Grace, Rhythm, and the Transitions of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

By  · Published on November 2nd, 2016

The director as conductor.

There is a grace to the films of Edgar Wright, a fluid synchronicity of narrative and aesthetic that makes them, for lack of a better word, effortless for the viewer: they are films that propel themselves, carrying us along with them on the current of their visual rhythm. How Wright connects one scene to the next, as well as the shots within these scenes, how he transitions, is how he becomes not just a director but a conductor of this rhythm, a visual composer who understands the beats between the moments, the bridges, are just as vital to the overall product as the moments themselves.

This is why his films are so easy to experience. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End are the kind of movies you can watch over and over and over again with little to no narrative fatigue, and this is because of how Wright keeps the momentum going constantly, there’s never a lag in any of his films, there’s never a chance to zone out or otherwise lose interest; whether the action’s going full-speed or the wit’s flowing unabated or not, there is always something being communicated by the way Wright frames, manipulates, and directs our attention.

In none of his films to date is this mastery of his medium’s visual rhythm more noticeable or pitch perfect than it is in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in which Wright’s inventive use of transitions helps elevate his film from a mere comic book adaptation to a visceral, interactive experience closer reflecting that of a video game rather than a two-dimensional illustrated narrative.

In the following video from Evan Puschak – a.k.a. The Nerdwriter – these transitions are the focus of an in-depth essay that delves into the rhythm inherent to filmmaking and how Wright is particularly adept at tapping into it, harnessing it, and bending it to his and our benefit.

Too often, I think, we undervalue the talent of comedic directors – like we do comedic actors – because, to repeat what I said above, they make films that feel easy to us. But that ease is exactly where their greatest talents lie. Comedy is significantly more difficult than drama, which relies on events to establish itself; comedy requires people, characters, and yes, I’ll say it again, rhythm. Edgar Wright is a director of great and impressive technical merit, a filmmaker who doesn’t just walk but waltzes on the fine line between the amiable and the absurd, and a filmmaker who warrants closer study along the lines of Puschak’s video. Take 10 minutes to get a deeper appreciation for Wright and his work.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist