In 2013, when Gary King entered the bar with the Blanks and took out his sword and rushed at the screen, my wait for the next #EdgarWright movie began. There were a multitude of questions that were running through my mind: What happened after that? Are we gonna get a sequel? Is it going to be a post-apocalyptic, Western-style movie where King and Andy will be going at each other with their respective extremist groups?
But as time passed by, I moved on, until Marvel made the big announcement that Edgar Wright was going to write and direct Ant-Man. All that hype was soon squashed by the news that due to a fall-out, Edgar Wright wasn't related to the project anymore. Still, it was great to see that some of his style had made its way into the movie. Finally, after a four-year wait, the trailer for #SonyPictures' Baby Driver dropped and put all speculations to rest:
Baby Driver feels very different from his earlier movies. It was great to see it get rave reviews at the SXSW. In order to scratch that itch in my head, I sifted through the trailer. Here are my wild thoughts and assumptions about how #BabyDriver might turn out to be a new challenge for Edgar Wright.
Edgar Wright's First Solo Writing Venture:
In this day and age, it's safe to assume that writing plays a major role in the success of the movie and Edgar Wright owes at least 40–50 percent of his movies' success to his co-writers, Simon Pegg (The Cornetto Trilogy) and Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World).
Simon Pegg's inclusion in the writing department made for some of the funniest moments in movie history. His collaboration with Wright helped in maintaining a constant sense of humor. Even in Scott Pilgrim, every dialogue between the character and every off-screen movement and edit is made to tickle your funny bone. In an interview during the SXSW Film Festival, Wright mentions that,
"It's funny in places but it is like a bit of a departure. It's essentially an action thriller."
I'm not at all worried about this "departure," but I hope the movie won't take itself too seriously. The audience is used to Wright parodying genre movies — the only departure being Scott Pilgrim, where he still maintained his usual comedic flair. As the audience is habituated to his brand of comedy, I hope Baby Driver doesn't lose its grip on the fans through this hyper-realistic approach.
Edgar Wright's Realistic Characters:
Right from the get go, Baby Driver feels much more grounded in reality than his other movies. The bullets feel real, the threats feel real and the characters feel real. Wright takes no half-measures to establish the fact that this is his passion project and he has infused every bit of it with his love for action. Wright said in an interview,
"I just listened to that song over and over again, and I just thought, ‘That would make a great car chase song.’ I sort of started to visualize the car chase to that song. I didn’t really have what the rest of the idea was. And then I started to think of the idea of a getaway driver that cannot really operate without the right music playing, like a soundtrack."
Wright's movies have a tendency of diffusing the tension with a slightly off-beat and awkward moment so that the audience can transition from a moment of emotion back to the comedic atmosphere. Wright's choice of putting Kevin Spacey as the crime boss for whom Baby (Ansel Elgort) works for, has really narrowed down that opportunity, as his character looks like he has no time for jokes.
Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Jon Bernthal's characters also look like they are going to be shoving around Baby throughout the movie. This will be fun to watch because the trailer showcases an amusing line from Foxx's character:
"The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet!"
No More Obstacle-Based Progression:
This goes without saying that every Edgar Wright movie follows the classic pattern of the characters moving from one obstacle to another. This allows the director to fine-tune the pacing of the movie and dividing it into parts, which will be used for either character development or action set-pieces or sometimes both.
I won't be talking about A Fistful of Fingers because I haven't got my hands on it yet. All his movies after that can be divided into three parts: A starting point, obstacles and a clear goal.
The Starting Point:
Shaun learns about the scenario and has to map out the way for safe passage. Sgt. Nicholas Angel's "Spidey sense" is tingled by the overtly polite and perfect state of Sanford and he is obligated to begin his investigation due to his nature of never switching off. Scott's initiation is his falling in love with Ramona, which throws him into the path of Ramona's exes. Finally, Gary King's starting point is his dire need to have a final go at the "Golden Mile."
Shaun's obstacles are the various locations of his mother and girlfriend and that forces him to overcome the horde of zombies coming between him and his loved ones. Angel's undying love for justice makes him notice the various levels of corruption that are working underneath the facade of Sanford. As he gets close to solving one, he is faced with one problem after the other. Scott's obstacles are the "Seven Deadly Exes," whom he has to beat in order to date Ramona. King's obstacles are the 12 pubs that he wants to visit.
Shaun wants to reach the Winchester, Angel wants to take down the nexus, Scott wants to date Ramona, and King wants to reach "The World's End."
Judging from the trailer of Baby Driver, there is a clear protagonist (Baby) and a clear antagonist (Doc). The problem isn't the situation — like a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion — it's a real person in the form of Kevin Spacey, and Baby has to finish him in order to gain freedom. Unlike the other movies where the character progresses in one direction, it looks like Baby makes an initial effort to escape with his love, but is forced to retrace his steps in order to reach his goal. It's a slightly twisted form of progression, unlike the linear form of progression Wright has followed till now.
The scope of Wright's movies have ranged from a zombie infestation to an alien invasion leading to the end of the civilization. Even though that might sound real, the comedic approach to those scenarios gave it a slightly unrealistic feel so that the audience can enjoy the comedy more than the stakes at risk. Also, even though all those movies had cataclysmic consequences, Wright narrowed down the story to a small group of people who are trying to survive through it.
That said, Baby Driver feels like a more personal story and as there is only one stake (Deborah), the level of danger lurking around Baby is automatically raised. Due to the obstacle-based progression, there was an urge for the character to move on, but as Baby is attached to Deborah (Lily James) at an emotional level, he has to come back for her no matter what.
