Review: The World’s End


The World’s End marks the end of the Cornetto trilogy; the long-lived British comedy love affair filled with laughs, cheers and genre bashes. With Shaun of the Dead, the low-key British film scene was imploded upon with a bloody zombie affair, with Hot Fuzz we got a laugh riot with men in riot gear elbowing their way through a excessive copper flick, and finally with The World’s End we get some science-fiction spice. Wright, Pegg and Frost can claim to have one of the golden eggs of British cinema that wonderfully excelled overseas too.

As the iced capstone, The World’s End should be a salute to the rest of the trilogy and the wider impact of the films. It should be allowed some self-indulgence, some introspection and, well, some truthful emotion. The World’s End, and it pains for me to say this, isn’t the holy behemoth we’ve been looking for. For the end of the Cornetto trilogy, for the grand final reunion of the three big lads, however, it still packs a good punch. The World’s End really isn’t for newcomers, but if you adored Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead then you’re in for a bitter-and-lager-sweet finale.

The World’s End
Director: Edgar Wright
Release Date: July 19, 2013 (UK); August 23 (US)
Rating: 15 (UK), R (US)

The World’s End follows Gary King (Simon Pegg) as he re-unites with his best buddies to finish the Golden Mile, a 12-pub long pint-crawl through his old home town of Newton Haven. King convinces Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin ‘Bilbo Baggins’ Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsen) to crawl out of their perfect middle-aged lives and back into the game for one last night of pint-filled tomfoolery. All goes haywire however when the quintet find themselves embroiled in a very sticky sci-fi situation. All five of them will have to keep their wits together if they want to finish the pub crawl and make it all the way to the world’s end…

The World’s End isn’t a bad film, such suggestions would be blasphemy. In a year of disappointment from Man of Steel, just god-awfulness from The Hangover III and, well, Grown Ups 2, it’s hard to suggest that a film like The World’s End is any sort of ‘bad’. The World’s End is the ‘least’ of the Cornetto trilogy, yet it is still drunken head and shoulders, knees and toes above the rest of the 2013 rat pack. It’s just that a great amount of the film seems to be too excessive. The same routine of idyllic landscape turned sideways, in Wright-ful fashion, seems to wear out its ways by this point. Some of the dialogue exchanges, such as stuff involving the Three Musketeers, that so explicitly point out exactly what will happen in the film seem to be callbacks to the early halves of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead which cleverly foreshadowed the events of their plots. In The World’s End however it seems a bit too in the face when Martin Freeman literally jumps out into your face, and you could wish for 3D glasses, and tells you what’s going to happen all for the sake for a few jokes that fall completely flat.

That’s the main problem holding The World’s End back from true ‘greatness’. A good portion of its humor seem like a few pints too far. Some of the jokes involving the disabled, the elderly and pub enfranchisement just seem way too forced. Just for some context: all of our homely and family-owned English pubs, more or less, are being bought by the same handful of big conglomerates. The film attempts linkage with its science-fiction totalitarianism state and the nationwide ‘pub’ franchise commentary in a bid to defend family-owned pubbery, but the links are messy at best. Make no mistake, this is still a brilliantly funny film, but its odd social commentary is a tad too blatant. The delivery of some of the gags and giggles still mean that some DOA humor manages to uplift some of the film’s darker pieces.

The other problem with The World’s End is its main character. Simon Pegg does his best to create a, putting this bluntly, asshole that you can sympathize with. Whether or not his handiwork in crafting a sympathetic anus or not completely pays off is an entirely different question. By the end we’re given different glimpses at Gary King’s true humanity and compassion for his brethren, but his cock-ups and general assholery just mark him as a man who just doesn’t need our sympathy. It’s kind of weird that the film uses his cockery as both a prop of laughter and a prop of character, changing his character from sympathetic to douchenozzle whenever the pacing dictates.

Pegg is still able to claw back some truth in Gary, and the film’s main bravado seems to lie in its truths. For a Cornetto capstone it’s a pretty emotional tale. The themes of time, ageing, freedom and growing up all revolve around the core set of characters, particularly Gary and his relationship with Andy, and punctuate some jets of reflection into the film. When The World’s End reflects on its own history, when it indulges in the Cornetto juice, it really does excel. Even as the indulgence hits its highest peak, you’re never a lick away from a fantastic line. The World’s End could be called the most self-conscious film of the year and, well, there really was no other way to end this trilogy was there? Even the appearance of the fabled treat itself is timed to self-conscious perfection.

The World’s End abuse and celebration of genre tropes is equally brilliant. The way it completely subverts some of the sci-fi trends is always incredibly clever, at one point turning neologisms into jokes themselves. The way that Wright plays around with the action sequences always seems like a breathe away from Scott Pilgrim, and they always deliver. There are a lot of moments to celebrate with The World’s End, a lot of laughs to be hard. It’s why it’s a tough sell to anyone outside of Wright’s inner-circle of fandom. If you’re jumping aboard at this moment, a damn good half of the film’s wit will just glide right over your head.

