I somehow managed to avoid nearly everything about The World’s End right until I stepped into the movie theater. Seriously, I didn’t even watch the trailer.
All I knew was that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were in it, that it was the final piece of the “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy (a trio of mostly unrelated action comedy films including zombie flick Shaun of the Dead and the evil conspiring small town villagers in Hot Fuzz), and that it had something to do with bar-hopping.
All of these things are true, but The World’s End ended up being about so, so much more.
Googling the film’s summary now gives the following premise:
In “The World’s End,” 20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hellbent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40-year-old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their hometown and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub – The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries. [x]
Spoiler alert: humankind’s struggle is against body-snatching aliens intent on creating a more docile Earth population. Of course, this doesn’t even count as a spoiler unless you’re like me and didn’t watch the trailer.
In retrospect, I’m glad I had no idea what I was in for (although I probably should have known, especially considering the content in the other two “Cornetto” movies.) My gasp of surprise and wonderment when the aliens were finally unveiled was so obnoxiously loud, they probably heard me outside the theater.
Much like in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End is fantastic at blending comedic moments with awesome fight scenes. The action manages to keep you on edge and entertained the entire time, before cooling down with a laugh-out-loud line.
Besides being hilarious, the film also drives home quite a few interesting themes about friendship, forgiveness, living in the past, the importance of free will, and addiction to technology. In fact, that’s one of the few issues I had with World’s End; because the final act of the film spreads its attention across all these different ideas, it loses its focus.
It felt like a whole lot of bouncing around from one life moral to the next, which really lessened the impact. It might have been better if the film had instead dedicated itself to more subtly developing one or two themes – then, we wouldn’t have to be smacked in the face with one long speech after another. By the time we came down to the final monologue it all started to feel a bit preachy.
That said, The World’s End is still able to deliver an emotional punch. Peter’s (Eddie Marsan) internal struggle with seeing his childhood bully again was wonderfully presented. The obligatory romance between Steven (Paddy Considine) and Sam (Rosamund Pike) was as predictable as can expected, but still very cute (also, Sam was an absolute badass during her, sadly, one and only fight scene.)
Gary King himself was surprisingly endearing considering how much of an asshole he was. Even when he was being absolutely terrible, I could understand where he was coming from as a person – which can be attributed both to the character’s writing and to Simon Pegg’s stellar performance. I’m not gonna lie, Gary and Andie’s confrontation in the final pub made me tear up. (Don’t feel bad; not two minutes later, I was laughing my ass off again.)
All in all, The World’s End is a great end to a great trilogy that expertly blends together science fiction, comedy, drama, and action into one highly entertaining movie. Go watch it. Immediately.
- Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine
- Directed by: Edgar Wright
- Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
- Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy, Action