The World’s End is the last of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The other two films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz also starred the magnificent acting duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. All three were directed by the brilliant and uber-talented Edgar Wright.
This successful team has returned for The World’s End, and once again, co-writers Pegg and Wright have created an original, multiple-genre story, peopled with an excellent cast. Strategically threading themes and tropes from the first two films, the “insider” jokes enhance the fun and enjoyment and add to the comedic effect of The World’s End. Wright knows when “to hold ’em and fold ’em,” and never presumes too much upon his fan base by becoming tiresome. And for those who are being introduced to Pegg, Frost and Wright for the first time, the comedy/action/adventure/sci fi feature stands on its own, regardless of one’s familiarity or lack of familiarity with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
What unites the films into a quasi-trilogy is their brilliant comedy and hilarious bits of action. The films’ plots and story lines are unique stand-alones. In the third film actors Pegg and Frost with the help of Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike have upped the ante of rapid-fire riffs, clever witticisms, double entendres, superb timing and delivery, all of which provide the foundation for the sustained madness and the mayhem to come. The key figure is Pegg, once again, but the brilliant actors and complicated storyline fuse into an explosion of crazy, wild, eerie and thrilling.
The World’s End is a film that one should see and appreciate more than once. It is thematically layered, clever and richly surprising. Pegg and Wright have written a kaleidoscopic, mythic, existential journey taken by 5 friends who reunite to embark on a symbolic hometown “pub crawl” of The Golden Mile (12 pubs, 12 pints) which they began 20 years before, in their hometown Newton Haven (ironic name), but never finished. Framed by the overall plot of alcoholic, anti-hero, Gary King’s (Pegg) quest to annihilate his soul and miserable life, the film crosses multiple genres but on a basic level can be described as outrageous comedy and social sci-fi, with serpentine ironies that fold in and double back on themselves.
The comedy is smart, punctuated with symbolism, allusions and themes from Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, Arthurian legend (T.H. White’s The Once and Future King), Shakespeare and the best of sci-fi i.e. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If viewed purely for the well-crafted and choreographed action sequences and thrilling, lighthearted fun, you will not be disappointed. However, don’t miss what makes the film great. It is innovative in its amazing blend of modern buddy comedy, reunion bash, coming of age initiation tale, holy grail (inner enlightenment) vision quest, alien apocalypse, sci-fi conspiracy theory adventure, and uplifting, personal redemption story.
As a director, Wright has a knack for comedic, vibrational pacing and in-your-face engagement interspersed with moments of needed quiet reflection before the next onslaught. One way to provide the content to do this is in the selection of contemporary everyman characters with blue blood type names. The lawyer (Andrew Knightley-Frost), the suicidal alcoholic (Gary King-Pegg), the real estate broker (Oliver Chamberlain-Martin Freeman), the car salesman (Peter Page-Eddie Marsan), and the construction project manager (Steven Prince-Paddy Considine) have enough personal angst and failures to propel the plot line with interest until the drunken blokes eventually confront “the world’s end,” along with the help of a cool, perspicacious female protagonist, Oliver’s sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike).
The title of the film retains many meanings (including Biblical), and doubles as the name of the 12th pub, which the reunion buddies stumble to during their crawl along The Golden Mile. We don’t expect that these “hum drum,” “grown-up,” near-40-somethings leading quiet lives of desperation would be capable of battling alien invaders. The alcohol lifts them to the occasion, of course.
The invaders? Themselves… voluntarily turned into replicants, “blanks,” shells of humanity, hollow to the core. Far from malevolent, the invaders’ “god-like” engineer (in a great voice-over narration by Bill Nighy) offers a perfect, homogenized world of peace and harmony which Newton Haven has become. But you must acquiesce to totalitarian rule, giving up your individuality and flawed brutal character as other galaxies have done to join their lovely network. And if you refuse to relinquish your screwed up miserable, freedom loving self-hood? Well, the replicants destroy you by emanating wacko light energy they use to suck out your life if you let them get close enough. And afterward what they do to you is downright crappy; they make you into mulch. The superior invaders offer an alluring proposition that only the foolish and idiotic would refuse.
That is where head fool, alcoholic Gary King and his ho-hum fellow fools come in. But alcoholics sometimes are relaxed enough to get out of dire traps and terrible accidents. As these banals and anti-heroic beer-head Gary King unknowingly saunter on their initially tame reunion crawl, King unravels the alien conspiracy that they are heading right into oblivion in a real-time end of themselves. King’s soul has elicited the truth. In vino veritas! And sometimes an alcohol heated brain even inspires noble decisions and actions. The astute writers have pumped up the characterizations to logically promote the ironic twists of the labyrinthine plot.
So what do these buzzed blokes do? The knight, page, chamberlain and prince led by their king head straight for annihilation to The World’s End Pub. Their “King” has persuaded them that it’s the only “normal” course of action. In vino veritas! From then on, the “crawl” morphs into the beer fueled nightmare Arthurian vision quest adventure that “regular guys” secretly long for. During the course of the smash ’em, bash ’em crawl/brawl, the “one for all and all for one” musketeers reject the aliens’ “perfect” proposition to replicate and release themselves from their own private hells. And we are cheering for them all the way to the end. This is social criticism at its finest. There is not one aspect or element of our current “plugged in” lifestyle that Wright and Pegg leave unscorched.
With The World’s End, Pegg and Wright have surely created their first career apotheosis, making an unforgettable film. By looks of the accompanying Blu-ray assets the cast and crew have had a bloody, rollicking good time while they worked hard to make the film. The Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD with Ultraviolet, DVD and On Demand) assets include two extra hours of bonus content, including an invaluable cast commentary by Pegg, Frost, and company.
The special features include a story line discussion with Wright and Pegg, a great gag reel, an insider’s look at the making of the film, technical commentary with Wright and director of photography Bill Pope, and deleted scenes. Interesting clips explaining the stunts and special effects make for another interesting bonus. Of special note are the clips of intricate fight scene rehearsals and discussions about the VFX team’s enhanced footage that created the film’s look and style. Don’t miss this. It’s an enlightenment unto itself.