A few weeks ago, Pirates 5 opened with $77 million domestically over the four-day Memorial holiday and $285 worldwide over the long weekend. It is now expected to earn somewhere around $750 million worldwide when all is said and done, which is basically the break-even point for the $230 million production. I was so excited to see Transformers 5 this past weekend so that I could be on the right side of history and beside the winner of the fifth-quel battle royale. Pirates 5 was an already laughable 29% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, much higher than the terrible movie deserved. Then Transformers 5 reviews came out. They are currently at 15% positive. Just so you know that’s not a typo, I’ll write it again: 15%. I kid you not. 15%.
5 Ways to Prep: Baby Driver
By George Rose
July 3, 2017
Sometimes I get psyched out and don’t rush to see a movie because the reviews are terrible. I’ll skip the Thursday sneak preview, wait to see what happens over the weekend, and I’ll catch a showing on Sunday so I can be among the last to say they saw the movie on opening weekend. But then, before I could even talk to friends about the movie and possibly have them tell me the reviews were wrong, the early opening weekend numbers came in. After being released on a Wednesday (probably so the weekend numbers couldn’t be fairly compared to Pirates 5), Transformers 5 earned $69 million over the five-day opening and $265 million worldwide. Sound familiar? It’s expected to earn maybe $750 million worldwide in the end against a $217 million budget, which means it won’t earn or lose money. Again, sound familiar?
There aren’t many things worse in my mind than big studios wasting money on beloved franchises with endless potential and RUINING EVERYTHING. One of the few things worse, I imagine, is a starstruck Hollywood super nerd like me trying to make a fun game out of the inevitable failures of these fifth franchise entries and having the battle end in A MOTHER FUDGING TIE. And not just any tie. If they both made or lost lots of money, the tie would be something interesting to talk about. Instead, the tie is both films breaking painfully even. There will be no pointing and laughing this week, my friends. Just the torture of wondering if making/losing $0 is enough to encourage the studios to end or continue the franchises.
Though neither fifth film was able to differentiate itself from the other, the two franchises will veer in vastly different directions moving forward. The writers-room initiative has Transformers sequels/spin-offs on the fast track while we’re not likely to see a Pirates 6 movie for quite some time, if ever. All eyes are on Transformers now to reveal their cards after this fifth film fiasco. Until then, we had a different battle royale of sorts this past weekend, a David vs Goliath if you will. In one corner we have Baby Driver, the 98% positive low-budget picture from one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed rising directors. In the other corner we have Despicable Me 3, the fourth entry (uuuggggghhhh) in the Minions franchise that recently topped $1 billion with its third film.
This is an easy debate. I’m tired of “blockbusters” and sequels/reboots/relaunches/spin-offs. They have done nothing but disappoint me lately, and early word is DM3 may not top $1 billion. It will still make stupid amounts of money but will fall short of the film before it. Wait, what?! Another film in an overly long franchise won’t earn as much as its predecessors?! HOW SHOCKING! Whatever, I’m over it. Moving on. Edgar Wright has had a short but fascinating directing career and thus takes the crown this week with the highly prestigious honor of being my choice for 5 Ways to Prep.
1) Drive (2011)
The simple explanation for Baby Driver’s plot is that it’s about a getaway driver. A few other minor details might be to say that music plays a big part in this movie, with the shockingly young driving protégé listening to an iPod to help get through the inevitable action ahead. It’s a simple enough story with a cute little catch, but this isn’t a revolutionary idea. This has been done before, most recently in 2011’s Drive starring mega-sex symbol (but, I guess, also critically well regarded) Ryan Gosling.
Drive is also about a getaway driver, though he doesn’t listen to the soundtrack on an iPod. An ‘80s music and theme is heavily applied to the production, giving it a neo-noir feeling that the brooding Gosling fits into perfectly. It also more than earns its hard R-rating, with one star taking a shotgun to the face and another having their head curb-stomped in all its gory glory. I’m not sure yet if Baby Driver’s R-rating is also due to such graphic violence or simply for having a foul mouth. Either way, Drive is an acclaimed and entertaining way to experience the story of a getaway driver set against the backdrop of a masterfully crafted soundtrack.
2) Cinderella (2015)
So Ansel Elgort plays the main character in Baby Driver, and it would naturally make the most sense to recommend a movie he’s been in. However, I have a feeling his character might be better received in Baby Driver if you stick with the mystery surrounding the guy that never takes off his headphones. If you saw him in the Divergent series, you’d hate him. If you saw him in The Fault in Our Stars, you’d pity him. I think his character in Baby Driver is meant to be liked yet misunderstood, so my recommendation is to go into the movie knowing as little about Ansel as possible. Again, do NOT prepare by seeing an Ansel Elgort movie! Instead, let’s take a closer look at his Baby Driver love interest.
