Watch: How Edgar Wright Expertly Crafts Sympathetic Protagonists
It's a theater of misunderstanding.
With four incredible films under his belt, it's hard to deny that Edgar Wright has carved out a place for himself in cinematic history. His films like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Shaun of the Dead are immediately identifiable and there are countless lessons that aspiring directors, editors and screenwriters can take away from them.
"Wright is everything a filmmaker should aspire to be."
In the words of video essayist Karsten Runquist, “Wright is everything a filmmaker should aspire to be. He has a unique style, perfect framing, good timing, great soundtrack choices, he knows how to work with actors, he knows when to be sad, when to be hilarious, and when to be awesome. The guy knows what he’s doing.”
One of the most crucial pieces of his craft is how Wright writes his protagonists. It is also the part that often gets most overlooked.
Runquist argues that the reason Wright’s protagonists are so likable is that they are misunderstood by the other characters who surround them in the story...a feeling we can all relate to.
Wright expertly builds this relationship between the audience and his protagonists by revealing aspects of the plot to the audience as his protagonists discover them, but that other characters haven’t caught onto yet. We feel sympathy for his protagonists when the other characters brush off this information and put them down.
In the essay above, Hot Fuzz is used as the prime example. After an exhaustive search, Nick Angel has figured out the mystery of who is killing all the townsfolk, but no one believes him (or do they?) Karsten notes, “We feel for Nick as we, the audience, saw through his perspective that these were in fact murders. We grow a hate for his co-workers, and we gain a sense of sympathy.”
A similar sort of relationship is built up in Shaun of The Dead and Baby Driver as well. We understand the protagonists' perspectives so thoroughly that we start to think like they do as well. In the same vein, we begin to feel the same way they do about the supporting characters who they interact with.
Karsten argues that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is the exception the rule: “Instead of Scott being misunderstood, it's more of him misunderstanding the world around him.” The approach differs but the result is, in essence, the same.