re both fun. But one simply has more meat on it (literally and figuratively). I’d suggest seeing a Stallone/Cera team up, but I’m pretty sure it would rip a hole in the space/time continuum and we’d all die.