Before I get to my review of this film, I’d like to share a little story of persistence paying off for once. The World’s End came to select theaters nearly two months ago, leaving me in an annoying predicament. I live about one hour and a half (minimum) away from a theater that would carry a limited release movie, and with gas prices in late August pretty high, I was dreading the extra trip. A few days before we were planning on driving up to a participating theater, I was involved in a car accident that destroyed my car and mildly injured my arm and ribs; needless to say – we didn’t go. This is also the reason I haven’t blogged on here for a bit, sorry about that to anyone that wondered where I disappeared to.
Pretty soon, I had a new car and was feeling better, just in time to discover that the limited release we were annoyed by, was even more limited and only one theater in the whole city carried it, and it was smack dab in the middle of a high-traffic shopping district that was taken over by a week-long art fair. I made my peace about waiting for the eventual DVD release and let the whole thing slip my mind. That was until I received an email that made my day. You see, I had forgotten the fact that I sent an email to my local theater essentially asking them to attempt to get the movie in a late run,but assumed I’d never hear back. Here is the exchange:
“A few years back, this theater did not get a movie called ‘Hot Fuzz‘ on release day, but acquired it on a limited basis a few months later. I was wondering if a new movie by the same studio/cast/director ‘The World’s End’ would get the same treatment? I really do not want to drive two hours to see this film, and would prefer supporting you guys. So, I implore you, please get this movie for at least a few days since this is a college town and I think it will do well.”
and here was the response:
“Hi Stephen, The distributor of World’s End, Focus Features released their film very limited. I’m presently trying to secure the film to open in [your town] on October 4. Please keep an eye on our website for showtimes. Thank you for contacting [Carmike Cinemas] “
I have to hand it to Carmike Cinemas, they actually took the time to look into my query, answer me, and I was able to see my movie in my own town. Yeah it was late, but I was there. So anyway, moral of the story is, it never hurts to ask sometimes, and in my case it worked out. Now the question is, did I enjoy the movie?
I’ve been a big fan of pretty much everything that Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, And Nick Frost have done for quite a while. Ever since I reluctantly rented Shaun of the Dead nearly a decade ago, I’ve been hooked. I think what draws me to their material is that they may look like typical genre films on the surface “oh look it’s ANOTHER zombie film”. But upon further watching, one will notice heart that few comedies have. These aren’t just vague genre parodies like that dead horse that the Wayans Brothers and company keep beating (Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans etc.) these are deep films that just happen to be funny.
Fans have dubbed these genre-busting films as the “Blood and Ice cream Trilogy” or “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” either way, these are solid in every way. Shaun of the Dead was their take on the horror genre, and while it dished out the gory zombie action in spades, the film was more about what it means to grow up and be a man. Their spiritual sequel Hot Fuzz followed suit and took the action / buddy-cop film skeleton and placed what was essentially an unconventional love story between two friends into the mix. So what about The World’s End? At first glance it looks like a science fiction film, but is really about the dangers of nostalgia and how one really can’t ever go home again.
The film centers around an estranged group of high-school friends that have slipped out of touch with each other in the twenty years since graduation. Their paths separated after an ill-fated contest called “The Golden Mile” in their old stomping grounds, Newton Haven. The idea was to stop at all twelve pubs on a tourist list and drink at least one pint at each one. Sadly this was not meant to be, and the night went sour. They got into fights, had to escape said fight, and even lost one of their own in the scuffle. Their “leader”, a man named Gary King (Simon Pegg) has decided to get the whole gang back together, but a lot has changed since the early 1990’s. They return to their hometown to find it different, and everyone acting like robots. And as you guessed, that’s because they are robots.
Simon Pegg portrays Gary King, the aforementioned “leader” of the group. He has changed very little since high school, and seems to be at a perpetual state of adolescence. He wears the same clothes, has the same car, and even the same cassette tapes he enjoyed as a youth. This fact saddens everyone else, because it is immediately obvious that he never moved on from his younger days. He’s very untrustworthy, and somewhat careless in personal business and external relationships. This is a nice change of pace for Pegg, as the last two movies showed him as the “straight man” or “hero” and Nick Frost occupying the bumbling friend role.
In fact, Frost portrays what could be possibly seen as the straight laced man of action in this movie with Andy Knightly. He is the least fond of Gary, now that they are older, because of an “incident” that occurred when they were younger. You do eventually find out why there is tension between the two, but that’s later in the film and has importance to the plot. Andy is fun because he is pretty boring until the villainous robots appear, and a few drinks make him into their “incredible Hulk”.
The cast is rounded out by more “Cornetto Trilogy” mainstays: Paddy Considine plays Steven Prince, someone that could be considered Gary’s Rival from school. They seem to get along fairly well despite this fact. Martin Freeman plays Oliver Chamberlain, the brother of Gary’s high school fling Sam (as played by Rosamund Pike). Finally, Eddie Marsan plays Peter Page, who was fairly meek in his youth and was bullied a lot.
Since this is a science fiction film about invading robots, one would assume that there are some cool special effects involved, and that person is correct. About twenty minutes into the film, Gary gets into an altercation with a young man in a pub restroom resulting in the man’s head popping off and a thick blue liquid spraying everywhere. From this moment on, we are treated to some really brutal and exciting fight scenes. Being a wrestling fan, I was pleasantly surprised to see everyone’s fighting abilities were seemingly based on professional wrestling moves. Gary delivers a killer “Rock Bottom” popularized by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson when he was in WWE. We also saw elbow drops, suplexes and even an “atomic drop”. As you can imagine, an assault such as this will result in limbs being ripped off, chests exploding and even heads being lopped off. It’s okay though, they’re just robots.
The fun of the cast and the hilarious battles doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story. We seem a few quite dramatic scenes in the film, and especially one featuring Peter Page. At the pub where the robots finally show themselves, Peter runs into an old school bully – one that ruined his life back then. The man seemingly ignores Peter, not recognizing him at all. Peter slips into an abyss of depression since this man did more to hurt him than he can imagine, and yet doesn’t even remember him. There are even more scenes like this peppered throughout the film, that show the actors’ dramatic chops and make this film stand out against other comedies.
Longtime fans of these movies will be pleased to see tons of cameos from people from previous films and TV shows. These cameos aren’t too obtrusive and usually result in someone with a small role like Mark Heap who worked with the guys in Spaced. Other callbacks include references to the “wall gag” that appears in all three films, the Cornetto ice cream reference, and even the classic epilogue that usually only exists on the DVD special features. I did hear people whining that Bill Nighy was not involved, but they need to listen closer. He was the voice of a VERY important character at the end of the film.
I loved The World’s End and am glad I got to see it in theaters after such a long wait. I can’t really say how it ranks with the other two films as I basically like them equally and for entirely different reasons. I am glad to see the characters shifted around from the norms seen in the last few films. Showing that Nick Frost isn’t just a wacky one-trick pony sidekick was awesome, and I’m glad to see him in a more dramatic role. Here’s hoping that this “trilogy” isn’t over and all these guys work together again at some point. Maybe after Ant Man, Edgar Wright will need another excuse to hang out with his buddies and entertain us once again.
As a bonus here is Gary’s favorite band, Sisters of Mercy, with the song that constantly pops up in the movie. Enjoy!