The Cornetto Trilogy, which began with Shaun of the Dead and continued through Hot Fuzz, comes to its conclusion with The World’s End about a pub crawl of apocalyptic proportions. But is it any good?
All films should be reviewed independently without outside influences, so that’s what we’ve tried to do. But you’ll forgive me if, like everyone else watching The World’s End, we couldn’t help ourselves in comparing and contrasting it with director Edgar Wright’s existing body of work, a canon that mainly features his favourite leading man Simon Pegg.
Pegg is in full-on mid-life crisis mode here as an ageing hellraiser who reunites his now-grizzled teenage gang to finish what they started back in their long-distant youth; a pub crawl encompassing every watering hole in their backwater home town.
This third offering in a loose trilogy containing previous offerings Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz is a new take on classic chiller Invasion of the Body Snatchers; for those unfamiliar with the premise, our typically unlikely heroes gradually learn that their local community is being replaced by aliens that mimic their hosts in every way apart from their emotions. Wright’s film broadly follows this well-worn template, but replaces aliens with unnerving robotic mimics. This plot device seems to serve little purpose other than to allow our human protagonists to rip the limbs off the enemy (cue blue robot blood flying everywhere) and then use said limbs as weapons, a production decision seemingly made with a 15 certificate in mind.
These developments lead to some decidedly odd narrative logic. In Shaun of the Dead (oops, how did that slip in there?) the central characters decide that the most secure location to ride out the zombie apocalypse is the local pub. However ridiculous you deem the logic to be there is a ‘thought process’ behind this that pulls the viewer along the narrative stream with the characters. In The World’s End the central characters decide the only way to avoid detection by the robotic imitators is to complete their pre-planned pub-crawl. The logic is highly dubious at the outset and quickly becomes entirely nonsensical, preventing the viewer from truly identifying with the characters. Although the narrative progresses at a fast, interesting pace throughout, this is achieved by the kinetic spirit of the production and not well-scripted character motivation, the lack of which makes it hard to care about the minor characters.
It doesn’t help that the supporting roles are thinly scripted and uninteresting. Why actors as accomplished as Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Rosamund Pike would be interested in appearing in such minor parts isn’t clear, with only Considine seeming at ease with his surroundings.
Pegg himself is better suited to the role of the plucky underachiever, as played to perfection in Shaun (damn!). Here the now established Hollywood A-lister is a former high-school hunk turned recovering alcoholic, trying desperately to relive former glories. The performance is engaging, if not his best work, but Nick Frost is good value in the co-star role and as a duo they are far more satisfying here than in their most recent effort, the underwhelming Paul (I give up – it’s too hard).
One thing The World’s End gets very right is its constant sense of momentum; the ultimate goal of reaching The World’s End pub isn’t reached until the final reel, allowing the narrative thrust to hold everything together while the film gallops along at a cracking pace. Which makes it a shame that, as is standard for a Wright film, the conclusion fails to match up to what comes before. Fortunately the numerous and overly long fight sequences have long gone by this point, but The World’s End certainly doesn’t know when to say the ‘The End’ in a conclusion that proves to be simultaneously mediocre and outlandish.
The comedy genre is notoriously difficult to review, due to the vagaries of comedic taste, but we’re going to do so anyway. Hell, it’s our review. In my opinion The World’s End doesn’t meet the comedic high watermark of Shaun of the Dead but nevertheless is consistently amusing. Unless you’re determined not to have any fun, there are guaranteed laughs in this film. Which might just be what you went to see it for in the first place.