As Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz celebrates its 12th anniversary, contributor Jack Colwill takes a look at the career of the man behind the magic who continues to delight audiences with his delightfully irreverent style.

Anyone who has ever read a comic book can relate to the feeling of flitting between panels, imagining the movements that link one to the next. The power of imagination has always been as much a part of the appeal of comics as the art itself.

It is the recognition of the almost endless joy to be found in this that has made Edgar Wright such a revered cult filmmaker – and it doesn’t seem like he is going to change his ways any time soon.

As arguably his most warmly-remembered film, Hot Fuzz, celebrates its 12th anniversary, it is easy to look back and see why Wright holds such a special place in the hearts of film fans. It certainly does in mine – I still credit it as being up there with the funniest films I’ve ever seen. But I am not alone.

His ability to effortlessly interweave supernatural and unusual stories into beautifully mundane English environments won him a lot of admirers and turned him from a quirky outsider with a cult fanbase, mostly gained from his work (again with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) on the Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, into a mainstream directorial figurehead.

It is easy to credit the success of the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, comprising Shaun of the Dead(2004), Hot Fuzz (2009) and The World’s End (2013), to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and many routinely do.

 

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz, part of Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy

Very talented comedic actors for sure, with Simon Pegg also co-writing the films. But, there is a reason that Pegg and Frost’s 2011 film Paul, made without Wright, did not sate fans in the way they hoped. Wright was the driving creative force behind the trilogy, being lead writer and director on all three.

What is most admirable, at least from this writer’s perspective, about Wright’s work on that trilogy was his ability to make the kinds of over-the-top, gross-out gore seem as slick and stylised as he did. Anyone who has seen the final fight scene in Hot Fuzz, where Simon Pegg and Timothy Dalton fight in a model village, can speak to that. Not only this, he managed to find all the humour to be found in the simple things in the normal lives of normal people – even when there was a zombie apocalypse or a murderous Neighbourhood Watch to deal with.

But let us not forget, style is Wright’s bread and butter. And if I were pressed to describe him in one word, that would indeed be it – style.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World in 2010 gave Wright the chance not only to make a film with a comic-book sensibility but to almost literally put a comic book on screen – and he didn’t hold back.

From the almost over-powering colourisation of the film to the visualisations of sound effects taken quite literally verbatim from the golden age of superhero comics, Pilgrim screams of being an Edgar Wright baby.

There were accusations that he was too in love with it – it was a film that received generally negative critical reception. However, the fact that it is still held up as a cult classic speaks enough to Wright’s empathy and understanding of a generation.

There are some classic trademarks when it comes to identify Wright in full throttle. His films run almost like clockwork – fast-paced edits show off intense action sequences in all their full glory, but he pays tribute to his comic book roots by lingering on his money shots. I have never tried this, but something tells me if you were to take a still frame every time Wright lingers on a shot in an action or fight sequence and then string them together, it would not be too distinguishable from something branded with a DC or Marvel logo.

Mark Kermode described watching an Edgar Wright movie once as like watching a card magician performing a perfect riffle-shuffle, and it is not hard to see what he means – the way every component of his best work just falls beautifully into place in the right order and with seemingly minimal effort.

2017’s smash hit Baby Driver, which earned Academy Award nominations in editing and sound editing – unsurprising, given Wright’s imaginative milieu – is, for me, the culmination of his art. Visual sequences, which are edited beautifully alongside a perfectly-selected soundtrack, cannot help but create the effect of drawing you into a world that almost seems hand-painted by the director.

Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

The whole film runs like someone has perfectly encapsulated the wild sequences that kids like him would have dreamt up while reading SpiderMan. You can feel the smile, that must have been plastered onto his face while making it, creeping over your face as you watch.

I feel there is a distinction to be made when we discuss directorial styles now. You have filmmakers, to be sure, but you also have directors that are artists, and Edgar Wright shines bright among them. His eye for detail, his sense of panache and his ability to see the bigger picture stands him apart from the crowd and it gives him a unique ability to convey the comic book sensibility to which he is so attached onto the big screen.

But the biggest lesson anyone can take away from an Edgar Wright film is that the courage of your convictions can get you a long way. He works in a style that is unlike anything that exists elsewhere in cinema right now and his gloriously anarchic sense of humour is the cherry on top. It is a particular outlook that so few people share in the film industry and I am sure he has dealt with his fair share of meddling hands.

There will have been people that told him Scott Pilgrim was bad, or confusing, or just not mainstream enough to succeed. However, he has stuck to his guns and has attracted a fanbase that will be dedicated to him for as long as he continues to make films.

Let’s be honest – as a filmmaker, there’s no higher compliment than that.