The World's End Review
When its all said and done, I think many people will remember writer/director Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy ("Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End") as not only pure comedic bliss, but also a creative exercise in nostalgia. Each film in this trilogy plays in a certain film nerd fetish, certain genres that have already made names for themselves in the cinematic pantheon. If you look at all of Edgar Wright's work, not just the Cornetto trilogy, but "Spaced" and "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," he is a man of the nerds worldwide. Everything he touches has geek culture references in it, from Television, to other movies, to video games and music. The guy is a nerd genius and he has an original voice that I don't think other filmmakers could ever possess. If Edgar Wright ends up making "Ant-Man" for Marvel, one thing is certain: It'll end up being something separate compared to the other MCU films and for all the right reasons too.
I must say though, Wright as well as Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (Wright's collaborators in all three films of the Cornetto trilogy) have many tricks up their sleeves. "The World's End" does not come close to resembling "Shaun of the Dead" or "Hot Fuzz," and I am not sure how fans will take that. "The World's End" features a much more grounded, human story. The characters Wright created for this movie feel the most fleshed out from his fevered brain. I think how deep and thought-out the story is will shock and delight the audience in equal measure, but only if your willing to follow these characters and their story.
Simon Pegg plays Gary King, and right away, this isn't the role we are used to seeing with Pegg. Pegg's Gary King is a character you probably won't root for at the beginning of the movie. He reminisces on a time when he ended college. King and his four best friends did a 12-bar crawl known as The Golden Mile. They didn't finish and it has been killing King ever since. This is the event that has defined his life, King is a guy who had a Quarter Life Crisis and that carried into his Mid-Life Crisis. He is trying to find a definition to his life and he thinks getting the old band back together to finish The Golden Mile will define his life. This is what I mean by Wright evoking nostalgia. King clings to The Golden Mile like a sick animal and its crazy how well Pegg sells it.
The band includes Andrew (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan), and Steven (Paddy Considine). They are all seduced and manipulated by King to do the bar crawl once again and none of them really want to be there, especially Andrew. Gary and Andrew were once best friends, but a event draws Andrew away from Gary. When we meet Andrew, he wants nothing to do with him. The chemistry between Frost and Pegg is perfect as always, but its especially noticeable because they are playing totally different characters than we are used to. If you are thinking that this is going to be another buddy film between Frost and Pegg, trust me, it isn't. There are plenty of moments where the other three shine. Between this, "The Hobbit," and the British "Sherlock Holmes," I can say that Martin Freeman is becoming one of my very favorite actors. Marsan and Considine do very well too and are both very funny. The film is laced with other good performances, Pierce Brosnan makes a cameo that is just plain awesome. And Rosamund Pike plays Sam; Oliver's sister and an old flame to both Gary and Sam in their own rights. She makes only a couple appearances, but Pike makes them count.
As the second act begins, things get really crazy. Soon the fivesome not only wants to hit the entire bar crawl, but they have to also save the world. A world that is slowly being taken over by an otherworldly-menace. The film gets crazy with action and scores big laughs. Lots of Wright's fetishes are on display as the film sort of turns into a comical riff on "The Stepford Wives," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Thing." You'll be having great fun from the second act all the way to the end. The actors chew everything up and its a great ride.
What I think will get a lot of people is the ending. The end to this film is so sudden and so far from left field that I don't know if they'll buy it. It certainly worked for me but I know many people that it didn't work for. I have read many reviews from critics warning the same thing. This is an ending unlike others we have seen from Wright, but I think its a good thing and the punchline before the credits was great. However, it seemed to me that Wright had much more he wanted to say and I could have sat for another half hour with this big reversal. Still, it didn't derail the movie for me.
In the end (ha-ha!) "The World's End" plays crazy and funny throughout. However, I could not get over well much the drama effected me. The nostalgia theme as well as coming to the realization that you have hit a brick wall in your life were all truly bracing for me. I loved the movie but don't expect another "Shaun of the Dead" or "Hot Fuzz." This is different, but in a great way. Simon Pegg...dear God...he deserves bigger things. I only hope that this isn't the last time Wright, Pegg and Frost work together. I hope they have many more collaborations ahead for us.
FINAL GRADE: A-