Each January, I make a list of the movies that I want to see that coming year. It’s usually filled with big-budget, over-blown action flicks, because that’s what I like. This year, I had to revise my list a couple of times because I overlooked a few items that should appeal to me. One of those revisions included Baby Driver. At first glance, I wasn’t too sure about the Edgar Wright penned and directed flick but I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
Ansel Elgort is Baby, the film’s protagonist. A perfectly apropos nickname given his youthful looks, but “Baby” is all audiences know the character by throughout most of the movie. Nicknames are also a recurring trend in the movie, in which a team of thieves are gathered by the mysterious Doc (Kevin Spacey) to pull off complex heists. Think the Avengers, but they steal stuff and don’t have super powers.
The plot of the movie is thin by most standards; Baby is in for “one last job” before leaving his life of crime behind him. Naturally, the plan goes off the rails and all hell breaks loose, leaving Baby to adapt if he wants to survive and live his happily ever after.
Edgar Wright is a director who manages to put his own spin on different film genres. He breathed new life into zombie movies with Shaun of the Dead and made a legitimately fun comic book flick with Scott Pilgrim vs the World. It’s easy to expect Wright to deliver a fast-paced yet super fun heist movie, which he manages to do.
Despite the weak plot, the movie is a blast, mostly because of the characters that Wright has created. We have Baby, deep and mysterious and into a wide range of music to which he has an unnatural attachment. The audience is only allowed brief glimpses into his past, but it’s enough to puzzle together why he is the way he is. We’re also given an expository explanation as to his need for music at all times, which is delivered in a delightfully clever way by Mr. Spacey himself.
Then you have Bats, played by Jamie Foxx. “Bats” is short for “Bat-Shit,” indicating how crazy the character is. We’re given nothing about Bats’s past, yet Foxx’s portrayal of the character intimates just how deep his psychoses run. Foxx is great in this role and makes it really easy for audiences to hate him.
Then there’s John Hamm’s Buddy. An enigma for most of the film, it’s hard to gauge which way Buddy goes. He’s a bank robber, sure, but he’s also the only one who’s ever shown Baby any respect. Hamm imbues Buddy with a dead-eyed stare and cool charisma that makes him look like he was ripped right out of a Tarantino film, which makes him a perfect fit for the world of Baby Driver.
With how much we give credit to Edgar Wright for his direction and the actors for their delivery, we also need to recognize the editors, Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. I’m sure much of the film kept with Wright’s vision, but Amos and Machliss cut it so that it gels perfectly. A lot of the fun of the movie is within the action sequences, where the gunshots and sound effects sync up with the film’s soundtrack. It’s subtle at first; you almost don’t realize it’s happening but when you do, it adds depth to the scenes.
Speaking of the music, I can’t ignore the soundtrack as it’s an important element of the film. The song selections work brilliantly with the on-screen actions. Similar to the way Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 handled its own musical numbers, Baby Drivers takes innocuous song choices and pairs them with intense, frenetic action. A tire-screeching police chase set to “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion? It works. An explosive gun fight in a dirty warehouse with Button Down Brass’s “Tequila” as the back drop? Flawless. (The soundtrack also features Ducky from NCIS and I never thought I’d type that sentence but here I am.)
There’s more to Baby Driver than just cool characters and an OK plot; it’s a movie that delivers an experience. From the very start, and I mean at the start of the vanity logos, the film includes a low level hum, just like the one Baby hears from his tinnitus. It accompanies almost all of the moments that aren’t occupied by music or explosions and is persistent throughout, making the audience feel just like Baby does. Sometimes it’s noticeable, sometimes it isn’t. Either way, we get a better idea of how Baby hears his world.
Baby Driver isn’t perfect, though. Baby’s world is turned around when he meets a pretty, perky waitress named Debora (Lily James). Debora’s goal is to cut and run out of town, a goal that Baby doesn’t realize he has until he meets her. James is lovely in the role but her part just runs flat. We get some back story into her character but it’s nothing of any significance. She has a whirlwind romance with Baby but she doesn’t actually change him in any way. We’ve already seen that he has a conscience despite what he does for a living; all Debora does is make him want to run away from the life he built in Atlanta.
It’s a weird dynamic, in a way, considering the relationship Wright shows us between Baby and his foster father, Joe (CJ Jones). Joe is deaf and uses a wheelchair, casting Baby in the caregiver role. Their relationship is so natural and authentic that I would find Joe a more believable reason for Baby to escape the world that he’s entrenched in. I guess you just can’t beat a pretty girl when it comes to movie tropes.
Leaving aside the stale plotline and few shallow characters, Baby Driver is a remarkable film. It’s a fun, upbeat romp in a summer overloaded with drab, ennui-filled popcorn flicks.
