With The World’s End, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s "Cornetto Trilogy" comes to an end and what a ride this has been. It first started in 2004 with Shaun of the Dead, an imperfect yet hysterical take on a George A. Romero zombie film that managed to bring on the blood and guts as well as the chuckles. It was so good that it was better than Romero’s own Land of The Dead, released around the same time.
Then came 2007’s Hot Fuzz, a vastly underrated film my wife and I probably watch at least twice a year. I still can’t tell if it’s one of the best comedies of the last decade or one of the best action films. Ergo, I pick both.
After watching The World’s End, I’m convinced no one can do a better job brilliantly parodying a genre while constructing the best possible example of it at the same time better than this team. Just like Hot Fuzz, The World’s End presents a perfect blend of dry and witty British humor as well as pure Hollywood escapism, executed with more energy and genuine sense of fun than certain 250 million dollar lifeless Hollywood mediocrities released each summer. Leave it to the Italians to reinvent our Westerns, then to the British to reinvent our action comedies 50 years later.
In fact, there’s enough here to satisfy fans of the two aforementioned films, as well as fans of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Doctor Who, Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, Ghostbusters, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, The Office and any combination of classic British TV comedy and sci-fi franchises. It’s deliciously dense, like a Cornetto (For our non-European friends, a Cornetto is ice cream in a waffle cone, covered in chocolate).
The sci-fi elements of The World’s End do not enter the picture until almost 45 minutes into the film. They’re barely even hinted at. Instead, we follow alcoholic Gary (Simon Pegg back in slacker mode after the no-nonsense detective from Hot Fuzz) trying to convince his childhood friends (If you’ve seen a better pack of contemporary British actors than Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan I’d sure like to see it, the casting is exquisite) to finally finish the 12-pub crawl they failed to complete in 1990.
Gary lives in the past and is pining for his youthful glory at 40, but his friends have all moved on, so Gary has to use shamelessly manipulative means to convince them to tag along. The crawl is a drag as Gary and his narcissism destroys whatever smidgen of goodwill left among his friends, until they bump into an alien/robot (They don’t like to be called robots, the word means "Slave" in Czechoslovakian and they want us to know they’re in charge) conspiracy to assimilate all humans.
The fact that there isn’t even a hint of the sci-fi storyline during the first half of the film usually sounds like lazy execution, but in this case it works because of the witty writing and the undeniable chemistry between the actors.
This way, when the kinetically charged, expertly choreographed man vs. robo-alien fights kick in, we actually care about what happens to each character since director Edgar Wright makes sure we’re accustomed to them. I could have even watched the banter between these characters and followed their stories dry the whole way, without any genre elements. The sci-fi story is merely whipped cream with a cherry on top.
This is one of the most creative remakes of Invasion of The Body Snatchers I’ve ever seen. The thesis for humans to retain their individual identities against the hive-minded aliens in all versions of Body Snatchers have been that human beings need free will to create beautiful art and love one another. In The World’s End, the thesis is that we need free will so we can get drunk, screw up our lives and (hopefully) grow up and learn from our experiences.
There’s an interesting parallel here as Gary’s friends try to keep him from drinking and living in the past while the robo-aliens stage an intervention on Earth in order to better humanity. Is it really that surprising that our planet is the drunken screw-up of the galactic order of planets?
The robo-aliens are particular in design and add an original touch to the typical movie robots stuffed with wires and vanilla milk. The ones here look more like oversized menacing GI JOE toys with limbs that easily snap off and heads that spray a violent burst of blue when smashed.
Just like in any version of Body Snatchers, individual aliens are easy to destroy, their strength comes from numbers. I also really appreciated that after countless incredibly fun fight and chase sequences, the climax is constructed over an absurd philosophical discussion that would be right at home with Douglas Adams’ oeuvre.
As giddy as The World’s End is to exploit the rules of its genre, the way Shaun and Hot Fuzz did, it’s also the most mature work amongst them. Pegg’s character is more than a one-note slacker, he’s a man with many personal demons who’s lost and looking for solace in his friends, who have moved on past his childish antics. It also has a message that perhaps sometimes it’s better to let go of the past and look forward.
However, the most important message here still is that Lego-like robots with blue blood smash real good when hit with two bar stools.