Edgar Wright has been one of the most creative filmmakers of the modern era. Known for his genre-bending exercise for his six-movie filmography (including his lesser known directorial debut A Fistful of Fingers), he truly made a mark for filmmakers of the next generation to push the boundaries for creativity and challenge the power of cinema.
Not exaggerating there, but on examining his techniques, one can really see how Edgar Wright managed to play with significant cinematic tropes and weave them effectively to his movies. With that, here are the ten techniques on creating the definitive Edgar Wright movie.
10 Perfect Cameos
Edgar Wright brings a plethora of blink-and-miss cameos to his movies to not only cameo for cameo’s sake but to bring notches to the film genre he is poking fun. Or to simply place them cleverly for the plot.
In Shaun of the Dead, The Office UK’s Martin Freeman cameos as Liz’s male counterpart Declan (he will soon have his identical counterpart in The World’s End). Speaking of Freeman, he, Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan appeared as Nick Angel’s superior in Hot Fuzz. And in Baby Driver, Sky Ferreira and Jon Spencer, whose songs appear in the soundtrack, appear briefly.
9 Creative Gore
When Wright pushes the boundaries of his bloody content, he really did push it. All of his movies would at least include one gore scene, from obviously Shaun of the Dead to even Baby Driver. But he did so with a creative notch.
In Shaun of the Dead, weapons that allow a bloody blow range from a vinyl disk to a paddle. In Hot Fuzz, a spoke from a town replica would even be fatal. In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, kills will be equated with points. And in The World’s End, blood will be substituted with blue ink. Genius.
There will also be a cameo appearance of one asset: fences. Ordinary they may seem, the placement of fences in Wright’s movies signify the state that his lead protagonists are in currently. They appear prominently in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.
In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun suggests hopping above the suburban fences to reach the Winchester pub, much to the gang’s chagrin. In Hot Fuzz, Nick flawlessly parkours a series of garden fences to show Danny. And in The World’s End, Gary attempts to escape from alien evaders by jumping on a wooden fence, only for it to fall.
7 Light-and-Sound Cues
Wright sees the screen as his audiovisual playground. So, he would play many light and sound cues to scenes that need that jolt.
In Shaun, it is the knife gleam and the awkward scroll of the camera. In Hot Fuzz, it is the car lights/braces and the buzz over Timothy Dalton’s Skinner. In Scott Pilgrim, it is manifested by Aubrey Plaza’s Julie Powers confrontation towards Scott. In World’s End, it is the mark of the alien Blanks and the calm filling of water. And in Baby Driver, it is the dominant presence of a track in the opening chase scene.
6 On-the-Nose Nomenclature
Wright is brilliant with his aesthetics as he is with his writing. That also goes down to the character names for each movie, except for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World since Bryan Lee O’Malley provided the source material. And on observing the character names, one will see how tongue-in-cheek they are.
In Hot Fuzz, the people to watch are those having the surnames Skinner, Cooper, Weaver, Reaper, Fisher, Shooter, Walker, Draper, Blower, Tiller and Hatcher. Continuing the on-the-nose surnames, in The World’s End, the five leads are King, Knightley, Prince, Chamberlain and Page. Baby Driver also continued this with aliases.
5 Recall Humor
Characterization is what drives humor in Edgar Wright’s movies. And there are instances that one gag will be recalled on a later joke. The necessity of the “recall humor” is for a consistent tone and status of character progression.
This is apparent in Shaun of the Dead with Shaun being reminded of a friendly gross-out gag and a stain visual note, in the beginning and the end. See this example as well in Hot Fuzz with a verbal exchange between Angel and a lady. Witness it as well in Scott Pilgrim with the Easter eggs about the Seven Evil Exes.
4 Speedy Editing of Mundane Stuff
To make every scene fun and kinetic, Wright employs a lot of editing techniques to make the best of the runtime and play the scene with flashy transitions.
Starting off in Shaun, the night-to-day transition was plastered on the instance Shaun slept by the door column and the speedy editing is employed in his morning routine. Wright applied this is Hot Fuzz with Angel’s travel to Sandford and his bedside stay. Count these instances to appear in Scott Pilgrim, The World’s End, and Baby Driver. Wright wants to make every mundane everyday feel cinematic. So, this is the visual remedy.
3 Cheeky Foreshadowing
Wright really loves to tease his audience with hints of spoiling the movie from the very beginning, either to bookend the movie or to raise the plot point. For starters, listen to Nick Frost’s Ed convincing Simon Pegg’s Shaun for pity drinking after Liz dumped Shaun.
Check in Hot Fuzz of the importance of a “model town”. See in The World’s End for how Pegg’s Gary King narrates the backstory of his high school buddies and how it mirrors the entire film. And spot the toy car in Baby Driver and how it relates to a later climactic action scene.
2 Syncing of Songs to the Action
Like any film auteur, Edgar Wright weaves great songs to certain scenes in the film. Yet, there is a sense of choreography of how Wright executes scenes with songs playing, or vice versa.
A notable use of this trope is applying Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” in a fight scene in Shaun. Other examples include “Black Sheep” in Scott Pilgrim over an awesomely edited sequence, “Alabama Song” (The Doors version) in The World’s End after Andy succumbed to drinking, and the entirety of Baby Driver, especially during the opening car chase with “Bellbottoms” and the title sequence with “Harlem Shuffle”.
1 Spoofing While Staying Original
It is a misnomer to tout Edgar Wright’s movies as parody movies. While one can argue that they are spoof movies, they are actually original stories that happens to take place on a particular movie genre.
A Fistful of Fingers pokes fun of Westerns. Shaun of the Dead is a sendoff to zombie movies. Hot Fuzz is an homage to buddy cop films. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an adaptation of a graphic novel that takes videogame tropes. The World’s End is a sendup to apocalyptic sci-fi. And Baby Driver is a direct take on car chase movies a la Fast & Furious.
Due to their humor and callbacks to their motion picture cousins, they may be considered as spoofs. But stripping their genre frameworks, they are still good human stories before director Edgar Wright place them in the genres they need. That makes him an original genre bender.