The Many Talents of Edgar Wright

Edgar WrightRogue Pictures via Everett Collection

While most of America spent Memorial Day weekend embracing the coming summer, Marvel had a falling out with one of its directors, and sending what was once their most promising project into creative jeopardy. On Friday, Edgar Wright stepped down as director of Marvel’s Ant-Man, citing creative differences with Marvel on his vision for the project. Suddenly, the Ant-Man project looks a lot less interesting.

Our excitement about the upcoming Ant-Man film wasn’t so much focused on the hero finally making the leap to the big screen, but for the creative force bringing him there. Wright is a genre film wonder who has spent his career crafting excellent spoofs on everything from horror to cop movies to alien invasions. It was exciting to think what the writer/director could have done with the superhero film. Edgar Wright seemed ordained to direct Ant-Man. It was the perfect meeting of concept and creator. Who else could handle a character as outwardly ridiculous as Ant-Man: a scientist who fights crime by shrinking to the size of a pea or growing to the size of a skyscraper? Ant-Man had been a labor of love for Wright, whose connection to the superhero film had been going on eight years. This clearly wasn’t a simple direct-for-pay gig for Wright. It was something that would likely retain the same careful attention to detail and heart that flowed through every one of his previous works. In tribute to a director that has given us so many great moments over the years, we’ve rounded up the moments that exemplify Edgar Wright’s talents for different aspects of filmmaking.


Each film in Wright’s Cornetto trilogy is a love letter to a different subset of genre filmmaking. The zombie flick, the buddy cop movie, and the alien invasion film all get the piss taken out of them through subsequent films. Wright had a special way of handling genre spoofs, not only unraveling the conventions and cliches of a given genre, but also embracing them too. In this scene from Hot Fuzz, Wright takes the foot chase, a standard cop film trope, and turns it into comedic gold. It takes all of the cliches of the ubiquitous foot chase (sudden obstacles, every police officer’s sudden and expert knowledge of parkour) and turns them all on their heads. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, action movies are really stupid, but they’re also a ton of fun.”


Shaun of the Dead, the first taste of Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, is perhaps his funniest film to date. Wright’s deft handling of comedy is most perfectly illustrated in the “Don’t Stop Me Now” scene towards the end of the film. The sequence is a hilarious frenzy of zombie action. Lines like “Kill the Queen” and the music synching to the beating of pool cues against zombie flesh are absurdly funny. 


With Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wright took Brian Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels, work drawn and written deeply in the language of manga and video games, and transposed it into the world of film. It’s an adaptation that shouldn’t have worked, but does so beautifully. The hyper-stylized version of Canada feels coherent, despite all the madness, and the action scenes are fast, fluid, and nicely choreographed, with pixelated point counters blazing the screen and enemy foes collapsing into loose change after being vanquished. Just like that, a comic that should have been un-filmable is brought to life like it was drafted for the big screen in the first place.


One of the reasons that Edgar Wright’s films are so enjoyable is because the worlds he creates often barely conform to any rules, often bending reality to suit a gag. Absurdity is a well-used device in Wright’s toolbox, and his willingness to let things get weird has given us so many terrific scenes like this one from his television show Spaced. Here, a back-alley confrontation inexplicably turns into a bloody finger-gun shootout with enough pretend viscera to rival Saving Private Ryan’s D-Day scene.


SPOILER WARNING: The following clip gives away the ending of The World’s End.

Perhaps his most mature film to date, dealing with themes like depression, PTSD, addiction, and the terrifying thought of growing older, The World’s End exemplifies better than any of Wright’s other films just how in touch with his characters’ emotionalities he really is. With the fertile grounds of superhero allegories in his hands, Wright might well have worked cathartic wonder.