The World’s End
I should say from the off that messrs Wright, Pegg and Frost have accumulated a large amount of good will from yours truly over the years. I adored Spaced and Shaun of the Dead and grew to love Hot Fuzz in almost equal measure. As such, I was incredibly excited for the release of the third entry in their ‘Cornetto’ trilogy, The World’s End. I was slightly disheartened a few years back when the damp squib that was Paul proved to be the first big misstep from that triumvirate. Granted, that outing didn’t have Wright involved but nonetheless, I was hoping for a big return to form here. Unfortunately after going into The World’s End with high hopes, I left a little bit disappointed.
The story sees Pegg’s Gary King, an annoying man-child stuck in his post-High School glory days, getting his childhood gang back together for another crack at the pub crawl that defeated them years earlier. The rest of his friends have all grown up, gotten proper jobs and live in relative domestic bliss. Eddie Marsan’s Peter, Paddy Considine’s Steven and Martin Freeman’s Oliver all get talked into Gary’s scheme fairly quickly, but Nick Frost’s Andy takes a bit more convincing. It becomes clear that there’s some long-standing animosity between Andy and Gary thanks to an incident in their youth which Andy cannot forgive and Gary has no intention of apologising for.
The gang head to their childhood home town of Newton Haven to embark upon the fabled pub crawl along the golden mile which will see them take in 12 pubs and finish up in The World’s End. As the crawl starts, the gang slowly begin to open up and past grievances begin to get aired. It also starts to become very apparent that something is not right with Newton Haven’s inhabitants and the group soon uncovers a shocking truth involving a body-swapping robot invasion. As tensions get more frayed, the danger likewise begins to escalate and it becomes a lager-soaked fight for survival.
The first half of the film was pretty solidly amusing. There weren’t the belly laughs of Shaun or Hot Fuzz but there were enough chuckles to set your mind at ease. The pub-crawl element of the story was easily the strongest bit. The group of friends reuniting and chewing the fat after years apart was well done and Gary’s struggle to move on and let go of the past is initially well handled as we, along with his friends, soon recognise that there must be a wider reason for his determination to relive that fateful night. The actors all play their parts well, though only Pegg and Frost are really able to claim any stand out moments.
However, about halfway through proceedings, the sci-fi element of the story kicks in and for me it just never hits home at all. First of all it all seemed a little too similar to Hot Fuzz given the small town setting and the concept of there being a secretive ‘other’ out to control local society. It just seemed too familiar. Secondly, and perhaps more crucially, the storyline itself just feels a little forced. The ‘reunion’ elements and the ‘robot alien sci-fi’ elements just didn’t seem to gel together for me and instead it feels like there are two films playing out at the same time, only one of which is of any interest. The film hurtles towards a conclusion and obviously I can’t say much more about that here, but the final third is a massive misfire for me. There are a couple of beats that occur towards the very end which fall completely flat and feel completely at odds with the rest of the film. The explanation for what is happening and how it can be stopped is a little garbled and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as neatly crafted as it’s Cornetto predecessors.
I can’t help but feel that I would have much preferred to just see a film about these five guys on a pub crawl, revisiting their past and airing long-forgotten dirty laundry with no robots in sight. That’s where the humour lay for me while the grander Sci-Fi ideas that Wright and Pegg reached towards in the final third missed their mark completely.
Pegg’s Gary is intended to be a dislikeable character in this and he does a solid job of playing the aggravating tosser seemingly oblivious to his own problems. He and Frost are undoubtedly the heart of the film and both of them do still have that endearing quality that we have come to love down the years. It’s interesting to see the roles reversed and Pegg taking the tosser duties and Frost being the level headed one, and both do a decent job in this regard. I think in many ways it is their inherently likeable nature which ensured that the film wasn’t a total write-off for me.
The World’s End is not a terrible movie; it’s just disappointingly average at best. There are some laughs in there and it is enjoyable for around 75% of its runtime. However, the off-kilter and uninspired ending particularly lets the film down. It isn’t anywhere near as funny as its Cornetto forbearers, but then again it had some pretty big boots to fill in that regard. Others may find more to enjoy in the sci-fi aspects of the film, but personally I really struggled to take to that aspect of the story at all. Never mind though, we’ll always have the first two slices of fried gold.