This is it. The grand finale to the three flavours Cornetto trilogy. A trilogy that pretty much doesn’t actually exist but the marketing team have enjoyed all the money from cross promoting this with the UK’s leading brand of cone based ice cream. So, no, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End aren’t really a trilogy. Much less one that is intrinsically tied together by a quite nice ice cream based confection. Personally the mint choc chip was always my favourite, but I can settle for strawberry. Can I have my free box of Cornettos now Walls? Anyway, my review of The World’s End is after that link thing that’s below this paragraph. Unless you came straight to this page. In which case just keep scrolling down. Don’t forget to read though. I like it when people do that.
The World’s End is one of those films that has a premise within a premise. What I mean by this is that it has a set up for a story that could easily be told in a straight forward A-Z way without any need to exit the realm of reality. That story would be of a group of estranged friends going on a pub crawl that they had failed once before in an attempt to recapture their youth and, mostly for the leader of the group, to learn a few life lessons and confront some real issues. At the same time it is the story of a group of unremarkable ordinary people doing what they can to fight off an alien invasion. Edgar Wright is not a director to give you the straight forward option. He’s also not a director who would sit back and let extraordinary events be the sole driving force of his film. The Worlds End is the story of Gary King (Simon Pegg) who recruits his friends to complete a 12 stage pub crawl through his home town whilst fighting off an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style invasion while learning some truths about who he is and what he has become in the 20 years since the first attempt.
Edgar Wright has always been a director to provide you with all the humour and silliness you’d want but never forgetting that the characters need to be real. He has always given his characters the odd mature theme to wrestle with in the perfunctory. For Shaun it was making the choice between his girlfriend and his best friend. For Policeman officer Nicholas Angel it was a conflict between his desire to be the best and the acceptance that he can be the best anywhere, not just in the city. These are elements that are present throughout Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz but they exist to the side of the zombie apocalypse and the uncovering of a murderous cult in a small English village. Gary King has a conflict too, between his ideals of youth, his feelings of never fulfilling his goals and the possibility that he only has himself to blame. These elements run through the very centre of the World’s End to the point that the alien invasion story is now the side story. Gary’s emotional maturity is the focus and because of that we are presented with a more mature, thematically at least, film than anything Edgar Wright has directed before. I don’t want to spoil these elements but, suffice to say, things get a little heavy.
That’s not to say the film lacks laughs. The joke per minute quota may not be hitting the speed of Pilgrim but no scene is left un-laughed at. The film utilises all the usual quick wit and wordplay you’d expect from Wright, Pegg and Frost but is still not afraid to layer the slapstick as thick as the head on a pint of Boddingtons. Plus the transformation of Gary’s school-time best friend Andrew from damaged, teetotal, mature adult to a raging mass of violence and arse kickery is hilariously handled. Personally, his incorrect, but effective method of opening a pub door probably generated my biggest laugh. Well, that and the film’s final encounter, which in true Edgar Wright fashion manages to effectively tie every element of the film whilst also adding a little more into the mix.
The film is not without it’s flaws though. The introductory monologue, though vital, maybe goes on a little too long. The reveal of the alien not robots, eventually to be called Blanks, is perhaps a little too sudden. Although it is mildly hinted at and is not something that would be out of keeping with the rest of his work. It’s just real jarring. The fight sequences are brilliant, presenting us with some real drunken masters of fighting, but there’s many clear elements of digital trickery with the editing and flow of the sequences. Granted it gives the action it’s own feel but it’s one of those technical things I always seem to spot that 99% of people don’t. Lastly, the films epilogue, whilst wrapping up a few character arcs in a unique manner, also seems to forget that the real conclusion happened nearly 5 minutes sooner. We had the emotional climax and what followed was just the chocolate at the bottom of the Cornetto. Sure, it served it’s purpose but it wasn’t what we bought it for.
I must stress how small these flaws are though. The film makes up for them a few hundred times over. The fight scenes really are superb and even manage to allow room to express character development and identity in the midst of Nick Frost duel wielding barstools and enemies being beaten to death with their own arms. The cast are universally superb, although that should come as no surprise when it features… (deep breath) Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan along with cameos from Mark Heap, David Bradley and Pierce Brosnan. None of the main cast is wasted on 2 dimensional place-holding roles and the cameos all manage to stick. There’s actually another member of the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz cast that manages to squeeze in a role but it would be rude to spoil it.
Overall the World’s End is a damn fine, surprisingly mature and enjoyable alternative to the usual swathes of summer blockbusters. From the moment Primal Scream’s Loaded plays to the return of it’s lyrics to deliver the modern take on the meaning of life (Although I’ll stick with every rose has its thorn), The Worlds End manages to be tremendously entertaining and gloriously fun. Even when it hits you around the head with something real there’s never too long before it remembers that good times is why you came. Thematically the Three trilogy have all been about characters maturing in extreme scenarios. The World’s End is more about the maturing than the scenario and as such it gives Edgar Wright a platform he can step off from to maybe tackle even heavier subjects in the future. Personally, I’m all set to see what he brings us next. Which is Ant-Man I suppose. I guess I’m ready for Ant-Man then.