A strange thing happened on the way to seeing The World’s End. With the audience seated for the film, we all watched as the credits began. When I saw that Constantin Film was involved, I thought to myself, “Wait, wasn’t Edgar Wright’s films mostly Working Title Productions? This is different.” Turns out the movie that started playing was The Mortal Instruments, the result of which had a few moviegoers groaning and actively talking about the film. Someone actually cried out “It’s the King of the North!” after seeing Lena Headey and her co-star who barely resembled Robb Stark. After about 5 minutes of this, the film was shut down, the reel replaced and The World’s End was ready to begin.
The World’s End marks the final film in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Flavors Trilogy. The Cornetto (which look like King Cones here in the states) was something of a joke in Shawn of the Dead with the color red, and then had a return appearance in Hot Fuzz with the color blue. The World’s End has a connection with green when it comes to Cornettos.
The film reunites Wright with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and in a twist from the previous films together, it’s Pegg whose character is the over the top one with Frost as the straight man. I’ll admit that I walked in this actually expecting the opposite, and found myself chuckling when it didn’t turn out that way. Surrounded by a cast made up of Wright regulars like Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Martin Freeman (Love Actually, The Hobbit), along with some new faces in Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike, there isn’t a cast member that feels out of place here. Even when the story feels like it’s about to lull, there’s some weird quip or moment that invoked a laugh or chuckle in the audience.
The World’s End is the story of Gary King (Pegg), who as a teen growing up in small town, dared to do the impossible with his friends. The plan was to make a run to 12 different pubs in the town, have a pint of beer in each one, leading up to the final pub called The World’s End. In the initial attempt, they managed to get about 3/4ths of the way through before getting so smashed that they had to bail out. Time passes, as it always does and the old gang has grown up, moved on to different lifestyles and in some cases, built families. King, on the other hand, is very much stuck in his own time period spending the bulk of his time reliving his glory days. He’s that guy that talks about his High School Football days as if they were yesterday, some 20 odd years later. This is a running theme through the film – the notion that being caught up in nostalgia is not as great as it ever appears, and that being too nostalgic – living too much in the past – could possibly suggest that one isn’t appreciating what they have right now, nor are they looking forward to anything. Sometimes, you just can’t go home…or can you?
King decides to get his friends together for one last run on The Golden Mile. As they go from pub to pub, they go over various events in their lives and start to notice (in true Wright fashion) that something really weird seems to be going on in the town. As things begin to unravel, they come to find that actually are in real danger and need to get past all of their issues if they’ll get through it. Just like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the second half of film becomes something of a horror thriller with comedy throughout. Elements of The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers become noticeable as the team tries to survive. That’s pretty much it. Take the recent This is the End, add a few beers and a tighter script and you have The World’s End. The first half of the movie may seem slow, but it does pick up, and pick up well.
Pegg and Frost are the grounding forces to The World’s End. Their performances (particularly Pegg’s) are what keeps it all afloat when it seems like the story might unravel. If the film suffers from any problems, is that it’s something of a downshift for Wright compared to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. There are a number of action moments in The World’s End, but at the same time, they don’t quite have the umph factor of Wright’s other films. By the time you reach the end, you may actually find yourself scratching your head over what you’ve seen, but then again, the ending of Shaun of the Dead didn’t quite make sense to me either. Not saying that it could have all been better (as I may see it again before the weekend is out), it’s just different.
Overall, The World’s End is a fun ride into the past of a series of characters that will remind you to focus on the present, and laugh while doing so. It’s a fitting close to these films, even if it isn’t the sharpest film in the set (for me that remains Hot Fuzz). If only they served beers at the movie theatres, that would be perfect.