Murphy’s Law – Scott Pilgrim vs. The Expendables

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

This past weekend, I was faced with a tough choice.

I had to decide between two movies I really wanted to see – The Expendable and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I had high hopes for Scott Pilgrim, a movie which played to my geek sensibilities and my love of girls with unnatural hair colors (a love which began when I first saw Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but hardwired into the deep recesses of my brain was a desire to see Sylvester Stallone and Company kick ass and blow shit up.

Ultimately, I chose to watch a 64-year-old man with a bad facelift take down a small country and save a damsel in distress. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. The Expendables made $35 million this weekend, comfortably landing in first place, while Scott Pilgrim earned only $10.5 million, putting it in fifth place for the weekend.

I am a big enough man to admit when I am wrong and ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you I made the wrong choice this weekend. The Expendables is a terrible movie. The action scenes are boring and poorly edited, making them impossible to follow. The plot is completely forgettable and bare-bones thin. And the characters are so bland that no one is really given a chance to shine.

If I may digress for a moment …

The movie was sold on it’s all-star cast and yet it gives these actors nothing to work with. All their talent is completely squandered. Terry Crews steals the scenes he is in, but only has about five minutes of screen time. Jet Li is given plenty of time in front of the camera, but his role is dialogue heavy and his English is still so amazingly bad that it’s impossible to understand a single word he says. You can understand every word Dolph Lundgren says, but that’s only because Stallone sadly forgot to make him do a Russian accent and say things like “I must break you!” Stone Cold is enjoyable, but he’s never given a chance to be as bad ass as he is capable of.

And Jason Statham, who I’ve loved in countless ridiculous movies, does his best to put in a charismatic performance, but even with all of his screen time, his character is completely forgettable and poorly fleshed out – his name is Christmas and he throws knives, that’s all we really get. Early in the film, we find out his girlfriend is cheating on him because he’s never around, but this plot is completely abandoned once the film gets underway so we can instead watch Stallone rescue a much younger girl he has absolutely no chemistry with.

Okay, now that that is out of my system, let’s get back on track …

Last night, I corrected my mistake and went to see Scott Pilgrim. I wasn’t surprised to discover the movie was much more enjoyable than The Expendables (hell, it couldn’t have really been any less enjoyable). But I was surprised at how much better the action scenes were than the ones in The Expendables.

You never really expect a movie starring Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman to outshine a film boasting one of the most impressive line ups of action stars in recent memory, but it happened. The action sequences in Scott Pilgrim are much cleaner and easier to follow, but more importantly, they have a much larger impact. The movie is made to feel like a video game and each fight Pilgrim has with Ramona’s seven evil exes feels big and unique. The punches land hard and the action feels intense.

Walking out of the theater after The Expendables, I struggled to really remember any of the big action scenes in that movie, but I can vividly recall Scott’s Bollywood fight against Matthew Patel, his supernatural battle against smug vegan Todd Ingram (played by Brandon “Worst Superman movie ever” Routh, who after this role and his stint on Chuck has shown that he is so much more fun to watch when he is playing a complete prick) and the epic final boss battle against Gideon Gordon Graves. Every fight sequence is different and every character Pilgrim fights arrive on screen fully fleshed out (except the twins, who get shafted when it comes to backstory).

Unfortunately, Scott Pilgrim isn’t marketed as an action movie. And it shouldn’t be because there is so much more going on in the film than just the action scenes. It’s one of the most original and enjoyable movies I’ve seen in quite some time (second only to Inception this summer, but that film has the advantage of being written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who I will love forever because he made The Dark Knight.)

Marketing the film as an all out action movie would have been disingenuous, but I still blame the marketing for Scott Pilgrim’s disappointing opening weekend. The film was advertised heavily, but the ads started so early that by July I was amazed the film wasn’t actually out yet. Worst than that, the ads never effectively sold the film. It’s a tough film to nail down because of how unique it is, but I still felt like the ads on TV and the previews failed to make people want to see the film. This is particularly disappointing since the people behind The Expendables did a phenomenal job marketing that awful film on the names of the stars alone.

For those of you who didn’t make a trip to the movies this weekend and are on the fence about which of these two films to check out, I can’t recommend Scott Pilgrim vs. The World highly enough. It’s the best action movie out there right now (unless Eat Prey Love has some awesome action sequences I haven’t heard about). It’s also the best movie in theaters right now. So don’t make the same mistake I did. If you need your action fix, go for the pasty guys who still buy their cool indie t-shirts in the children’s section. You’ll be glad you did.

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at

  1. Lars August 18, 2010
  2. murf August 22, 2010

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