As New York Comic Con gets bigger and bigger, it becomes impossible to take it all in, and no matter how well we plan for it, inevitably things don’t work out. Here is our breakdown of one of the fastest going conventions in the United States.
Thursday goals included attending the 88MPH: A Celebration of Back to the Future, a panel about DC Comics imprint Vertigo’s new #1s, attempting to get into the Viz Media/Musashi Kishimoto panel, and finishing out the day at MootCon4 to talk to people about the Game of Theories webseries. While not an entirely adventurous schedule, the sheer amount of people made it impossible to navigate the exhibit hall (or the smaller, craft/creator filled area called The Block) in a timely manner. New York Comic Con was wall to wall cosplayers in different Doc & Marty costumes (and a TON of Rick & Morty costumes as well), some so well done, several double takes were needed to make sure we didn’t accidentally walk by Christopher Lloyd himself. We had to slowly step our way to the Image booth where we met up with comic creator Ivan Brandon for a scheduled interview, before attempting to make headway toward the Funko booth, hoping to get our eyeballs on some of those exclusives! There were many promotional life-size POP! figures to promote the upcoming Smuggler’s Bounty, and it was difficult to tear ourselves away and re-evaluate our plan as the hour grew late. It was here our paths split, with Tushar checking out the Games and Education panel, Kaitlyn calling it a day, and Leia preparing for a long evening of line waiting to spend an hour in the same room as Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, before preparing for day two.
As the weekend progressed, we saw the floors even MORE packed than before and our weary correspondents loaded up their schedule with panels. First, however, Kaitlyn and Leia wandered over to the Audible booth to try out the immersive Locke & Key experience via Oculus Rift, before an interview with Sean Lewis and Benjamin Mackey, newbies in the comic industry. Artist Alley was a sight to behold this year, with greedy fingers reaching for art prints on our way to interview Justin Jordan, and get some stuff signed.
Now despite the name “New York Comic Con,” non-comic media, like television, was there in force too. The folks at Adult Swim were up to their old tricks again with roundtables for Venture Bros, Robot Chicken, and the new miniseries airing soon, Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter. (You can check out our preview at Adult Swim at NYCC – Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter). Getting to meet TV personalities like Jon Glaser, Stephanie March, Breckin Meyer and the crazy duo of Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick went exactly as we thought it would go. Antics upon hijinks upon gut busting laughter. It was tough to get through the whole thing without addressing Stephanie March as anything other than “Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot,” but ultimately composure was kept and we found that she, along with the rest of the Adult Swim actor corps, were super cool and friendly people.
TV wasn’t the only non-comic media to make a splash this year. Video games made their presence felt too. If you had (like we did) a bit of trouble getting through the main entrance to the con floor because of a pure sea of concentrated humanity, you were probably going by the Capcom booth. Lining the booth was an army of Street Fighter enthusiasts, and it WAS possible (but not probable) to slither your way in to get a crack at seeing some gameplay from Street Fighter V. The game played faster than its predecessor Street Fighter IV, and you could see some of the classic cast like Karin making their return from the Alpha/Zero series of Street Fighter games. There was a tournament going on as well, so there was always the chance that if you went in to get schooled, it would be public on a lot of large screens.
Square-Enix decided to take the quieter route and had a media suite set up a Shop Studios, just a couple blocks away from the Javits Center. It was nice to get away from the bustle of the con floor for guided demos of their games to small groups of people, and the fact that they fed us definitely did not hurt the experience. Making the rounds through Shop Studios we saw the upcoming Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (check out our preview here), Hitman, Just Cause 3, and the finale to Life Is Strange with Episode 5. The biggest and friendliest surprise though was that Lara Croft: GO wasn’t the only appearance our girl Lara Croft made that day. The full playable demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider looked and played absolutely great.
The Star Wars franchise decided to take an in between approach, setting up their Star Wars Battle Pods outside of the con floor but still inside the Javits Center, making it easy to get to and a beacon of the force as people entered the building. The battle pods let you take command of a few different vehicles from the Star Wars universe, from going on a Death Star bombing run in an X-Wing to trying to hang on for dear life on a speedbike on Endor. Either way, the ride was complete with vibration and pod shakes that one would presumably feel taking your X-wing out of the hangar.
Our last day was spent tying up loose ends, such as taking photos of the creepiest cosplay we could find, picking up more stuff to give away to you guys, and making our last stop at the phenomenal Women of Marvel panel, before shambling off home.
Be sure to check out our other convention coverage and we hope to see you guys in the future! We can’t wait for next year, and leave you with this awesome cosplay video from our friends, SneakyZebra.
In case you haven’t already, don’t forget that we are giving away a bunch of stuff for those of you who didn’t get to attend! Enter below.