How far are you willing to go to relive the past? Are you willing to take a hard look at it, your actions, an the idea of nostalgia itself in an attempt to relive the glories of days gone by?
And are you willing to plow through an army of robots to do that?
This is the question the extremely talented Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg pose in The World’s End. This ending to the not-actually-related Cornetto trilogy has a darker edge than the previous two films – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - and deals with issues far more mature than the other two. But I am happy to report that this edgier tone does have an aura of wackiness to it and doesn’t sully the entertainment that The World’s End brings to the table.
Quite contrary, actually.
The World’s End is about the past and your view of it. It’s about letting go, growing up, and the testing friendship.
Specifically, it’s about the approaching-middle-age Gary King (played expertly by Simon Pegg) and his attempt to reclaim the highest point of his life. That highest point being one singular night when he and his fellow teenagers went on a quest to complete the twelve-pub run dubbed The Golden Mile — but failed. The group goes back to its hometown in an attempt to reclaim Gary’s idea of glory, but discover that the town has been taken over by robots. Obviously.
These ink-filled villains are dangerous, but they’re definitely the subplot. The entire crew – especially Gary – is running away from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style creatures, but they are actually running away from adulthood and fervently attempting to reach their childhood goal.
But is it really just about drinking in a pub?
When the movie continues, much blood and ink is spilled and it begins to clear why Gary and his crew do it. It may seem like it’s about the alcohol (which looks absolutely delicious in this film by the way), but as the movie progresses, each of their intentions, wants and true needs are made clear. The robots and their history are interesting, but not nearly as relatable as Gary King and his crew. It made me question the nostalgia I have for the past and ask myself the legitimacy of my past happiness.
As I mentioned, the film is much darker and deals with more adult tones than Shaun and Fuzz. But that doesn’t mean it’s not funny! Many of the Wright/Pegg/Frost humor of the Cornetto Trilogy remains, including foreshadowing, repetition, and physical gags at a rapid-fire pace that kept me consistently laughing. Gary King is an interesting character who I cheered and even felt sorry for, and wanted to see achieve his goal. The chemistry between he and his former best friend Andy (played by Nick Frost in a wonderful contrast to his past roles) is plain wonderful to watch. There’s a rather sour history between them and seeing it unravel on screen is a sight to behold. The real chemistry Frost and Pegg share is evident in the emotional breakdowns they have about each other. The emotional connection is legit and I felt these characters loved each other at one point, and seeing the fire of their friendship re-ignite is a sight to behold.
Now I’ve talked a lot about the themes and characters about The World’s End, but barely mentioned the robots or the action sequences. Edgar Wright knows how to shoot an action sequence and all of the fight scenes (and there are many) are fast, furious and intense. And when all the boys come together it’s satisfying and funny to see what basically equates to a bunch of forty-year-old dudes in suits beating up glowing robots and ripping them to pieces. The science fiction of the film is fun and while it won’t win any Hugo Awards anytime soon, the antagonists are a nice contrast to Gary and Andy and the rest of the crew.
If I had one nitpick about this film is that I never really felt threatened by the robots. They are all relatively easy pickins for this group of out of shape, aged men. It’s like fighting a group of ink-filled Glass Joes. But this is extremely small – the true antagonist is definitely not this army of robots. It is actually Gary’s stubbornness, nostalgia, and inability to let go and move on. The robots are just the film’s subplot, which is how it should be. Focusing too much on the science-fiction and not the characters would have made this a forgettable sci-fi movie and not a really great character-based comedy.
And unlike Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, it doesn’t rely on references to the past films of the genre to succeed. Much like it’s theme, The World’s End doesn’t need past glories, but stands on its own accord. So don’t go expecting a ton of Close Encounters reference. For that you can always go watch the fantastic Spaced.
I loved The World’s End. While it does not reach the tight, emotional perfection that Shaun of the Dead is, it is definitely better than Hot Fuzz and rests right at second of the Cornetto Trilogy.
Films that pack this much action and character-based comedy AND emotional realism do not come along often. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost deserve praise for taking a chance with a film that is much more morose than any film they’ve previously made.
So go to your local bar. Grab a pint. And then see The World’s End. And then see it again. Because it’s worth it.