Big Talk Productions
1 hour, 49 minutes
This week’s film marks an end, of sorts. It is the final film in a trilogy, though “trilogy” should only be applied loosely. Writer/director Edgar Wright and his collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost first brought us the touching, thoughtful, and gut-wrenchingly funny zombie film “Sean of the Dead,” and several years later followed that up with the brilliantly satirical, yet still pretty heartwarming action farce, “Hot Fuzz.” The two films have little to do with each other, aside from the creative team, and possibly some thematic elements.
Having tackled horror and action, the trio next take on science fiction with the apocalyptic comedy “The World’s End.” There is a bittersweet feeling about this release, though to be honest I’m not sure why. Each in their early 40s, I’m positive this is not the last collaboration they’ll have. The only real evidence that this film is the final of a series is due to the press team’s constant referencing of “The Cornetto Trilogy,” which much be some kind of inside joke that I don’t get. Regardless, “The World’s End” is certainly worth the price of admission, though somehow not as satisfying as the previous two efforts.
Pegg here stars as Gary King, former teenage rebel who was ready to turn the world on it’s head. When he was but a lad, Gary and his entourage had the small town of Newton Haven in the palm of their hands. They were legends, if only in their own minds. As a final act of crowning glory, Gary and his pals, Steven, Peter, Andy, and Oliver, dubbed “O-Man” for an unfortunate birthmark on his scalp that resembles the sign of the devil, decide to take on the Golden Mile — an epic pub crawl that includes 12 different establishments, culminating at the appropriately named final pub, The World’s End.
Being teenagers, they naturally don’t finish the task, and though they experience a night to remember on many fronts, it proves to be a last hurrah, the quintet going their separate ways not long after.
We rejoin our heroes almost 20 years later, and Gary, once king of Newton Haven, has fallen mightily. Now a washed up, grungy addict, King decides that the only way to get his life back together is to complete the task he so long ago left undone. Through cajoling, criticizing, or outright lying, he manages to convince his former compadres, now all relatively successful adults, to join him for one last fling, and off they head for Newton Haven. The only problem is, Newton Haven isn’t the town they left it.
Part “Twilight Zone,” part “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “World’s End” is about much more than what is happening on the surface. At the forefront, it appears to be a criticism of corporate homogenization, particularly as experienced in England as the country’s multitude of historic public houses, or “pubs” are being slowly taken over by big money conglomerates. Though not franchises in name, these once rich depositories of community history are now one entity in practice, their unique flavor sacrificed on the alter of efficiency and profit maximization. Wright and co-writer Pegg cleverly wrap this theme around more than just the pub scene, as the townsfolk too seem to have been improved and almost rebooted.
It’s not in the central theme that things start to go awry somewhat for “World’s End.” Wright and Pegg are experts at subtly and unobtrusively manipulating whatever particular genre they’re working on to take on the establishment, and “World’s End” is no different. However, the film is chock full of potential subplots that either get dropped, or disappear all together, a problem that “Hot Fuzz,” for one, certainly didn’t have. The creative team on this film is too eager, too clever for their own good, often hinting at greater meaning than is ever revealed. Not an overly complicated set-up, but I was nevertheless unable to keep up at all times. By the time we get to teary finale, I was distracted wondering if the characters were ever going to be forced to finish out their external dramas.
I very much enjoyed “World’s End,” though if I had to be honest, it’s the least of the trio. It’s also the most adult, it’s climactic emotional scene a treatise on missed opportunities and broken dreams. It’s pretty sad, though sweet in it’s way. Good and true emotion, plus crackerjack storytelling don’t entirely excuse serious plot holes, however.
On the other hand, what the film lacks in coherence, it makes up for with hilarious characterizations and genuinely sweet relationships. And it’s really funny — just not all the time.
“The World’s End” is rated R for language and cartoonish violence.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.