The World’s End (2013)
[Note from the editor: This review is by prospective staff writer Ivan K. Enjoy!]
The Cornetto Trilogy has come to an end. First there was Shaun of the Dead, the international surprise success that took audiences and critics by storm. Then, Hot Fuzz took the trilogy in a more action-oriented direction with its satire of buddy-cop films. Now, 2013’s The World’s End has concluded the trilogy with a sci-fi adventure, but does it live up to expectations?
Shaun of the Dead featured a red Cornetto ice cream cone for zombies, Hot Fuzz featured a blue one for cop lights, and The World’s End has a green cone to signify aliens. Alert viewers had to wait until the end of this film to catch a glimpse of the green flavor, but luckily, the previous two hours were immensely satisfying to fans of this series.
The World’s End begins in a similar way to The Hangover, by introducing characters in a thoughtful way, allowing us to understand and relate to them as humans and not just comedic means to an end. The main character, Gary King (Simon Pegg), has decided that rehab is doing nothing but keeping him from enjoying alcohol. He remembers the good old days in his hometown of Newton Haven, when he and his high school friends attempted the Golden Mile: a 12-pub crawl where they had to finish a pint at each pub before moving onto the next one. Unfortunately, they never succeeded in visiting all twelve.
Wishing to fulfill his teenage dreams, Gary bails out of rehab and his adult responsibilities to find his old friends, who consist of Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan). While dressed in his old goth clothes, Gary confronts them all in a series of hilarious scenes that set up one of the major themes in the film: being able to leave the past behind while entering adulthood. Gary has never changed, and his entire identity lies in his refusal to adapt or mature. His friends have all grown into fathers, executives, and respectable people, and Gary has to outright lie to get them to go along on the Golden Mile.
Upon arrival in their childhood town, they meet up with Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Gary and Steven apparently used to fight over. But soon, the men begin to feel severely out of place. The townsfolk look right through them, though this mostly just hurts Gary’s ego. He apparently thought that the town would bow before him, but in reality, they barely remember him or his youthful days of revelry.
After they enjoy their first few pints, Gary takes a moment to use the restroom in one of the pubs. This is where the film takes a turn, and this is also where the action begins. Gary tries to talk to a teenager in the bathroom, but the kid refuses to respond. Gary drunkenly grabs the kid, and the kid fights back. What follows is a stylized fight that ends with Gary smashing the teen’s head against a urinal, and his head falling off with blue “blood” spurting everywhere.
Gary’s friends come in, and they end up fighting off a whole gang of what appear to be robots. They quickly figure out that all of Newton Haven has been replaced by robots, which is why nobody remembers them. They all beg Gary to drive them out of town immediately, but he has just one thing on his mind: completing the Golden Mile.
Gary convinces them to continue with the pub crawl, because if they leave, then the robots will know they’re onto them. So they wipe off the blue blood and quickly head to the next pub. But as the night goes on, they end up running into more and more of the robots, some of whom resemble their old classmates, including one who’s been dead for years.
Eventually, they meet up with their old high school principal, Mr. Shepherd (played by Pierce Brosnan, and hey, it’s a Die Another Day reunion!).
The story then becomes a cross between The Stepford Wives and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Shepherd explaining that the robots are the work of aliens, who are here to improve upon the human race by replacing some of us with “simulants”. With their help, Earth will soon be ready to join a galaxy-wide alliance of planets simply called “The Network”. And just in case the robots aren’t creepy enough for you, they soon reveal themselves to have glowing orifices.
This is where the action scenes become the forefront of the film, and as his friends are slowly turned into “simulants” before his eyes, Gary eventually makes it to the final pub, called “The World’s End”, where he faces down the master intelligence behind the invasion.
All of the films in the Cornetto trilogy have mixed serious genre moments with witty, dry humor; Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were both hilarious and action packed, but they still felt like satires. In contrast, The World’s End feels like something else entirely.
The first half of the film is pure comedy, and it works by bringing the laughs consistently. It has hints about what’s to come, but the carnage still comes as a surprise. Once “blood” is first drawn, the film drives ahead with an unrelenting fury that can compete with the best action films. And yet, interwoven with the violence are multiple forms of humor. Slapstick comedy coincides with witty puns, and situational comedy is spawned from an otherwise dazzling fistfight. This is a film that not only blends genres, but seemingly creates new ones.
One such genre-blending highlight is a scene that shows the gang trying to fit in while an aptly-titled Doors song plays in tune to their steps. It’s a scene that’s both chilling and hilarious, and it shows the kind of creative energy that’s seldom seen in cinema today.
Another one of the film’s great flourishes is its use of foreshadowing. Each one of the pubs is named after the scene that takes place in it:
-The First Post is where the gang heads to first.
-The Old Familiar is a pub that’s exactly the same as the previous one.
-The Famous Cock is a pun showing what happens to Gary.
-The Cross Hands features the film’s first fight scene.
-The Good Companions is where the Doors song comes in, and it shows the gang trying to have fun in the face of danger.
-The Trusty Servant is where they learn of the aliens’ mission.
-The Two Headed Dog is where they fight twins.
-The Mermaid is a pun that follows a previous speech about the class hotties.
-The Beehive is where they unveil more of the plan.
-The Hole in the Wall can be guessed.
-The World’s End features the climax of the film.
Each one of the pubs is also named in an engaging intro that makes repeat viewings essential. This is similar to the plan laid out in Shaun of the Dead, where “having a Bloody Mary first thing in the morning” translates to fighting a bloody zombie named Mary. It’s quirks like these that help to make the Cornetto films special in their own right, but even viewers who miss these references are still in for a entertaining time.
Very few films are perfect, and The World’s End is no exception. The ending, while still humorous, seems a bit rushed and abrasive. The apocalyptic epilogue especially seems a little strained, although it fits rather well into the film’s subversive spirit. Aside from the third act’s pacing, the film features very few flaws and is immensely enjoyable from start to finish.
It’s rare to see a film that excels in its own genre, and it’s even rarer to see a film that excels in two. The World’s End manages to blend science fiction and comedy into a unique film that’s easily one of the best of 2013. Fans of dry British humor are in for a treat, as well as fans of old science fiction films such as the aforementioned Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Even casual filmgoers will enjoy the film, as it manages to stay surprising and humorous throughout. The World’s End is a fitting conclusion to an acclaimed trilogy.