This week I watched a video essay titled Edgar Wright: How to Make a Protagonist. This video essay focuses on Edgar Wright films, and why characters in Edgar Wright films are well developed and interesting. The essayist argues that it is worth studying characters in Edgar Wright Films because they are developed in dynamic and intense scenes where the viewers begin to understand why the protagonist is “misunderstood” by the other characters in the movie. As the viewer we’ve seen and “experienced” the same events as the protagonist so we relate to their feelings of being misunderstood, and connect better with the protagonists. I think that this argument is simplified. While I agree that there tends to be something special about the characters in Edgar Wright films, I don’t think that it is as simple as designing characters that are misunderstood. In fact, I think part of the reason that Edgar Wright films don’t feel boring (at least according to this video essay) isn’t that all of the character development scenes are intense, but rather that Edgar Wright finds ways to make mundane and average scenes interesting. If we look directly at this particular video essay even, the first shot that Karsten Runquist (the video essayist) uses is a dialogue scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This scene is very “average” if you look at what is actually taking place. Four friends are sitting around a table asking the main character Scott about a girl. There are only two actual actions going on, Scott is drinking coffee, and one of his friends is eating toast. Watching this dialogue scene is far from boring for me however, and I learn a lot about Scott’s character, but not because this is an intense scene that makes me relate to his misunderstanding. Instead this scene uses humor and clever dialogue to transform the “average” into something truly interesting.
As a video essay, it it interesting how much the tone of someone’s voice in a voiceover driven video essay, impacts the extent to which I enjoy the video essay itself. In saying this I am not addressing the actual content of the voiceover or the depth of the topics covered, but simply focusing on the delivery of the lines. While Karsten Runquist was fairly interesting, I found myself not as interested in the video as I have been with other creators who focus on voiceover. In particular, I might compare this video essay with Tony Zhou’s video essay on Edgar Wright, How to do Visual Comedy. While there are plenty of other differences between the two videos, focusing strictly on voice I notice that Zhou’s voiceover is more engaging that Runquist’s. Zhou just generally seems more excited in his video than Runquist does it this video essay. It is definitely still worth watching the video essay and engaging with the subject of protagonist development, but I can’t help wonder if a different vocal performance might enhance the video’s overall effect. I mean Runquist starts off the video by mentioning that Edgar Wright is one of his favorite directors, so I think as a viewer I expect more enthusiasm from his voice when he actually talks about him. Overall though this video essay drew my attention even closer to voiceover performance in video essays, and the extent to which video essays are art pieces and performances in themselves, as much as they are also forms of critique.