From what I gather in the commercials, Elgort’s character likes some raggedy waitress named Debora. Who has so little self-respect as to date a waitress, right? Except this poor white trash is the STUNNING Lily James. She is, and definitely was in 2015, the epitome of Cinderella. Beneath Debora’s tattered clothes and ketchup-stained apron is a server with a heart of gold, a smile of diamonds, and the radiant glow of a sky full of stars. Cinderella put James on the map and proved she is worthy of our love and attention. To see James magically spinning in her famous blue Cinderella dress is to understand how Elgort’s character in Baby Driver sees Debora when she’s serving him his pancakes. Jones is definitely the diamond in the rough part of Baby Driver’s town, and her presence alone makes the movie worth seeing.
3) Ant-Man (2015)
I didn’t know who Edgar Wright was until I heard he was writing/directing Ant-Man, because I’m obsessed with Marvel and research the company daily. It was then I realized he was the one who directed the three comedies I enjoyed featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Those films were Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End; all were quite enjoyable and very well reviewed, but I was young and didn’t care as much about directors so Wright’s name went unnoticed. I feel bad for Wright and want Baby Driver to do well because he got the Giant-Man shaft during the production of Ant-Man.
He was hired to write/produce/direct the film and bring his unique sense of humor and action to the helm, only to later leave the set due to “creative differences.” AKA he went too far off the Marvel path and was replaced with someone more agreeable. If rumors that the heart of Wright’s version lives on in the bones of the final Ant-Man film, then we are the luckier for it. The movie is a hidden gem in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as it takes one of their lesser-known heroes and puts him into a bank-heist-esque action film with interesting and unexpected viewpoints on being the world’s smallest savior. I wish I liked the movie less so I could side with Wright on this one, but whatever input he had that made it to the final cut worked wonders for the audience.
4) Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
Aside from directing the critically acclaimed comedy trilogy featuring the Pegg/Frost combo pack, Edgar Wright did direct one other movie prior to Baby Driver. This isn’t just any movie, either. This is one of the greatest comic book adaptations ever to hit the big screen. Though I never read any of the Scott Pilgrim stories, I was OBSESSED with the movie. Featuring a who’s-who of rising stars (Michael Cera, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick) and now fallen celebrities (Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman), this is the video-game-inspired story of a nerdy bass player in a band who battles with music on stage and against the evils known as ex-boyfriends.
The film fuses gaming, music, action and romance in a perfectly pixelated pixie stick of insanity and showcases the many talents of a director that deserved our attention long before Baby Driver came out. To have either the vision or the ability to execute such an achievement in filmmaking is a rare quality, yet somehow writer/producer/director Edgar Wright does both and more. To have all five of your films receive a score above 80% on RT is unheard of, but Wright has done just that. With Baby Driver sitting at 98% positive reviews, I can’t wait to see what passion project Wright chooses as his next directorial effort.
5) The Nice Guys (2016)
Marvel loves taking unknown yet acclaimed talent and putting them in the director’s chair of one of their superhero films. As a reward of sorts, these directors will then take their newfound fame and small fortune and go off to make a passion project. Wright is super famous to a small group of cinema geeks but is otherwise unknown, was hired to write/direct Ant-Man, and was hoping he’d get to make Baby Driver afterwards. After his early Ant-Man departure, it was a shock to Wright that he’d still be given a chance to direct the movie of his dreams. Another case of this same situation would be Shane Black. He wrote/directed the acclaimed but little-seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, got hired on the cheap to direct Iron Man 3, then went on to make his passion project, The Nice Guys.
Starring Ryan “I clearly love retro throwback films” Gosling and Russell “please forget I’m a homewrecker with anger issues” Crowe, The Nice Guys is a comedy about mismatched private investigators in the 1970s who must work together to solve the crime of a porn star’s death. Quirky, right? With a 92% positive rating, it shows that good directors can go on to make pretty good Marvel movies and then keep their momentum going with well reviewed movies of deeply personal interest. However, it also shows that even though you’re a good director with a hit Marvel movie under your belt, most people don’t know or care about directors not named Steven Spielberg. Despite the reviews, the film only earned $36 million domestically, a sad number considering the talent involved. It’s a fate I don’t wish for Baby Driver and one I’m certain it will avoid.
Less a “Thanks, Marvel, for helping me get to work on my dream project,” and more of a “Screw you, Marvel, I’m moving on to bigger things than Ant-Man,” Baby Driver is the potential blockbuster in the making that is sure to have Marvel wondering if their plan to move past Wright’s vision was the best choice they could have made. Regardless, with two sexy rising stars, a supporting cast of famous faces (Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx), a killer soundtrack and 98% positive reviews, Baby Driver is more than just this week’s pick for ways to prep; it might just very well end up being the best movie of the summer.