The World’s End is the immature being’s fitting finale to the famed Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy from filmmaking trio Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. It encompasses the ultimate will to stay forever young that the three are best known for, and for that reason, will have a special place in fans’ hearts. That said it was always going to be heavily scrutinised and compared to the others (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), and that’s where it could be argued that it lacks that desired stamp of comic genius and originality that we expect from the trio.
Budding rebel Gary King ruled the school roost back in the day. Now he (Pegg) wants to reunite the old gang and complete the fabled pub-crawl that ends with the last pint drunk in The World’s End, a task they failed to finish 20 years before. With some in trepidation, boffin Oliver (Martin Freeman), bullied Peter (Eddie Marsan), go-getter Steven (Paddy Considine) and now high-flying lawyer Andrew Knightly (Nick Frost) meet Gary on the old stomping ground. However, sinking pints and exchanging memories is not on the beer mats as something sinister has transformed their sleepy hometown…
Packed with music highlights (from Sisters of Mercy to Blur) to indulge any forty-something viewer, the film starts out full of delinquent promise that you can taste the excitement brewing in the characters and revel in the comments and observations. Naturally, the writing trio tap into our innermost desires of nostalgic school bliss that fuel many a school reunion, and this successful element flows with writing ease.
In addition, Pegg delivers one of his finest and most heart-felt comedy performances to date that is both bittersweet, tragic and genuinely uncomfortable to watch as the grown man crumbles in front of his mates who appear to have crossed over (albeit miserably) into adulthood. It’s a nice experiment in role reversal for Pegg and Frost (the latter usually playing the nutter) that works in the former’s favour to the detriment of Frost in this who gets engulfed in Pegg’s shadow. Gary’s darker moments supposedly breed the film’s eerie, twilight side that should deliver us onto the next level, that is, if you can get past the clowning around that peppers an essentially great sci-fi plot: the idea of all sleepy English hometowns being a bed of alien experimentation.
Here, the film offers little more creepy development, short of glowing blue eyes of the trance-induced populous that include an old Bond in play. We have to wait until the very end confrontation – a drink-addled one that should make cinematic comedy history – that whiffs of Monty-Python-esque silliness to find out why the aliens have done what they have done. In the meantime, the albeit well-choreographed battles do reiterate the power of the ordinary man triumphing against adversity that fans so love, but they along with the manic running around water down any chilling moments that could have been better developed to keep the comedy-sci-fi thriller balance nicely and intriguingly brewing.
That said there is a genuine poignancy and touching element to The World’s End that sits comfortably alongside some healthy mockery of the sci-fi genre – although nearly not as much as one would like (as in Paul). Quite what the end goal of this particular Cornetto film is, is hard to tell? It’s a mixed bag of their former ideas that will not be to every fan’s taste, cooling their enthusiasm for the Wright-Frost-Pegg legacy, but as a one-off British bulldog rebellion story that allows any adult stuck in the humdrum of life to relive their fond carefree years, it hits its target.