Edgar Wright’s unique style of comedy has fuelled his entire filmography, leading to success at both the box office and critical acclaim. It speaks volumes that even those who don’t have an intimate knowledge of film will able to recognise the names Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. These three films makes up the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ and act as a foundation to Wright’s cinematic career. In 2010, Wright directed the off-the-wall film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This was his first foray into a more Hollywood style of film, compared to the lower budget British based films that he had previously created, and also marked the first time Wright had worked with an existing storyline (both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz being completely original screenplays). Wright’s most recent feature, Baby Driver, is arguably his biggest and most commercial film to date, which has helped establish his place within the Hollywood system.
Wright’s roots are firmly within British comedy thanks to both acclaimed Channel 4 sit com Spaced and the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. The ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ found its audience by using typically British humour along with actors that were already familiar to a comedy audience – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – who would go on to make up one of films most recognisable double acts thanks to Wright’s productions.
The ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ films all play on the mundane nature of the characters lives. Shaun (Simon Pegg) in Shaun of the Dead works at an appliances store selling TVs and putting up with delinquent staff whilst Hot Fuzz’s protagonist is Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a high ranking police officer, devoid of a social life, followed by the jobless Gary King (Simon Pegg) of The World’s End. The theme throughout is that there is nothing particularly special about the characters backgrounds – and all of them are flawed in different ways. This is what makes the characters relatable, and is far removed from the idea that all film characters are capable of amazing things, that is still present in cinema today. The three protagonists of the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ all survive the films by either using skills from video games, films, or just being plain stubborn. The comedy stems from both the monotony of the characters and the often madcap situations that they find themselves in – often stumbling to a conclusion and falling at fences along the way (literally in some cases). A prime example of this can be found in the final fight in Shaun of the Dead in which they leave the rifle ammo on the bar of the pub, which is promptly lit on fire causing havoc.
Editing is used to strong comedic effect throughout all of Wright’s work – for example, the variety of “tooling up” montages where the camera would usually focus on the loading of a gun but instead focuses on menial objects such as a mug or seat belt. Wright’s use of television footage such as news reports and music videos gives a sense of dramatic irony to the film, in which the audience know more about the unfolding situation than the characters themselves, is excellent and appears not only in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ but also in Baby Driver as a call back to his earlier films. Because the trilogy is made up of completely original screenplays, it allows Wright to show the audience how much he knew about everything pop culture, from the soundtracks to in-jokes that only avid film fans would understand but everyone can laugh at. This would grow to be a running theme through all of his films and could be seen as Wright trying to give something back to film after he had learnt so much from it. Wright makes British comedy truly feel like a viable alternative to American comedies, in turn putting British comedy on the global map.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World placed Edgar Wright at the helm of a much more Hollywood level comic book flick which follows the eponymous ‘hero’ as he has to fight his girlfriends seven evil ex’s in order to win her heart. Overcoming tasks to win the girl of your dreams isn’t an odd premise in Hollywood however Scott Pilgrim puts a spin on the traditional love story. The entire film behaves like a video game with important life choices acting like ‘level-ups’ and each of the evil ex’s presenting themselves like bosses at the end of a level. Much of the humour found in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ is found in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World such as the physical slapstick and in-joke references to video games and films. This helped to build Wright’s audience in America and Canada (where the film was set) whilst also showing that he could work with actors beyond his established circle – including Michael Cera and Chris Evans. Yet again, the film succeeded both at the box office and critically, garnering praise from fans of the original graphic novel as well as those not familiar with the source material.
In 2014, Edgar Wright was set to complete production on Marvel’s new extended universe film, Ant Man, however was forced to exit the film due to disagreements with the studio. During a press tour in Washington DC for his latest film Baby Driver, Wright explained that he doesn’t “want to be a director for hire” and that he wanted creative freedom when making a film – something he didn’t have when creating Ant Man, possibly leading to his untimely exit. A vast majority of Marvel fans were looking forward to a quirkier comedic take on a relatively unknown hero in the cinematic universe, but ended up having to wait to see that in 2016 with the release of Deadpool.
Wright’s latest film, Baby Driver, feels like a true marriage of his skills shown in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ as well as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with an excellent soundtrack, a display of his love for film and an all star cast, It feels like this is the film that Wright has been longing to make for some time. As of the publishing of this article, Baby Driver has been immensely successful – even praised by William Friedkin, the director of The French Connection, a film which Baby Driver is heavily influenced by. With Baby Driver, it feels like Edgar Wright is further fuelling the fire of a new Hollywood renaissance which was last seen in the 1970s.
Baby Driver currently being shown at Phoenix Cinema until 20th July.