Movie Review: The World’s End

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Five old school friends get together in order to finish the pub crawl they started in 1990: the Golden Mile, ending with The World’s End. They don’t realise how prophetic the name of the place might prove to be.

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Edgar Wright, 2013

At the lowest point in Gary King’s (Simon Pegg) life, he decides to recreate a moment from the end of his childhood that proved to the best of his life: a pub crawl called The Golden Mile, where he and his friends would hit all twelve pubs in town, finishing at The World’s End. Now all that remains is to get the friends, who have all drifted apart and become grown-ups with office jobs in his absence, to agree to come along, including his former best mate Andy (Nick Frost), who had a mysterious accident when they were younger that caused the friendship to fall apart. When they go back to their home town, however, they discover it’s not quite as they remember – people don’t recognise them and the townspeople seem a bit blank.

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In order to get the full experience of this movie (and because she hadn’t yet seen Shaun of the Dead), Melissa (Silver Screen Queens podcast co-host) and I decided to watch the entire Cornetto trilogy this weekend. That culminated last night for me in The World’s End, the third effort from the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost team. For me, I think this is the weakest link in the chain; it’s darker than the other two, and the first third is a real drag to get through. There’s very little humour or energy from anyone but Pegg’s Gary, whose manic manchild is a brilliantly conceived character but is also incredibly frustrating. The rest of the lads do a lot of sitting around awkwardly until, with the introduction of the awesome robot-like creations that have taken over the town. There’s a wonderfully timed scene set to music and then suddenly everything picks up, and it becomes the darkly hilarious, rollicking adventure it promised to be in the trailers. This is the darkest and most pessimistic movie in the trilogy for me, and it faces interesting themes about getting older and becoming part of the corporate machine and the rights of humans to make their own choices (couldn’t help thinking of Serenity there), but it lacks heart. The friendship that was the core of the first two films spends most of its time in ashes in this movie, weakening its emotional core until right at the end, and then letting it go again.  There are plenty of laughs to be had when the night really gets started, with fights, swears, and hilarious one-liners and little aside jokes that almost get forgotten in the moment but are actually hilarious.

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This is clever: character posters subtitled after the pubs visited on the crawl.

Eddie Marsan was a particularly stand-out from the main cast for me; his weedy Peter made me laugh harder than almost anyone else in the movie, except for Simon Pegg who, to be fair, gets the most to do. At first you wonder why they even have such quality actors to sit around awkwardly, but once it gets going everyone gets their moments to stand out. Rosamund Pike is a good addition to the team when she’s there, I just wish she weren’t mostly a romantic foil and got to do a little more butt-kicking. The fight scenes are fiendishly clever a lot of the time, and watching Nick Frost get his action hero on was a real treat. As a disaster movie parody this is less successful than Shaun of the Dead’s zombie parody but on about the same level as Hot Fuzz – you know what’s going on, but there aren’t as many clever, sly moments.  The disaster movie element was definitely the most engaging part of the film, but that’s also because of the break in tension in the group.  I enjoyed the movie, but I feel like it could have been better if the first third weren’t so hard to watch.

The World’s End on IMDb

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