Review: Edgar Wright's 'World's End' is Satisfying Sci-Fi Comedy Gold
by Ethan Anderton
July 23, 2013
In the midst of all the franchises coming from studios today, there's one unlikely collection of films that has just as loyal and rabid a fanbase as any comic book, young adult or fantasy series. Beginning with Shaun of the Dead and continuing with Hot Fuzz, director Edgar Wright has directed these two films which have become the two installments of what has become The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. Named for the frozen treat that appears in each film, the two comedies feature British actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost combining comedy with elements of the horror and action film genres. And now the series that essentially started as a joke comes to a satisfying conclusion with the fittingly titled The World's End. More below!
It's important to remember that these films are more than just spoofs or parodies of the genres they emulate as each film has a powerful emotional core with something to say about friendship, growing up and more. The World's End is no different as it follows Gary King (Pegg), a lost man who has never let go of the joy that his irresponsible teenage years brought him. As King notes in voiceover at the beginning of the film, King and his group of five friends never thought life could get better, and for the goth ringleader, it didn't.
Therefore, in an effort to get back the glory days, King decides to round up his buddies to partake in a pub crawl which they never completed in their formative years: 12 bars, 12 pints, leading all the way to the final pub called The World's End. Unlike King, all of his friends have grown up, seemingly enjoying their successful lives. Peter (Eddie Marsan) works at his father's car dealership, supporting his wife and two kids; Oliver (Martin Freeman) is a successful real estate agent; Steven (Paddy Considine) is a thriving contractor with an eye towards nailing his personal trainer; and Andrew (Frost) is a big shot lawyer, and the one friend who had a dramatic falling out with Gary after some accident. They're not all that thrilled when King comes back in their lives after years of absence, but they reluctantly agree to get in on the action.
It's in this set up of our characters that the pieces of the underlying emotional core begin to come together. Pegg and Frost, who are the best of friends in real life, are playing the opposite roles of what we've come to expect from the two actors. Frost takes the straight man, responsible, reserved role while Pegg has the more wacky, over the top, clueless, manchild personality. But the two still work together so splendidly with some of the best chemistry that big screen comedy has ever seen.
And while viewers might think Considine, Freeman and Marsan are just along for the ride while Pegg and Frost drive this comedy vehicle, you're gravely mistaken. Each brings perfect comedic timing and deliver, with Marsan spectacularly stealing several scenes in his first appearance in any of Wright's films. The Five Musketeers are easily one of the funniest ensembles to hit the big screen in the past five years, and the deal is sweetened by the presence of Rosamund Pike as Oliver's sister Sam, who is not only lovely, but works well with this rag tag team of friends in comedy and action.
The dynamic between all these actors is important as they're forced to stick together when, despite the fact that it seems like this group of friends has outgrown the town, it's their home that has been dramatically changed. While all their old stomping grounds seem intact (be sure to take note of the name of each pub and how it relates to the film's happenings), it's the people who are anything but intact, especially when these friends realize they're robot beings who have duplicated the townspeople and are hellbent on taking over the world. This revelation results in some impressively shot action sequences that combine Wright's ability to spectacularly pay visual homage to the films that inspire the genre elements of this trilogy, and the swift, stylistic camera movements that the director so masterfully used in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Diving into the progression of this dilemma would venture into spoiler territory, so we'll leave the plot details at what's already been revealed. Anyway, the sci-fi plot only serves as an entertaining way to help our characters grow. Whether it's King who clearly hasn't let go of the past, or Andrew who was to eager to forget it, our characters all have flaws, and the possible end of their friendship because of them is just as pressing as the impending end of the world. Wright and Pegg as co-writers again blend rich characters, each informed by their own lives, with an accessible genre device that makes for a wholly entertaining, hilarious and surprisingly touching cinematic adventure. There's big laughs, big action and and even bigger heart.
As and end to this makeshift trilogy, the ultimate conclusion is unlike anything even fans might expect, and truly lives up to the title of the film (even if it's a bit odd). The World's End has more emotional weight and genuine charm than films who don't have to contend with bringing something like alien robots into the mix and making them work cohesively. As a director, Wright has a penchant for spectacle, but without forgetting the foundation on which that kind of show has to be built. The spectacle doesn't mean anything without engaging characters involved. This assembly of talent working from a near flawless script (with plenty of threads that won't even be noticed until repeat viewing) ensures nothing but a purely entertaining experience. If The World's End was the last movie I saw before the end of the world, I'd die happy.
Ethan's Rating: 8.5 out of 10