The World's End
2013 - 109 minutes
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddy Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan
Wrapping up the thematically made up, but cleverly christened “Cornetto Trilogy,” Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End” reteams the director with the dynamic comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, stars of the first two installments (if you can call them that), “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”
You see, each film features a different flavor of Cornetto ice cream: strawberry representing the bloody gore of “Shaun of the Dead,” original blue for the police theme of “Hot Fuzz,” and finally green mint in “The World’s End” referencing the film’s sci-fi and alien elements. Don’t worry, you won’t be lost if you never knew this – but if you haven’t seen the first two films, you should just on general principle.
And you should also see “The World’s End.” Though the swift act of the trio of Wright, Pegg and Frost remains mostly the same it’s still snappy and entertaining, and the film slyly deals with the subject of growing up and moving on.
Pegg is Gary King, a nearly 40-year-old alcoholic who instead of dealing with his depressing present, lives in the memories of his past teenage glory. He wears the same black overcoat he had at 18, drives the same car and dyes his hair a shade of jet black that matches his teenage self, but doesn’t match his adult beard.
Ironically, his greatest memory is tinged with failure. Following high school Gary and his four best mates attempted their hometown’s Golden Mile – a 12-pub crawl in which you drink a pint at each stop. They only made it to 9, but it remains the best night of Gary’s life and he convinces himself that finally conquering the crawl will fix something. He needs this.
After years of non-contact and burnt bridges Gary rounds up his old friends to head back to Newton Haven and finish the deed. The four mates have all moved on: Frost is a straight-laced (and tea toddling) corporate type and the others are all standard versions of career and family men. Actors Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan complete the quintet, with Rosamund Pike popping up as one of the group’s sister who may have a romantic history and/or future with members of the crew. The standout of the supporting characters is Marsan playing against type as Peter Page, a sheepish tagalong who is smarter than he lets on, but smiles goofily at the antics of the others.
Like always, heading back to your hometown after years away is a bit, for lack of a better term, weird. Streets look the same, but things are just a bit different. The first two pubs the boys head to have lost their charm and look exactly the same (they’ve been “Starbucked” as one of them points out). But Newton Haven has gotten really, really weird. People stare longer than they should. The group passes the same people, each having the same expression and eerie gaze. The film is shot wonderfully and looks great; much of it takes place at night, but everything is clear and we never feel disoriented or lost in the mayhem.
It’s no spoiler to say that the crew discovers their quaint little town has been taken over by alien robots – at least, that’s what they call them. Several fights with the “Body Snatchers”-esque townsfolk follow (probably one or two too many as they get redundant after a while). What’s fun is the blue goo that spurts from the severed limbs of the creatures; limbs which appear to be popped into place like the appendages of action figures, which is something interesting that I don’t recall seeing before.
Now not only battling for what he sees as redemption, Gary leads his mates in a fight for their lives against the beings. Gary’s interaction with the beings and his friends becomes a little grating, but that’s meant to be his personality. Pegg works in the role as the guy who means well, but just can’t get his act together. It’s also not always clear what the alien motivations are, and they seem to change depending on the needs of the plot of the time. At times they are in full-on attack mode and moments later are genuinely benevolent and nurturing.
But no real bother – these beings serve their purpose in a film more concerned with sincerely funny banter and overarching themes than with the minutiae of its high concept. And everything works in the moment. There are a few points where it feels like the end is coming, but it goes on a bit more and though this is a bit dulling it plays out to a logical conclusion – that is, for a comedy about a pub crawl that involves alien invaders.
If it all seems a bit juvenile in how it wraps up, then you’re exactly right and the film completed its mission. Consider in the final scene with Gary how he has in a sense "moved on," and yet is exactly where and how he wants to be.
© 2013 by Blake Crane