I loved Edgar Wright’s newest film Baby Driver, yet a part of me was disappointed in its relative simplicity compared to the rest of the director’s filmography. This car chase musical is dazzling and energetic, but it’s also the first Wright work that exercises style over substance, and unlike his four previous movies, I struggle to identify what the main point is.
This post will contain spoilers for every Edgar Wright film.
With Shaun of the Dead, Wright tells the story of a slacker who glides through life, refusing to grow up, spending all of his time at a local bar and not hunkering down and committing to his girlfriend. He essentially acts like a zombie day in and day out, and he is subsequently confronted by actual zombies, forcing him to take control, get himself out of this rut, and declare his true feelings for those around him. In the end, he has become an adult while still allowing himself to occasionally indulge in childish things, as evidenced by the epilogue of Shaun playing video games with Ed in the shed.
Hot Fuzz is the story of a loner, Nick, who feels that he can take on the whole world on his own and actually looks down upon his peers. He is also overly obsessed with his career, which is negatively affecting all of the relationships in his life. When he is relocated to the countryside and paired with another cop, Danny, he initially looks dislikes him and considers him to be a weight on his shoulders. But Nick learns on his journey that he needs the help of others, both to enrich himself and to take on evil, and he winds up connecting deeply with Danny.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright’s only film to be based on a pre-existing property, is about the idea that if you want something badly, you have to fight for it. Similar to Shaun in Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim just sort of drifts through life during the first act of the movie, but when he’s met with something he truly desires, he has to learn to step up his game and go after it. In the end, he learns the importance of self respect and of fighting for yourself, not for anyone else.
The World’s End, the third and final film in the Cornetto trilogy, may actually be the most thematically rich of all. It’s all about the downfalls of nostalgia, with the main character, Gary King, being someone who has built his entire life around memorializing his college years. He puts this time in his life up on a pedestal because he is unhappy with his present, and so Gary must return to his past and literally destroy it, in the final act bravely taking on a new world.
Baby Driver is a fun, exciting movie about a getaway driver who is obsessed with music, but I struggle to identify the unique Edgar Wright angle that makes it stand out from other similar heist films.
There’s a nice little love story at the center of this music-driven epic, but what, exactly, is the takeaway message? If we had to identify one, it would probably be the idea of “facing the music,” and the importance of owning up to who you are and what you’ve done rather than constantly running from it. Baby is someone who is literally always trying to escape the past, but in the end, he faces it head on and accepts the consequences.
But is this not also the message of virtually every crime film ever made? I can’t think of a single horror-comedy that deals with the idea of getting oneself out of a rut and becoming an adult, or a science fiction comedy about the dangers of obsessing over the past. But there are barely any crime movies that aren’t about a main character who is running away from his crimes and must finally own up to them at the end. For the first time, it feels like an Edgar Wright film is effectively executing a formula rather than putting a spin on one.
Perhaps Baby Driver‘s thematic weight will become clearer to me on repeat viewings. But for now, I walked away from Wright’s newest film with a huge smile on my face while at the same time feeling that he was capable of so much more.