Theatrical Review: “The World’s End”
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park
Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Edited by: Paul Machliss
Cinematography by: Bill Pope
Music by: Steven Price
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley, Michael Smiley, Pierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy
Well, it’s finally here – the conclusion to the loosely connected, genre-homaging Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, the long rumored, long in development film known as The World’s End – not to be confused with This Is the End, the American film released earlier this summer. The conclusion to what accidentally became a trilogy was long in coming, and while I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about it, it was a long time ago, I know that for sure. Director Edgar Wright’s original script, titled Crawl, was written 21 years ago, but the concept of turning Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz into the first 2/3 of a quasi-trilogy never really came into fruition until the filming of Hot Fuzz. People, such as myself, who were eager to see the final entry were tided over with the likes of the unrelated-yet-still-somewhat-similar Paul from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and Edgar Wright’s brilliant but sadly overlooked adaptation of the comic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but when you consider the fact that it’s been six long years since the release of Hot Fuzz, it’s easy to understand why fans were getting a bit restless. But, finally, it’s here, and I’m happy to say that it is every bit as good as its predecessors.
Again, for the uninitiated, The World’s End is not directly connected to anything from the prior two films, storywise, but it carries on many of the same themes. This film focusses on Gary King and his efforts to reunite his high school buddies and relive the night from their teenage years when they attempted to conquer the fabled Golden Mile – a stretch of twelve eccentrically named pubs in their small hometown that ends with the eponymous World’s End. His goal is to have them each have one pint per pub without, this time, getting too distracted or so horribly wasted that they can’t make it. The only problem is, he’s got some convincing to do. While Gary’s been stuck in a state of arrested development, still dyeing his hair jet black and wearing the same gothy-looking clothes from his youth, all his friends – Andy Knightley, Steven Prince, Peter Page, and Oliver Chamberlain – have since moved on well into their adult lives these past 20+ years, with Andy in particular holding a significant grudge against his former best friend.
Gary’s quite the charmer, however, and obviously gains their sympathies (which I feel comfortable telling you because the movie would otherwise be completely different from what you know it to be about), and so they all make the trip back home, if only for Gary’s sake, and attempt to make the most of their situation. With the passage of time, however, it quickly becomes clear that several things have changed – not just their relationships with one another, but their town, too, has undergone what they describe as a pretty noticeable “Starbucking.” Something’s definitely not quite right, and, before they know it, old wounds are being opened amidst an alien robot invasion. … What? You didn’t think they’d leave out the crazy genre twist, now, did you?
Yes, The World’s End is a loving homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other films of its ilk, using the sci-fi/action/horror chaos as a backdrop to tell an entertaining and surprisingly moving story about dealing with past pains and personal flaws. While the two previous films contained shades of touching storytelling (Shaun in particular), The World’s End provides the emotional and philosophical crescendo. Shaun of the Dead followed Pegg’s character, Shaun, as he struggles to grow out of his slacker life and take on more adult responsibilities amidst a zombie apocalypse while still having fun when the time is appropriate. In Hot Fuzz, he was the polar opposite as Nicholas Angel, a hardass, teetotaler cop who struggles to learn to lighten up and enjoy life amidst a small town conspiracy while learning that he can take a certain amount of joy in his work, as well.
In The World’s End, the aging slacker and hardass characters are basically taken back to square one and forced into the spotlight to duke it out with one another. Pegg plays the slacker, Gary, whose choice in lifestyle, we find out, is rooted in some deeper emotional issues. Meanwhile, Frost, who previously played the childish comic relief characters, refreshingly tackles the hardass teetotaler role of Andy and is actually very well suited for it, too, similarly making that role a bit more vulnerable and tragic. The resulting dynamic is surprisingly effective at summarizing and expanding upon the previous films’ conclusions into one grand finale that takes a hard look at humanity for all it’s worth and asks, “Is it really all worth it, in the end?” The film’s answer to that won’t be especially mind-blowing for Cornetto Trilogy fans, but it’s still somewhat profound for a film of this pedigree.
Don’t worry, though – the film doesn’t suddenly take a left turn into Philosophy 101 or anything like that. This does, after all, feature robot invaders from space. Though it takes a while to get to the action and sci-fi mayhem, with a large portion of the first half feeling very much like a British flavor Judd Apatow film, as with Hot Fuzz, it fills that “downtime” with witty wordplay, amusing jokes, and entertaining characters, which also includes Rosamund Pike as Oliver’s sister, Sam, who once had an unwise fling with Gary that she would really like to put behind her. Fans of the previous films and the TV show Spaced will continue having fun spotting cameos and callbacks, too. And once it does get to the action portion, it’s unrelenting and amusingly choreographed – you would think these characters had battles like this all their lives or something. Gary’s determination to stick to his one-pint-per-pub goal in the midst of the action reminded me of Jackie Chan’s clownish ability to juggle fighting with some sort of theme (i.e., defeat the bad guys while keeping museum artifacts safe from destruction). The fact that I later learned that the fights were choreographed by Jackie Chan associate Brad Allen made me feel especially proud of myself.
The World’s End is a fitting conclusion to the decade-spanning Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy – an entertaining distillation of the films’ themes and philosophies regarding life, adulthood, pop culture, and what makes a film not only great, but immensely entertaining, too. It’s kind of sad now that we really don’t have anything to look forward to from the combined trio of Pegg, Frost, and Wright, but it’s probably best that they didn’t run the concept into the ground with a continuous stream of genre-bending films that would undoubtedly become satires of themselves at one point, too. Ultimately, if it had to end, it’s probably best that it end in the most logical place: The World’s End.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 4 / 5