Spotlights: Edgar Wright
~ Spotlights is a series from the Hofstra Critics dedicated to highlighting some of the finest work of some of the world's finest artists. ~
If any single director can be credited with revitalizing cinematic comedy in the 21st century, then it is Edgar Wright. The British director’s films, usually characterized by percussive editing, an energetic camera, and a well-balanced blend of homage and originality, act as a constant reminder that humorous storytelling is rooted in both cleverly constructed dialogue and visual innovation. To celebrate Wright’s upcoming movie Baby Driver, here are his best works, in all of their unabashed whimsy:
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Wright’s first wide-released feature was the zombie-comedy Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg plays the titular Shaun, a dejected deadbeat who must survive a zombie outbreak alongside his best friend Ed (played by Frost) and his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). Shaun, Ed, and Liz spend the duration of the film fighting their way through the undead hordes to get to the safe haven of Shaun’s beloved Winchester Pub. Shaun of the Dead marks the first of many movie collaborations between Wright, Pegg, Frost, and producer Nira Park, whose partnership would result in the three comedy-horror films collectively known as the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.
Standout scene: Don't Stop Me Now
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Hot Fuzz, the second film in the Cornetto trilogy, stars Pegg and Frost as two policemen investigating a mysterious series of deaths in a tiny Gloucestershire village. The film’s story and setting honor and parody British horror movies such as The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Wicker Man, while visual gags and stunt scenes draw from established action film tropes. The film’s biggest charms, however, come once again from Wright’s ability to translate Pegg and Frost’s talents into visual comedy.
Standout scene: "What'd he say?"
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
For his third major film, Wright stepped away from the Cornetto trilogy and, choosing instead to make a heavily-stylized, effects-heavy film steeped in nerd and indie culture. The result, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, was a runaway success. Starring Michael Cera as Scott, an unambitious bass player who falls for the mysterious Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the film details Scott’s battle against Ramona’s seven evil exes to win her favor. The film is rapid-fire blend of color, music, and stunning visual effects, all resulting in a self-aware masterwork that stands out even among Wright’s already eccentric filmography.
Standout scene: A-Lister
The World’s End (2013)
The last film in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, and Wright’s last film to date, The World’s End brings back Pegg and Frost as two schoolmates who reunite with their old crew to complete a legendary pub crawl. The drinking spree goes terribly wrong when the friends realize that much of the town’s population has been replaced by intergalactic androids. A particularly referential film, The World’s End meshes comedy with several dark sociological themes previously explored by films like The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Standout scene: "His head just came off!"
Edgar Wright’s work has been deeply rooted in both cinematic tradition and well-constructed humor since the beginning of the director’s career; even Wright’s 1995 low-budget debut A Fistful of Fingers shows an indication of the intertextuality and inventiveness that would develop in his later films. In Baby Driver, released on June 28th, one can only expect that Wright will continue to explore the possibilities of visual storytelling in his wholly unique (and unremittingly fun) way.