Directed by Edgar Wright | Written by Wright and Simon Pegg | 109 min | On Demand
You nerds know this: The World’s End is the third and final film in Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, all made with buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The thematic thread is pretty thin, but basically these three British guys grew up loving comic books, science fiction, comedy, horror and Hollywood. Thus, we have a delightful zomcom Shaun of the Dead and action satire Hot Fuzz. How does this one measure up? Well, pretty good. These guys can be proud of their trilogy.
Pegg plays Gary King, the guy for whom high school was the best time of his life. Accordingly, he hasn’t changed an iota in 20 years, still wearing his Sisters of Mercy tee and early ’90s DMs. The best night of his life involved fighting, random sex, and a pub crawl through 12 drinking establishments in the small town of Newton Haven. He did it with his pals, Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and his best buddy, Andy (Frost). Of course, those guys have all gone on to have families and careers, and their feelings about Gary have changed somewhat. But Gary wants to get them all together one more time, to do the crawl again and do it right: they had to abandon it the first time before they made it to the titular public house.
The set-up is rich with both comedic and dramatic opportunity, and working with some of the best 40-something British thesps around, Wright sets up an interesting dynamic: Gary as a bit of a wanker, but a hilarious one, and the rest of the guys are painted as mature, sure, but they may have lost of some of the love-of-life that Gary still possesses.
I was really enjoying what was going on between these five friends—a lot of unresolved issues and history coming to the surface—when the story takes an incredibly silly right turn. If you’ve seen the trailer you know what it is: Newton Haven has been taken over by alien robots, who are replacing everyone with well-behaved, blue-blooded drones. As I said, Wright knows his influences: Carpenter’s They Live and The Thing, as well as all the versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, are heftily cribbed, with the robots a deft allegory for a certain kind of societal sameness and corporate cloning. It’s all so good-natured it would be churlish to complain about a lack of originality, though this is the first time in a Wright production that I’ve even thought to. Maybe it’s because this feels less like a satiric send-up of a Hollywood genre and more of a outright homage, with some coming-of-middle-age elements thrown into the pot. Or maybe it’s because the aliens are so ridiculous—they have heads you can screw off, fer chrissakes—that it’s hard to take any of it even slightly seriously. I wish they were a bit more frightening, as the zombies in Shaun Of The Dead were. What remains pleasantly consistent from other movies in Wright’s body of work are the pans and zooms and zippy editing. That kind of playfulness too few directors risk these days.
At any rate, the issues between the fellows don’t get resolved by the arrival of the whatever-they-ares—one of the film’s best gags is the increasingly sloshed friends coming up with names for the robots—and the drama between them continues to ferment as they aim to complete the pub crawl because they can’t think of anything else to do. Rosamund Pike and Pierce Brosnan provide some solid support, too, and, as always, Wright finds some great material for the soundtrack.
The World’s End strikes me as a movie made to be watched accompanied by a drinking game. In June I was in London, and attended a screening of Shaun Of The Dead at the Everyman Cinema in Islington. Wright was present and took questions from the audience, which was a lot of fun. The cool thing about the Everyman is it has a bar at the back of the cinema. Perfect place for The World’s End to screen. And if the audience was matching the characters pint for pint, it would be a riot for everyone. As it is, it’s great to see the gang all together for one more hurrah, but I think now all involved can go on to bigger, if not necessarily better, things. As Joel Plaskett sang, the only thing worse than growing up is never quite learning how.