Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is an unqualified success, a masterpiece in whichever genre you choose to label it, but today we'd like to go beyond just heaping deserved praise (although be sure to read our glowing review of it) and see what it says about the director's failed Marvel Cinematic Universe venture Ant-Man.
It's been four years since Wright's last film, the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy capper The World's End, making Baby Driver certainly very anticipated. However, it wasn't always meant to go this way; the director's planned fifth feature had been the MCU's Ant-Man, which he'd been attached to since 2006 and started working on properly once The World's End hangover had worn off. Of course, as pretty much everybody reading this knows it wasn't to be: Wright left the project in 2014 following disagreements with Marvel.
While the Ant-Man we got in 2015 was certainly well received and the character has become a fan favorite (especially after his Giant-Man transformation in Captain America: Civil War), there's always been a sense of what we got being a lesser product than what was promised. Replacement director Peyton Reed made the best of a bad situation and brought in many fresh ideas of his own - both Luis' character-jumping monologues and the Quantum Realm, two undisputed highlights, were his and Adam McKay's idea - but that hasn't stopped a longing to see what Wright's full vision was.
Baby Driver isn't that - obviously - but there area lot of elements within its success that may elaborate a little more on what that might have been.
Baby Driver's 23 Year Journey To The Big Screen
First things first, let's dispel any suggestion Baby Driver is a reaction to Ant-Man. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, a film Baby Driver is already getting comparisons to and is destined to sit next to on "Best of the Decade" lists, Wright's opus wasn't the product of the usual two-year Hollywood cycle but a project twenty years in the making. The director says he first came up with the basic concept of a getaway driver moved by music in 1994 and realized it in a Mint Royale music video nine years later.
It finally became a tangible possibility in 2009, with Wright planning it to be his next movie post-Scott Pilgrim, but then The World's End and active Ant-Man development got in the way. It was only after parting ways with Marvel that things solidified and began moving to the movie we have now; he announced this two months after the parting of ways, bringing with him most of his now well-developed crew.
Even with its long gestation period, doing the project now feels very right for Wright. It's something highly personal coming off Ant-Man, allows him to fill a longstanding gap in his filmography - his big problem with Hot Fuzz was that the climactic car chase was rather pedestrianally directed - and altogether sees a development of his previously overtly comedic direction style.
What Actually Happened On Ant-Man?
The story of what happened on Ant-Man is broadly well-known at this point: Wright had some pretty big disagreements with Marvel. But it's not just a simple conflict of creative vision - it's a change of one.
When Wright came on in 2006, the MCU was still a twinkle in Kevin Feige's eye; Marvel had only just started making the move into producing its own films and Iron Man was yet to lock Robert Downey, Jr. The landscape - both across Hollywood and within this particular studio - was very, very different. And it naturally changed a lot in the ensuing years as The Avengers assembled, while Wright's vision for the shrinking hero remained pretty consistent. When 2014 came around, the MCU was established as a shared universe and a formula had emerged, concerns that were imposed on Ant-Man; it had to fit an already defined style and double-function as a small cog in a big machine.
Wright recently opened up on the whole departure, saying "I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie". This producer-led aspect is something Marvel hasn't been shy about and the filmmakers who've thrived there - James Gunn, the Russos - have been those who play the game. As such, it not only seems like the right decision but had he stuck around we'd probably still be clamoring to see Wright's true version.
The only real evidence we have of what Wright's film would have been like is the test footage first shown at SDCC in 2012 that gave a taste of his desired visual style. Some of this inspired what Reed ultimately did, especially in the Pym Tech heist in the second act, but otherwise we've been working on the assumption of a Hot Fuzz/Scott Pilgrim-esque movie - what we got on crack. However, seeing as Baby Driver started coming to life at a similar point in the director's career and was made in the aftermath, it reveals more about who Wright is and where his true sensibilities lie.
- Baby Driver (2017) release date: Jun 28, 2017