The World’s End, the third and final film in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Cornetto trilogy, might not be exactly what fans of the director and actor were expecting. The duo experimented with crossing and parodying genres (zombie and romance movies in Shaun of the Dead, cop pictures in Hot Fuzz), but while The World’s End does feature an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like premise, it’s the most emotionally mature of the three collaborations and perhaps even the best.
The World’s End‘s story is about five middled aged friends returning back to their home town in an attempt to redo a childhood feat. Gary King (Pegg), a forty-something man child, reunites his pals Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan), and Andrew (Nick Frost) in an attempt to finish a pub crawl they tried to do when they were nineteen, culminating at the bar “The World’s End.” The weary gang, led by the enthusiastic and eager King, reluctantly go back to their roots, reliving the past, and meeting former townspeople they haven’t seen in years, all while drinking massive amounts of beer.
For the first half of the film, The World’s End really explores Gary’s inability to grow up. He lives in the exact same way he did back when he was nineteen, wearing the same clothes, having the same hair-cut, and even driving the same car, which dates back to 1989. All of his friends have gone their separate ways and matured. Oliver has become a real estate agent who always wears a bluetooth receiver, Steven is an architect lovesick with Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), Peter sells cars for his dad while trying to run his family, and Andrew is a lawyer who’s sobered up since his teenage years and carries a grudge against Gary. While Gary still lives in the past, his friends live in the present, and the center of the film relies on how Gary tries to cope with his problem. It’s often dealt with humorously, but it’s an issue that Wright takes a serious approach on.
Even in the second half, when the gang discovers that alien-robot-like hybrids have taken over the town, creating homogeneity (which the friends refer to earlier in the picture as “Starbucked”) and threatening the human race entirely, the movie’s emotional core still revolves around Gary’s child-like manner. Despite the fact that his friends’ lives are in jeopardy, Gary still insists on finishing the pub crawl, using any means possible. His friends all moan and disapprove, but due to the fact Gary has alerted everyone in town about their journey, they must trudge on to make sure no one grows suspicious of them.
Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End has plenty of dazzling and stunning action sequences full of Jackie Chan style moves. It’s impossible to deny Edgar Wright’s talent as a filmmaker. His blend of comedy and fighting has never been so stylistic and strong (in many scenes, Wright uses long tracking shots of the group fighting off the alien robots, getting visually impressive results). Even outside the action, the direction of The World’s End is superb. Wright commonly uses unique transition and utilizes recurring images to create more humor. It’s clear that Wright has thought through the movie and the results are very worthwhile.
But I feel the movie’s greatest strength is the movie’s message. So many of these comedies today have oafish buffoons who go through life stumbling over their shoelaces without learning a thing, shrugging off any emotional connection (the Hangover movies are a prime example of this behavior). Wright and Pegg have more respect for their characters, and The World’s End doesn’t attempt to fool audiences that Gary’s been living an idealistic life. Without giving anything away, the picture ends in such an unexpected and somewhat poignant manner I was a bit shocked and surprised.
The World’s End may not be the funniest of the trilogy (that would be Shaun of the Dead), but I consider it to be the most rewarding and thus far remains one of the biggest highlights of 2013.