Anyone who says they don’t like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, well, why are you reading this? Huh?! They were great films, both of them. So naturally, I was excited to see the next film from the same awesome team. The early trailers didn’t fill me enthusiasm, however. I could almost hear Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg down at the pub together, getting wrecked, when one of them says ‘you know what would be a great idea for a movie…’ And off they would have gone.
The concept is fun, the actors are great, and I enjoy Wright’s directorial style. You probably already know whether or not you are on board with these lads’ style of humour. They have been around for a while – ever since the epically brilliant series Spaced (watch it if you haven’t already). But their latest outing together is disappointing. Certainly fun in places, and while it has potential, it never reaches the lofty heights of Shaun or Hot Fuzz.
(*Spoiler free – or at least giving away no more than is in the trailer!)
Gary King was the self-proclaimed king of high school (well, amongst his band of misfit friends anyway). On the night of their graduation, Gary and his friends attempted the ‘Golden Mile’ in their small town of Newton Haven. The Golden Mile is a pub-crawl through 12 pubs, finishing with The World’s End pub. They never made it to the end that night, but it was the best night of Gary’s life.
20-odd years later and Gary still wears the same clothes, listens to the same music, and drives the same car. He is a loser and his friends have moved on. But Gary wants to recapture the best night of his life and convinces the gang to get back together and attempt the Golden Mile once again.
The town seems different. Not the kind of different that happens naturally when you go home after a long time – an eerie kind of different. The townspeople have been replaced with robots. Chaos ensues. Fighting, swearing, drinking, running away, more fighting, drinking… and drinking. Can the five musketeers get out of Newton Haven alive?
What is nice to see in this film is the swapping of roles between Pegg and Nick Frost. Simon Pegg was the straight man in both Shaun and Hot Fuzz (the ultimate straight man in Hot Fuzz if you ask me), while Nick Frost is the foil. And what a great foil he makes. Frost is brilliant and it is great to see him branching out. I thought it might be hard to accept Pegg as down and out loser Gary King, but he does an admirable job. He isn’t as believable as Frost’s tea-total lawyer, but he gets the miserable hopelessness in his eyes just right.
The story about replacing everyone with robots or aliens or something else in a sci-fi/horror vein is not new. How many versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers have there been? Too many to count! The pod people of The World’s End have the same blank stare, the lack of responsiveness, and general gaps in their memories. It is a familiar trope, much like zombies and buddy cops. While the film is a similar premise to the others in the trilogy – sandwiching something weird and wonderful in with a familiar genre (i.e. a romantic comedy with zombies), I couldn’t help but feel they could have done a lot more with the blanks. They were props and the story didn’t really lead anywhere. Sure, the ending was a surprise (and I won’t ruin it), but it could have been a lot better.
A disappointing end
This film owes a lot to films like The Big Chill and Peter’s Friends, with a group of old friends get together after a long time, brought together by one person (in this case, Gary). The strength of The World’s End is in the development of these characters and their relationships to one another; the friendships, the camaraderie’s, the nostalgic memories. Especially when one of the lads’ sisters enters. Sam, played by the ever-stunning Rosamund Pike, was the object of both Gary and Steve’s affections. Unwisely, she chose to spend a quick 15 minutes in the disabled toilets with Gary on that fateful first attempt at the Golden Mile. The jokes that ensue with the lads and a disgusted brother feels pitch perfect.
Trouble really sets in with the darkness surrounding the characters. While the previous films from this crew all dealt with some serious issues, none of them have travelled to such dark depths as The World’s End. I don’t have a problem with comedies bringing in darker themes, but it just didn’t work. I’m not sure why they felt they had to, perhaps they thought the film needed to feel more grown up? But the seriousness felt forced. They were trying to shove an old friends film in with a sci-fi body snatcher film, as well as a morose story of a loser who never amounted to anything. There was just too much there. The World’s End would have benefitted from the creators keeping it simpler. There was no need for Gary to have such a dark past, and it was given so little time that it felt glossed over. So why have it at all?
Verdict: Enjoyable and certainly a lot better than many comedies, but nowhere near as good as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Go watch them instead.