Edgar Wright is undeniably one of the most successful independent filmmakers of all time. It’s also undeniable he is extremely popular as he crafts smart yet funny colorful action comedies mixed with very catchy yet wisely planned soundtracks.
When back in July 2012 both Marvel and Edgar announced they would team-up for an Ant-Man adaptation, most people, including me, were really excited about such project. On paper, Ant-Man is a crazy concept to take on screen, and Edgar Wright in the fan’s mind was not only a great choice but the most logical one.
So when in May 2014 the both announced the British director would not work on the film anymore, a lot of people enraged against Marvel accusing limiting creative freedom. Which of course is what everyone likes to think, as the corporations always limit their workforce to fit into the mechanism (despite it’s not quite like that). I wasn’t blaming the thing on Disney, but I was discontent nevertheless.
Luckily Payton Reed’s Ant-Man turned out to be an enjoyable family ride, and we are looking forward to the sequel.
Obviously, that is not the point of this opinion piece.
With time passing, graduating in Filmmaking, watching more movies, getting used to analyze them deeper, which only fueled my love for the art and its craft, I came to the conclusion that Edgar Wright was never suitable for writing a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.
Why’s that, you may ask. And that’s exactly what I want you to ask me.
Let’s analyze for a moment Edgar’s filmography. To this day, he has directed six movies: A Fistful Of Fingers in 1995 (I doubt it made it anywhere outside the U.K.), Shaun of the Dead in 2004, Hot Fuzz in 2007, Scott Pilgrim vs The World in 2010, The World’s End in 2013 and Baby Driver in 2017.
All of these are very respectful in all manners possible, extremely coherent with Wright’s style… which is what I’m going to take on next.
People way too often associate the word ‘style’ with the visual aspect of a film, as well as the sound of the dialogue. While this concept is not wrong per se, since the visual aspect is what allows the audience to recognize a filmmaker’s print in the blink of an eye, I find it very restrictive and inaccurate to limit that to such.
There’s an undeniably charming ‘physical’ aura around Edgar Wright’s modus operandi. Bright colors, particular framing as well peculiar editing. And given how a film like Guardians of the Galaxy turned up to be, I honestly doubt that any of these were the problem in the ‘differences in [the] vision of the film’.
The creative difference, probably, presented itself once Edgar wrote and presented the protagonist – whoever it was, Hank Pym or Scott Lang, it is totally irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make (although most likely it was already Scott Lang).
In all of his works, the characters are very funny and perfectly believable in the over-the-top context the story is taking place in. However, none are realistic, but rather caricatural archetype that ends up being funny and extremely functional because the scripts are tailored to them.
Look at Shaun in Shaun of the Dead: he is a lazy ass with no interest nor ambition, who does something due to extraordinary circumstances. But by the end of the film, once these extraordinary circumstances became normality, he is the exact same guy.
Simon Pegg’s characters in the other two films of the Cornetto Trilogy, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, obviously do not share the same personality, but they are still caricatural archetype: a cop who has no interest in anything but be a cop, and an adult who never grew past his teenage years.
Despite it may sound like criticism, given the nature of the post as well the point I’m trying to make, that is not the case: the Cornetto Trilogy had to have those characters, mainly because that’s what satire generally needs to prove its points.
While not a satire, we can do a similar discussion with Scott Pilgrim vs The World: Scott is not a hero but an unambitious guy who does not really care about his self-esteem, and in the film is moved by a selfish desire (conquer the girl’s heart). The film, probably my Wright’s favorite, is a stereotypical representation of what guys have to do in order to prove their feelings – or anyway what Hollywood (and Disney classics) made you believe need to be done. So obviously the character is perfectly made for such film and story.
Baby Driver is not a satire, and it’s safely his most realistic film to date, nevertheless, it still features archetypal (but not caricatural) characters, including Baby, who is basically the perfect, flawless hero. Yes, he does lie, but as an audience, we understand and condone those lies.
Again, none of that is a critique of Wright’s work. I like his films (I only didn’t particularly enjoy Baby Driver), all of whom are greatly crafted and deserve all the praise they get.
At this point, you might ask why this is a problem in Marvel films, particularly the Marvel Cinematic Universe ones (given his Ant-Man was going to be part of it).
The answer is simple: Marvel characters, particularly the main ones, are realistic.
Let’s start by analyzing Tony Stark in Iron Man: he is a genius yet spoiled-brat gunsmith who once experience his weaponry power on his own skin, and realizing the horrible things he lends a hand to, decide to redeem himself. The fact he is a billionaire is irrelevant. The change of heart is pretty believable, and all the arcs in the following movies in the franchise did nothing but making the character more believable, to the point I believe he is the only character to have an arch in every film is part of, including Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But let’s take Scott Lang in Payton Reed’s Ant-Man. He tried to steal money from his former employers – who fired him after he found out they were basically stealing money from their customers and got caught for a banal mistake. While we might not condone theft, we completely understand his action and even approve them if we think he was basically being Robin Hood.
What I’m saying is that all the protagonist in the MCU films have a personality that is understandable, relatable and believable, resulting to be empathic with the audience – which I strongly believe has been the key for the franchise to be so successful after so many movies.
You basically believe that the personalities you see on screen could be one of the people sitting next to you. However, you can’t say the same for Edgar Wright’s characters.
I really wanted to see Edgar Wright’s take on the MCU, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that most likely his writing wasn’t fitting the franchise goal at the time, and probably won’t be for a while.
Of course, this is all speculation. I have no insights on what happened between the two parties, so of course, you MUST NOT take this piece as a statement, but rather an opinion on what might have happened, considering it still fits Edgar’s words on the matter (‘I wanted to do a Marvel movie, but they didn’t want to make and Edgar Wright’s film’).
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let us know below in the comments!