We all have those moments. That time in our lives when everything was good and there wasn’t a care in world. For most, it is in our youth, for others, it may come later, with a marriage to the love of our lives, or the birth of a child. For Gary King (Simon Pegg) it came on the last day of school 20 years ago, and he would do anything–ANYTHING–to relive that moment.
This is the guiding theme to The World’s End, the last part of the Three Flavours of Cornetto Trilogy, which also includes 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz. The World’s End reunites Pegg with real-life best friend, Nick Frost and co-writer (with Pegg) and director Edgar Wright. These three have been responsible for some of the best, funniest, smartest genre-bending films in the last 10 years. And they continue their streak here.
Pegg’s Gary King is a man who never grew up. An alcoholic who prefers to listen to Sisters of Mercy and get wasted than to strap on a neck tie and get a real job and a real life. His childhood friends, Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Andy (Frost) have all moved on with families and jobs and, well, lives, but not Gary. Gary still fondly reveres a night 20 years before when all five friends took on “The Golden Mile,” a 12 pub bar crawl that finishes at The World’s End. That night, Gary had the best time of his life, but they never made it to The World’s End, so Gary decides that he will reunite his chums and finish what they started.
What starts as a simple “you can’t go back again” type of story quickly changes to hardnosed science fiction when halfway through the pub crawl, the guys realize that their hometown is now populated by synthetic clones of real people (not robots, as robots are… you know what, never mind). The synths bleed blue and their eyes and mouths blow a phosphorus-like blue-white when they are in pursuit. The synths are all part of a plan by unknown forces to make the world at large a better place by getting rid of the bad elements and replacing it with sterile–and obedient–clones.
Of course, this all lends to the commentary that Pegg and Wright are feeding us about the “Starbucking” of our communities and how everything is clean, fake and similar. Like how similar Starbucks coffee shops pop up on every corner in every town in America. But the commentary is not shoved down the audience’s throat and like the previous films in the trilogy, the amalgam of genres gives a little something for everyone.
With the always spot-on writing, and the subtle way that Pegg and Wright inject humor into their script, The World’s End feels a little like William Shakespeare meets John Carpenter. And the Carpenter references are intentional, right down to the synth-pop (a Carpenter trademark) music when our heroes are being chased around Newton Haven.
The acting in The World’s End is above and beyond the best of the trilogy. Pegg’s Gary is a degenerate, and he plays him very well. Rosamund Pike (Wrath of the Titans) plays Sam, Oliver’s younger sister and a woman who Gary shared a bathroom fling with during the crawl 20 years before, but now is repulsed by the man. Pierce Brosnan shows up as Guy Shepard, the boys’ old teacher, who still lives in Newton Haven, and of course, Bill Nighy, a Cornetto Trilogy veteran, has a small, but important role at the end.
The real star here is Nick Frost as Andy, Gary’s best mate growing up. In the previous films, Frost has played the slacker loser, or the bumbling, naive cop. But in The World’s End, he is finally given something to work with, and he completely shines with it. Something terrible happened between Andy and Gary years before, and Andy still holds a grudge all these years later. Frost conveys this splendidly, and midway through the film, when the beers–and the danger–have added up, he completely changes character and becomes the group badass, and the change is dramatic, perfect and still sweetly funny. This is a testament to Nick Frost, the actor.
Also, something has to be said about the music in The World’s End. Steven Price mimics John Carpenter throughout the film with his score, but the true beauty here is in the compilation of original songs. Hits from the ’80s and ’90s, such as The Soup Dragons’ ‘I’m Free,’ and the Sundays’ ‘Here is Where the Story Ends,’ work perfectly to set the mood and give the film a place in a particular time period. The Doors’ ‘Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)’ is used impeccably in one scene during the crawl, and of course, ‘This Corrosion’ by the Sisters of Mercy shows up at the end. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt compelled to rush out and buy a film soundtrack, but The World’s End is a perfect collection of songs that I’ve listened to my entire life and the soundtrack is a must buy for me.
The World’s End may represent the final part of the Three Flavours of Cornetto Trilogy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that these three artists will never work together again. There are parts of the film that allude to this being the end, but I seriously doubt it. Pegg and Frost collaborated to make 2011’s Paul, and Edgar Wright is on deck to direct Ant-Man for Marvel Studios. I’m very confident that their paths will cross again, and we’ll see another film, or maybe another trilogy, from these creative fellows.
When all is said and done, The World’s End accomplishes what it set out to do. There is a ton of underlying social commentary, and a lot is said about growing up and letting go of the past. These are deep, thought-provoking themes that beg to be explored in films in their own right, but here they are presented in the vehicle of a sci-fi action comedy. This is the strength of Pegg, Frost and Wright, and it’s also why The World’s End is easily the best film of the Cornetto Trilogy. You can’t relive the past, but you sure as hell can enjoy the present and help build the future. And at the end, that’s what this film is all about.
The World’s End is rated R and was released on August 23, 2013.