Written by Zac Platt.
After proving that no comic is unfilmable with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, writer/director Edgar Wright reunites with star and co-writer Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and producer Nira Park for the third instalment in the so-called “Cornetto Trilogy” with The World’s End. Having previously used horror and action in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz respectively, Wright and Pegg now turn their focus to sci-fi to garnish their latest tale. While there is an inherent silliness to the design, never once does it allow itself to lose its strong character focus to make way for parody. Instead, it deftly wraps all of its mythology and subplots around its core themes, again proving the Wright/Pegg writing team unmatched in their ability to dance between homage and originality.
The plot follows Gary King (Simon Pegg) as he reunites his school friends to finish the pub crawl they started; on what was (depressingly) the best night of his life. The twist comes with the reveal that their hometown is now populated with extra-terrestrial automatons preparing to fold Earth into their galactic empire. Naturally, King’s solution to the problem is to finish the crawl, though this isn’t the McGuffin it first seems. Finishing his quest is equally absurd as a solution to aliens as it is to King’s lonely existence. It’s not long before we realise this isn’t a quirky and misguided lead to bounce off our straight-men, but a tragically pathetic man trying desperately to recapture the feeling of hope he pissed away so long ago.
The World’s End is expertly plotted, there is never a moment wasted in this extremely tight script. Few comedies succeed in operating on this many levels; keeping plot, character, wordplay and subtext all working in tandem to create something really special. Wright seems to have the most fun during the film’s various bar brawls, where he keeps the illusion of a single take weaving the camera through the chaos. It’s the money shot from The Avengers mixed with the clumsiness of Shaun of the Dead, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
As I mentioned, the focus here really is on the characters. There were one or two times their back-stories were presented a little heavy handed, but for the most part their pasts are revealed slowly over the night as we share more drinks and let it all slip out. Nick Frost’s Andrew had me particularly intrigued, with Frost stepping it up a few notches on the acting front while slowly giving us clues as to where it all went to hell between him and King.
But really it’s Pegg’s movie. Gary King’s true character is revealed slowly and steadily throughout the film, so when his denial fades and his misery and regret inevitably burst to the surface it feels earned, with Pegg delivering every step of the way. I think a lot of people have been in that situation with that one friend who just can’t call it a night, chasing drink after drink for some elusive possibility. Pegg’s King is a character you quickly learn to love, so it hurts to learn how miserable a life he’s built for himself.
The World’s End truly does feel like a night out. It starts slow, with friends not really sure if they are up for it, but as drinks keep coming the characters loosen up and get nostalgic. After the night gets crazier and more of them check out, it’s just two friends drunkenly airing out all their baggage and ultimately doing something out of pride they will probably regret. Sadly, it’s not all without a hangover. During the epilogue, Wright employs a huge amount of exposition and begins spouting off happy ever afters for each character. Sub-textually there are some interesting things being said here and I loved some of the ideas being presented, but it’s really unnecessary and only serves to cheapen the emotional (albeit long-winded) climax proceeding it.
Despite these late movie stumbles, The World’s End proves Edgar Wright has grown into a truly unique and exciting director, and I can’t imagine any fans walking away from this movie disappointed. As with Scott Pilgrim, it’s great to see his personality as a director be just as apparent with action as it is with comedy. This new-found confidence does come with some over-indulgence in both action and dialogue, but really it all works to his style and the movie is so fast-paced you’ll barely notice. This is a great comedy with some really interesting themes and fun concepts. All of which is to say that The World’s End is a great night out.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10