And then there’s the ending. The final beats of the Cornetto trilogy… and they might be worth it? I’m not going to spoil but I will say that Wright and company take a grand cliched ending and create maybe the biggest laugh of the entire trilogy. It really is worthwhile and leaves you very oddly satisfied. Most of the third act is actually expertly crafted, it’s the opening pieces and some of the muddled middle that really gets in the way. The film often forces itself into jokes for jokes’ sake, rather than naturally flowing. Even the way it hangs around the 12-pub structure gets tiresome and clumsy by the end. It’s a damn shame too, because even at its most forced the film manages to bring some great belly-rubbing laughter to the whole screen.

The World’s End isn’t a disappointment, because the Cornetto trilogy has been consistently surprising. It is the ‘least’ in humor but the ‘most’ in heart. It’s hard not to enjoy your time with this film. Grand niggles like flat jokes and Gary King might get slightly in the way, but it doesn’t hold the film back from being a great old time. Out of sheer obligation to Wright and company, if you’re ‘one of us’, then you must get these tickets in your pocket. It’s been a long, weird trilogy of triumphs, and while the The World’s End might be its smallest victory, it’s still a very worthwhile one. It’s one that deserves to be seen and drunk up in all its ale-ing majesty.

Hubert Vigilla: The World’s End is the weakest film in the Cornetto Trilogy. While it’s hard to live up to the previous two films, by the midpoint it felt like The World’s End lacked the same sort of cohesive, tightly constructed writing found in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s there in its own way, but this a much looser, free-wheeling film, which may or may not have been an intentional swerve. My main issue is that The World’s End feels like two good movies shoved together uncomfortably, and neither is allowed to flourish. There’s the pub crawl/reunion story that opens the film, which could have carried a full movie on its own given the strength of the characters and what they have to say about the dangers of nostalgia, and then there’s the sudden shift into a romping sci-fi action movie full of inventive, gleeful excess. The latter isn’t really borne out by the former (though the references to cultural homogenization are a nice touch, as are the little shades of Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake) and the former soldiers on through the latter.

And yet despite these flaws, The World’s End is thoroughly entertaining. Maybe all of the patches and seams make it work better. The fights in the film were choreographed by Brad Allan, who previously collaborated with Edgar Wright on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Allan was a member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team — he had a great pair of duels with Chan in 1999’s Gorgeous — and there are a few mint sequences here that should make his mentor proud. Given the closing notes of The World’s End and one of the films it seems to reference, I guess I’m okay with the shift from day-to-day life to bananas-ness, and the movie does stick the landing even if the same can’t be said for the approach. I still wonder what could have been had the two movies that comprise The World’s End been given their own space to breathe, but shoved together they work well enough. 72 — Good

Alec Kubas-Meyer: I have no doubt that going in blind made my The World’s End experience a whole lot better. I didn’t know Simon Pegg and co. would be going on a pub crawl and I certainly didn’t know that things would go sci-fi action crazy (although being a Cornetto trilogy film, I knew something was going to happen). But by going in blind, I was able to be swept up in the film, which is what I wanted out of it. I wanted to have a good time, laugh a lot, and see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do their thing; I got that. I had a great time, I laughed almost constantly, and I would argue that the relationship between Pegg’s Gary King and Frost’s Andy is as interesting as anything to come out of Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, especially in the third act.

It’s also a damn good looking film. But just because The World’s End is the most technically accomplished film in the trilogy doesn’t mean it’s the best. It’s not the best, although I’d say the fact that the sci-fi aspect is kind of a combination of Shaun‘s zombies and Hot Fuzz‘s small-town cults justifies its place at the end of the trilogy. I have two real problems with The World’s End: the universe’s inconsistent rules and the far-too-blunt climactic showdown with the sci-fi enemy in the third act. The World’s End‘s action, while brilliantly choreographed, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sometimes, tapping someone with the cushioned end of a bar stool is enough to make them explode. When they’re facing a force that’s so easily destroyed (even if they don’t actually get destroyed in the process), it’s hard to ever worry about the characters’ safety or about anything at all. They’ll be fine (even if they won’t). The film also beats you over the head with its themes near the end (and not in the nice tap-with-a-bar-stool way), with a series of monologues that seem to have been written so the pre-schoolers in the audience could understand what everything was about.

Despite that, I still loved The World’s End. It’s not as good as the film that came before it (the jury’s out on whether I prefer it to Shaun) but how could it have been? It’s funny, action-packed, and a generally great time. I just hope this isn’t the end of Pegg and Wright’s working relationship. That would be the real tragedy. 80 — Great