Film G33k: The Fabulous, Most Groovy, Edgar Wright
I recently had the pleasure of completing what I called the "Wright-a-thon" watching all of his films in one day, starting with Shaun of the Dead all the way to Baby Driver. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at Edgar Wright's career and provide my short reviews on each film.
Shaun of the Dead (RT 92% Avg. 7.8/10)
The first of the Edgar Wright directed films is still one of his best. It's a wonderful homage to the zombie genre, poking fun at the zombie like nature of people in there dead eyed stares going to work and repeating the same old routines day in and day out. Where this film succeeds is in it's tension between characters, banding together in the face of an oncoming zombie apocalypse. It allows for drama and character development where there otherwise wouldn't be. The truth comes out very often as previously unsaid things bubble to the surface. Unrequited love, step father's remorse, childhood friendships tested all in the service of some fun and interesting characters.
There are also, like with most of Edgar's films a lot of lines that are foreshadowed later on in a different context and that is what makes his films so much fun. It rewards people's attention to detail. You may not catch it the first time but by the second and third viewing you start to recognize all the pieces being put together. It's a film that deserves to be put in the Halloween rotation when you feel like something fun and a little bit gory.
Hot Fuzz (RT 91% Avg. 7.7/10)
Now 3 years later we are treated to Edgar's version of a buddy cop film. This one goes even harder on the homage with matching scenes from other films and discussions about cliches within the film itself only to have them play out later. The fun comes in the form of doing a big Hollywood style action murder mystery in the back country of England, inhabited by mostly retirement folk who go about their days tending to farms and flowers. It's a town where the biggest problems are when the swan escapes. Of course there is something much more sinister going on and these rather sweet people aren't all they claim to be.
This was less character heavy than Shaun but it makes up for it in fun action sequences, tons of memorable lines, a hilarious Nick Frost and a whole host of characters who bring the small village to life. I don't think I could say it better than Danny Butterman did in the film, Hot Fuzz is about "Gun fights, car chases, proper action and shit.", A tale of friendship where Nicholas Angel learns to loosen up and Danny Butterman learns to grow up while murder and mayhem surround them at every corner. This film has so much going on in terms of making fun of small town squabbles, cop films and trying to do the opposite of what you expect it to be, the car chases are quick and uneventful and the paperwork is exciting high energy.
Scott Pilgrim (RT 81% Avg. 7.5/10)
Fast forward another 3 years and we arrive at his first adaptation. An action, video-game-esuqe musical where a bunch of twenty somethings wander through the world and fight and bicker in some very entertaining ways. I don't think this film sets out to really make you like anyone. Everyone is kind of a dick to one another and it's very much Scott's story of him trying to be a better person after being a rather stupid one to start. I could see why people may not like this film because why would you root for someone like Scott? He is just a guy who seems to jump from girl to girl who got caught up in a whirlwind of evil exes. But at the same time it is a film about coming to terms with the fact that everyone dates and there are always going to be casualties and no one really gets it right. No one is perfect and when things go south for a lot of people the baggage sticks around and it can cause some serious damage. It's also about the people who will do everything they can to be with a person even when that person doesn't feel like they deserve the love they get. Instead of doing that the boring way through romantic gestures and cute dinners, it's done through intense action scenes where the truth reveals itself within the fights.
Another excellent soundtrack accompanies the film, featuring original songs by Beck. With a stellar cast, incredible editing and cinematography, this is one of the ultimate lessons in film making technique. There is so much to pay attention to, sounds, background gags, you name it. Every shot is intentional and yes you notice the editing but there is so much going into making those cuts work it's astounding. It is also not afraid to do everything in the zany playbook to create a world that is full of fun, energy, snark, and 20 something drama.
The World's End (RT 89% 7.4/10)
The finale to the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy finds our characters going back to their home town for a pub crawl they couldn't finish as teenagers. Diving much more heavily into the characters this time around and having Pegg and Frost switch funny and straight man characters, this one took me a while to warm up to. It was jarring seeing the roles reversed and Gary King is such a child that it is hard to root for him the first go around. It's not really until you have seen the events play out that you care and makes the second viewing more enjoyable. Like the other films this one has plenty of forshadowing, including pubs that their names correspond to what will happen in said bar. ex. after "The First Post" comes "The Old Familiar", which looks exactly like the first bar. There are numbers to watch out for throughout as they go from pub to pub and retracing their past brings up old wounds and new twists to what they thought they knew about their town.
I really appreciated the craft that went into this film and the gap between films was worth the wait as it crafted a story that I think lots of people can relate to, going back to where you once lived is always an alien experience and in the case of The World's End that is literally true. Mix that in with the mending of relationships that had massive falling outs, the pitfalls of holding onto the past and how best friends despite what happens will stick together to the end of the world and you have a film that is the most grown up of the trilogy.
Baby Driver (RT 97% 8.1/10)
The newest from Edgar Wright is also his best reviewed film, a movie I have already seen 3 times in theaters after only a week of release. It is a pedal to the floor action musical that is cut like one big music video. My full review can be found here.
Ansel Elgort gives a fantastic performance as the "Mozart in a Go Kart", Baby. He is a guy who finds himself in a sticky situation and has no choice but to put in his time with the wrong folks to pay off his debt. The music literally drives the film and provides some of the most thrilling driving sequences I have ever seen, with the Hocus Pocus segment being my personal favorite. There is enough depth to the characters to keep things interesting, as they express their simple and clear motives. You want Baby to succeed and be free and clear and that makes the chases that much more high stakes as the heists get more and more difficult to pull off.
Like Edgar's other films there are a lot of background gags, lines that reoccur, remarks that get paid off later, Almost all of Baby's lines are said by someone else at some point. It's just another well put together film for Edgar with a great cast of characters that all have their own motives that keep Baby in a constant state of danger because you never know if someone is going to turn on him for their own interest.
If I had to rank the films of Edgar Wright it would have to be
- Scott Pilgrim (A+)
- Baby Driver (A+)
- Shaun of the Dead (A)
- The World's End (A)
- Hot Fuzz (A)
The crazy thing about that ranking is that they are all excellent films and you could really swap them around in any order and I'd be ok with the list. I enjoy him more for his technical work and while some of the films have more depth, some are just more entertaining, it really comes down to which you prefer. I have just about worn myself out with his earlier films simply because I've seen them over a dozen times (Hot Fuzz i watched 4 times over 4 days to listen to the different commentaries) so it's harder to keep my attention. They are all different flavors of the same director, all of them great, with care and attention put into every scene and line. He is a man who does not mess around when it comes to creating a thrilling story that you'll want to watch over and over again.
He made me want to make a mash up of all his films when I was in school, which only included up to Scott Pilgrim at the time and when my computer couldn't really handle it but i pressed on because I wanted to do my little homage to such a talented director. Here it is, enjoy!