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Edgar Wright’s Guide To Opening a Movie

Edgar Wright is nothing if not entertaining. His kinetic style of filmmaking often reflects not only the action sequences, but also the almost wholesome depiction of the everyday characters. People like you or me. Folk we know. Granted, his plot lines involve bank robberies, aliens, zombies, super villains, cults – but in each one is a rich family bond or a troubled / blossoming romance. Real people under quite extraordinary circumstances.

And that very technical flair tells the stories, whatever they may be, like trimming every bit of fat from the meat. Not a second is seemingly wasted. Renowned for some crafty, nifty editing, mise-en-scene, and use of sound, Wright has established himself as one of today’s most exhilarating film talents. I took great pleasure (and way too much time) in scoping the significance of his opening scenes, wasting no time is setting the scene.

Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright

The music before we even open the scene in the Winchester Tavern is rather zombie-relevant, in both the eerie sound of the song, and also the name: Ghost Town by The Specials. As we join Shaun and Ed in the pub, we already have the familiar Edgar Wright whiz-pans. The scene hilariously interweaves the serious pre-break-up of Shaun and Liz, with Ed’s swear-words as he plays on the games machine. The awkward conversation is interrupted with Ed’s: “Can I get, any of you cunts, a drink?” With Liz two friends sitting with them, also being passively insulted, the bland, blatant character criticisms, kind of add up to match Shaun’s inability to defend himself or even pay full attention.

The mundane depiction of British street life echoes the Ghost Town of the opening song. Youths congregating in meaningless sync. The supermarket cashier we’ll later see zombiefied in the garden having vinyl records thrown at her. Even Shaun is walking like a zombie, having just woken up, to join Eddie sprawled on the couch to resume their video game. Snappy editing, used a lot in Wright’s comedies, shows us Shaun grooming, brushing teeth and ready for work in a matter of seconds.

The World’s End

Edgar Wright

Once again, the music / radio voice emerges before the visuals kick in. And wouldn’t you know it, that opening shot is in a pub. Five pints of beers all lined up on the bar. We may already know where this is going. We dash back to when these five friends were in the last years of school. A diverse bunch of misfits, there is fun, frolics, playing music in a band, rugby on the field, pranks in the school.

The home town montage, like 20 picture postcards in 5 seconds. The same rapid editing used a minute or so later to display the youths in all their varied, drunken splendors. The basis for their intoxication, is the pub crawl. A famous one. A kind of stopping points journey that in some way mimics Wright’s own stepping stones to success, making the kind of movies he wants to. The unison of “friends”, whether hanging by a thin thread or not, is also a common element of characters in Wright’s films. We also discover The World’s End is the name of the final pub on the run. At least, that’s one interpretation.

Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright has a lean, frenetic way of visually and though his narratives, introducing you to his main characters. Vast amounts of detail crammed into a streamlined sequence. The opening moments here are a great example of this. The film’s opening long shot has Nichols Angel walking in our direction. A rare long take for the filmmaker, but gives the titles an opportunity to begin, as well as building up some form of anticipation.

The editing, of course, including the ever-effective sound design, picks up a rapid pace thereafter to show the police professional in various training activities, sitting an exam, the privilege of speaking to the elderly on thee street. He takes every aspect of the job very seriously it appears. The character Angel is likely a personification of Wright’s own cluster of fast-developing creative thoughts. Its credit to him and his production team that he transfers this to the screen so well.

Baby Driver

Edgar Wright

Hinting at his passion for music, and picking his own tracks to fit any given scene, in most of his work, Edgar Wright has already established himself as an auteur with both a clear ear and eye for fine cinema. The already classic first scene in Baby Driver is super-stylish, a real buzz, largely due to the music cues and song choices. As Baby, a seemingly young getaway driver, and the calmest of the bunch, rocks and rolls to his chosen track (headphones are in) while he waits for the crooks to return. This is his focus, his is  his preparation, this is how he does things. For what we are about to witness. And we’re kind of hooked before even the car sets off because of those technical executions.

The crook in the passengers seat coolly points forward as to set Let’s Go. Baby reverses instead, before anyone can blink an eye. Driving with more skill than any level of race car video game, Baby swoons in and out of traffic to keep the chasing police cars a bay. Although the editing is remarkable once again, the camera movement captures the skillful, slick, inch-perfect speed and motion of the car. Spinning across lanes, steering to deflect objects on the road, manipulating other road-users for his gain. The screeching wheels as he makes impossible corners are just about believable, which gives you that euphoric buzz.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Edgar Wright

The openng Universal dun-dun jubgle given a ciomputerised treatmment is genius. The first scene is a more standard paced (for Wright) intro to this movie’s group of young adults.the banter between the characters offers us both familiarity and insight through thw naturally funny dialoge and reactions. Superinmposing th names and staus of the characters straight from the comic books. The topic of conversation is Scott Pilgrim’s new girlfriend, coming to meet his freinds and watch the band play.

Like much of Wright’s work, the social groups contain clearly defined, fascinating characters. Established in little to no time. Kim the drummer appears to be the stand-out, cynical but never unfriendly, stand-offish but still magnetic. One of my very favorite moments of the energetic feast is Kim’s no-more-talk gesture to cease the uncertain ramblings, which is to cry out “We are Sex-Bob-Omb!” tapping her drumsticks together and counting 1-2-3-4 to start the music. This instance kicks the band into gear just as the rock track provides the perfect cross into the title sequence. A kaleidoscope of crayon-style colors, shapes, symbols, animation, accompanies the titles, before we return to the band. As Knives breathlessly declares: “That was amazing.”


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