Lack Of A Sense Of Place
As far as assumptions go, this can be the mightiest nit-pick that I've acquired from the trailer. To be honest, I loved the mix of urban and rural, British setup of Wright's films. Even though Scott Pilgrim is set in Canada, the people in the movie operate in that small town and it feels cozy. Not only that, Wright's insane attention to detail and habit of foreshadowing by showing every little feature of the town produced a sense of intimacy. I still remember Shaun's drawing room or Scott's empty-ish "secret" lair or Nicholas Angel's small bedroom. It was almost like Wright would lay out a map for us so that we wouldn't get lost when the movie hit the pedal to the metal.
On the contrary, Baby Driver feels more Americanized. The diner and the warehouse, where they are seen to be discussing their plans, are probably the only places that we're going to see, and both of those places look very common. Perhaps Baby is the only person who we're going to know in detail and we already know about him a bit, through Spacey's telling of his backstory. For the rest of the characters, I don't think we are going to know them very well.
Also, as the movie is based on heists and car chases, I don't think the characters will be able to settle anywhere. As a result, I think Wright has chosen to not go into much detail about the city or the homes. I think he will compensate for that by putting some tiny details about the characters, like the one he did for Wallace Wells.
Music Plays An Integral Part In 'Baby Driver'
Music and sound has always played a very important part in Wright's movies. Right from the intro of the production houses, Wright uses his acute sense of associating music to the tone of the movie. For example, in Scott Pilgrim, he altered the intro music of Universal Pictures to make it feel like we are entering a '90s arcade, giving the audience an idea of how the movie's themes will be inspired by vintage games.
Another memorable music related scene came from Shaun of the Dead, where the entire fight sequence between Shaun and the others and the zombies was synced to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now."
In Baby Driver, Wright has written the protagonist with a hearing impairment that causes a constant sound in his ear. In order to reduce that, Baby always listens to music. Through this plot point, Wright has managed to showcase his full taste in music. During the same interview, Wright mentioned,
"It is a movie that is heavily sound and music-centric, so the action and the drama is choreographed to the music. But also in a way that it’s not score laid on. The main character is listening to the tracks in the movie, so it is diegetic musical in a way in the terms of he is listening to the sounds we hear. We are essentially seeing it through the main character’s ears."
As this movie is completely composed entirely of soundtracks, I cannot stop myself from thinking about Suicide Squad. That movie had a plethora of soundtracks and it completely took me out of the movie. Even though Wright hasn't disappointed in that aspect, I hope he hasn't overdone it in this movie.
Wright's Ode To Heist Movies
Each of Wright's movies are comedies, but they are also parodying a certain genre on it's way. Shaun of the Dead parodies the zombie genre, Hot Fuzz is a parody of the Michael Bay-esque buddy cop genre with an influx of the slasher genre, while The World's End pokes fun at the apocalyptic movies. Even though Scott Pilgrim parodies the entire action movie genre, it can be considered as an ode to nerd community.
Baby Driver doesn't look like a parody because it looks like Wright has decided to pay homage to the heist movie genre (it has been his dream to make the movie for over 20 years). He has interviewed various getaway drivers and has included all practical stunts to make the movie feel more authentic. He even tried to know their musical preferences, so that he can utilize that aspect to its fullest.
"I actually interviewed several ex-cons, including some ex-getaway drivers. And part of the plan is to blend in as quickly as you can. In a lot of action films, a lot of guys are driving muscle cars or vintage cars, whereas in reality a lot of getaway drivers would actually choose like commuter cars and find a way to blend into freeway traffic as quickly as possible. There’s nods to that kind of technique in the movie, being in a car that can blend in, getting on the off ramp, switching the car, disappearing in a different car or cars rather than being in like a limited edition muscle car in hot pink. Though, we have one of those later as well!"
As it is a heist/getaway driver related, Wright has maximized his love for cars to the fullest. All his earlier movies had very characteristic cars — Shaun's stepfather's Jaguar and Gary King's "The Beast." The car chase sequences in Baby Driver look adrenaline pumping and realistic at the same time.
It looks like Wright has also taken a very strong impression from movies like Heat, Point Break (the masks) and Drive. I find the movie very close to Drive because of the use of the Stunt mask (just like Ryan Gosling's character uses), the bomber jacket and the driver's gloves. If this is a way of paying homage to Nicholas Winding-Refn's cult classic movie, then I wouldn't mind the lack of comedy in it.
The Classic Hero
Baby is the classic hero who wants to lead an honest life while also saving the damsel in distress. This is a major departure from Wright's central characters. Even though it is true that there is a love story in every one of them, it isn't the central piece in the story. On top of that, Baby is genuinely awesome, and by awesome, I mean that he is not a screw-up.
Shaun was basically a loser who was thrown into this unrealistic scenario that made him the hero. Nicholas Angel was a hero who was thrown into a boring scenario and he had to make his way back to being the hero he was. Scott was a picture-perfect nerd but socially awkward, and Gary King was the king of screw-ups.
All of these characters had to beat their characteristic nature to become something new. Baby, though, looks like a hero from the beginning and as he is in a situation which demands heroism, he looks like he is at home.
In Wright's earlier movies, the whole plot progression depended on the group effort. Each one of the central characters that I mentioned above had a large group of friends (or at least a buddy) to help them get to the end. That brings me to the second big difference: Everyone looks like they have a beef with Baby and he is alone on this one. As the group effort made for some hilarious situations and conversations, I think I am going to sorely miss that aspect of Wright's comedy.
That said, I am extremely excited to see how this movie turns out and catch a few whip-pans and dramatic gearing up through closeups. I wholeheartedly trust Edgar Wright to make a truly enjoyable movie. I am really happy that he came back after a four-year gap with something radically different from what he has done before. To be honest, I am intrigued by the trailers. As the movie is slated to release in August of 2017, I hope we get another trailer to further increase the hype!