August 23, 2013
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
Simon Pegg as Gary
Nick Frost as Andy
Martin Freeman as Oliver
Gary is in his forties and his life hasn’t quite turned out like it was supposed to. Yet, there was one evening in the town of Newton, when he and his four friends set out on an unforgettable pub crawl – 12 beers in 12 pubs. They never made it to the end – getting caught up with shots, girls and a number of unforgettable frivolities. Now Gary is determined to reunite the gang and actually make it to the 12th pub – ‘The World’s End’. After some persuasion all agree and the ‘five musketeers’ set out to fulfill Gary’s dream. Yet, everything’s different … Not only have Gary’s four friends matured, but something in Newton has changed. Nobody remembers them and the townspeople they encounter are a little light on personality. It’s almost as though the residents are ‘blank’. As Gary and his friends become aware of these discrepancies, they find themselves in a life or death struggle with interplanetary consequences and no less than the fate of humanity at stake.
Although more of a Sci-Fi comedy (instead of a horror-comedy), The World’s End is highly entertaining and delivers a surprisingly original take on an alien invasion plotline. Much of the movie seems like your standard, they’ve-replaced-them-all-with… robots in this case, or to be more accurate, ‘blank’ bodies written with character traits and selective memories of the eliminated humans. Yet a unique conclusion and a few twists that only the comedy of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost could compel keeps audiences guessing and the outcome uncertain. Moreover, the character friction between the five friends, but especially between Andy and Gary, is enough to drive an entertaining story in and of itself. Indeed, the invasion of the ‘blanks’ and the fate of the world hanging in the balance serves more or less as an interesting backdrop to the rich character development. Although the two threads of the story exist in the same time and place and flirt with each other throughout, events only fully confront these very intense characters when appropriate – eventually overtaking the. Once more, the ending, although (somewhat) ‘happy’ for the surviving friends (and even for those who don’t) does not deteriorate into the predictably wrought I’ve-learned-so-much-and-now-I’m-finally-changed-for-the-better outcome.
Even those who don’t typically enjoy Sci-Fi comedies – perhaps, seeing them as a little too frivolous – will find the climax and conclusion satisfying. The audience is left with a surprisingly mixed commentary on the possibilities of human perfection and personal liberty. Viewers cannot expect to walk away with a clear moral laid out – one that shined through against all the fog. Rather they will be left with the positive and negative consequences of progress towards a more ‘perfect’ (in other words, ‘dull’) society devoid of violence and strife, versus the equivocal consequences of the all-too-human thirst for personal liberty. The ending is thought-provoking and even profound – all within the context of a VERY entertaining story.
On the technical side, the execution is unquestionably first rate, yet the acting and character writing shine the brightest. In many respects, Simon Pegg and the character he portrays, steals the show. His performance and the subtly humorous dialogue drives the first half hour almost singlehandedly to the point where viewers will be convinced that they are just in for one great comedy (minus the Sci-Fi and drama). But beneath the comedy, as the broader story unfolds – Pegg handedly wins audiences’ allegiance to his character – to the point of really wanting him to see past his next beer and hoping/suspecting that there is something more – something deeper to his unstoppable desire to finish the pub crawl.
The only spots where viewers may roll their eyes are during the fight sequences, where the five friends (without any explanation) seem more than able to hold their own and the ‘blanks’ come off as somewhat inept.* Of course, the reason for their lack of prowess is ameliorated to a certain degree at the conclusion when the uniqueness of humans through the eyes of outsiders is unveiled.
Lots of laughs, stellar performances, well-crafted characters and a thought provoking conclusion makes The World’s End one entertaining movie that reminds us of our united humanity – for better or worse – and our primal desire for freedom and liberty. No zombies, but great nonetheless.
* – Caution for CG lovers: The special effects for the blanks are not first rate, nor do they need to be and one wonders if making them too impressive would have detract from the rich story.