At this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, there has been plenty for the genre crowd to get excited about, from last week's Christopher Nolan conversation to the upcoming West Coast premiere of The People Vs. George Lucas. But for serious connoisseurs of le genre du geek, few events were as anticipated as Sunday night's “Edgar Wright Saves the World,” in which the British auteur behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was in-house for a discussion of his career and works to date moderated by his friend and contemporary from across the pond, J.J. Abrams. As Wright joked upon sitting down for the event, “I hope none of you are disappointed that [this is going to be about] J.J. asking me questions and not the other way around. And no asking him questions, like 'When the fuck is Star Trek 2 coming out?'”
Even the die-hardiest of Jaybrams fans in the room likely had their nerd quotient properly satisfied with the evening's slate without even broaching a Star Trek or Lost topic, as the two directors chatted about Wright's rise to one of the best-loved genre filmmakers of his generation, from his humble beginnings as a student filmmaker armed with a camera and some game friends, making cop movies in the local playground that would amusingly come full-circle in his professional career. Among the clips screened were scenes from his amateur action flick, Dead Right, shot when he was a teen at some of the very same locations in his hometown of Wells, Somerset that later turned up in Hot Fuzz. There truly is no place like home.
The two enthused about their shared love of filmmakers like John Carpenter and John Landis, and, in particular, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2, which Wright has frequently cited as one of his primary influences along with the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona. Of the latter, he recalled watching and wondering about its ebullient, energetic style of filmed comedy: “Why aren't all comedies filmed like this? And then I realized later… because it's really, really difficult.”
Also screened, clips from Shaun and Fuzz and bits of Wright's brief foray into music video, in which his energetic style still soars. Watch two music video clips from earlier in Edgar Wright's career:
Mint Royale, “Blue Song” (co-starring The Mighty Boosh and Nick Frost!)
The Bluetones, “After Hours” (a nifty tribute to Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone):
Wright managed to hone his influences into a singular cinematic voice by gaining plenty of practical experience while working on the small screen, most notably in the estimable and beloved UK sitcom Spaced, his second collaboration with Simon Pegg (after the little-seen, but worth checking out if you can find it, Asylum) and a real love-letter made by geeks, for geeks. It's no surprise, really, given the surge in creativity and quality in scripted television over the past decade, that filmmakers like Wright and Abrams, whom many would agree excel at making pop culture fare that is a cut above the rest, smarter and more richly textured, first made their mark on the small screen (Wright with Spaced and other earlier dabblings including an episode of French & Saunders; Abrams with Alias, Lost and now Fringe.)
In the reel of Spaced footage that was screened for the crowd, one clip in particular stood out as it provides a perfect example of why Wright was the right man for the job of adapting his anticipated upcoming feature, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The scene in which Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Jessica Hynes) have an argument that is punctuated with a fight from the video game Tekken has all the right beats and atmosphere that will no doubt serve Scott Pilgrim's hugely important video-game smackdown aesthetic in feature form.
Granted, the lucky crowd didn't have to wait long to have at least some of those suspicions confirmed as the evening drew to a close with a whopping nine-minute preview of Scott Pilgrim, whetting everyone's appetites for the film's August debut (and whatever else Wright and Co. decide to unleash on us at Comic-Con). What we did get to see was a delightful peek at lovelorn Scott (Michael Cera) wooing his dream girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) with love songs and garlic bread, shortly before attempting to not get his head ground into the pavement by one of her seven evil exes, arrogant action star Lucas Lee (Chris Evans, in superlative hot-douchebag form). Oh, and his entire stunt team of look-alikes. Also threatening to steal the sneak peek out from under everyone: Kieran Culkin, pitch-perfect as Scott's wise-cracking roommate Wallace Wells. Virtually every frame is rife with eye-popping yet expertly controlled comic-style cues; the visual representations of every punch's point of impact – “SNAK!”, “KRROW!” – are straight off the pages of the original comics. SP creator, and certifiable Canadian national treasure, Bryan Lee O'Malley was in the audience, grinning proudly as Wright introduced him and with good reason. It's clear his baby is in more than capable hands.
Watch the all-new international Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World trailer: