Movie Review: The World’s End
Enjoyable films are often like good recipes: mix the right ingredients, and you often get something grand, and memorable. Plus, if the chefs are enjoying themselves, the residue from their work will infect you as well (preferably in good ways).
In the case of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, you have three guys who took their love of popular culture, and built a friendship around it through Entertainment. First bringing their style to the ‘Telly’ with Spaced in 1999, they would then push into the Cinema 5 years later, with Shaun of the Dead.
Shaun was what brought them to the attention of most Yanks on this side of the pond, with a film that was one part homage to George Romero’s Living Dead films, and another part coming-of-age story.
The three would team up again 3 years later with Hot Fuzz, which was a brilliant spoof on action films and their numerous cliches. Though not quite as entertaining as Shaun, it did have its moments.
Over the next few years, the trio would split apart, and work on their own pop-culture projects. Edgar Wright took his love of popular-culture and coming-of-age to Toronto with Scott Pilgrim vs The World, while Pegg and Frost would bring their best-friend dynamic and pop-culture love into the realm of UFO’s, with the 2011 film, Paul. “The Three Musketeers” would also unite behind-the-camera with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, when they participated in Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin.
Since then, the three have re-united to complete what has been called The Cornetto Trilogy, with their recent release, The World’s End.
After graduating from high school in 1990, 5 high school friends attempted to complete a tradition in their little village of Newton Haven: an ‘epic’ pub crawl through each of the town’s 12 pubs (FYI: the legal drinking age in the UK is 18).
Over 20 years later, the leader of that evening, Gary King (Simon Pegg), reunites his friends, with the goal to complete the task that slipped through their fingers so many years ago. The 4 friends Gary knows, consists of Andrew Knightley (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan). However, what starts as a trip down memory lane for Gary and the others, will lead to a night none of them will ever forget.
Snappy cuts and snappier dialogue are well-grounded as part of Wright’s film making toolset, and once I saw that he was still using said tools, I breathed easy. I appreciate the style he uses, preferably when it comes to action/fight scenes. While some directors just give you a blurry up-close ‘mess,’ there are scenes where I was mentally thankful that I actually knew where the characters were on the screen, and just what they were doing.
The dialogue in World’s End may be a bit hard on American ears. Plus, given the rapid-fire succession of some character’s verbal, you may not catch everything in one sitting.
Then again, that could be a good thing, as when you go back and watch Wright’s films, you often see/realize things you didn’t the first go-around…something not many directors do these days. There’s also his ability to make the characters relatable, and I won’t lie: there were a few times during World’s End where I could get into the mindset of several of them.
Unlike the previous characters that Pegg has played, Gary King is definitely not Shaun. He’s loud and wild, and it doesn’t take us long to start cracking up at his antics. This was a character that you look and think, “that must have been fun at times.”
Frost also plays opposite his usual, with the more reserved Andrew Knightley. Whereas Gary is more belligerent, Andrew seems to be more buttoned-up and responsible. Some may find this change-up a little shocking, but it reminded me of Back to the Future Part III, where the dynamics between Marty McFly and Doc Brown were reversed (Marty: “Great Scott!” Doc: “I know, this is heavy!”).
Each of the main five are given their moments to shine, as it is nice to see Wright not think of the supporting friend characters as just background fodder. They are also dealing with some issues since becoming adults, let alone have some baggage of their own left in Newton Haven.
There’s also a small-yet-enjoyable part for Rosamund Pike, who plays Oliver’s sister, Sam. In fact, there are a number of noteworthy actors that appear in the film, but if I told you who the rest of them were, it’d spoil the surprises. And trust me, when it comes to The World’s End, you want to be surprised.
Wright’s film Hot Fuzz also played around with the idea of a tranquil village with a secret, and this film does the same, including having fun with the ‘gentrification’ of places you once knew and loved. Several of the pubs are just as prim and proper as a Starbucks, and (my favorite background gag), every other person appears to own a Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle.
Of the films he’s done with Pegg and Frost, World’s End feels a little more personal to Wright as well. He also attempted to do a post-graduation pub crawl, and that didn’t go as planned either. At a post-screening Q&A in Chicago, Wright also spoke about looking at his hometown many years later. While you may have good memories, the years may strip away a lot of the nostalgia, and a lot of what you though was great and grand, probably wasn’t.
I’ve had some similar emotions over the last 5 years. Since leaving my hometown of Waterloo, IA, some memories of those times when I was growing up would pop into my head. But when one looks back at the place today, its change is almost reminiscent of what became of Newton Haven in World’s End: A small place that has attempted to gentrify and modernize itself as time marches on, trying to carve out its existence in a world that seems to get bigger…yet, grows smaller.
To many, Shaun of the Dead is the high-point of the films Wright/Pegg/Frost have done together, and I would have to agree with them. I actually found myself in an obsessive stupor regarding Shaun a few months ago, watching it 5 nights in a row (don’t ask what brought that on. Maybe I just needed a good laugh?). To me, The World’s End is a fitting (yet sad) ending to this little trilogy. In fact, it’s probably my second-favorite of the trio’s work, and is one that I have no qualms about actually paying to see once it comes out in the States in a few weeks (one will hope fans of the trio will come out and pay for the last brouhaha as well).
In a Summer over-bloated with sequels and few surprises, The World’s End proved to be one of the most enjoyable film experiences I had. Though it was partially due to the fact that I saw it with a sneak preview crowd who wanted to be there, I even found myself cracking up voluntarily…and as some of my friends know, it’s hard to get me to enjoy films that are considered “Comedies” these days. Then again, maybe I’m just weird enough to actually enjoy films like this one.