Edgar Wright is one of the most interesting directors working today; his films feel almost symphonic. He pays attention to detail in his work that feels obsessive. A metered rhythm, a unique blend of music and visuals, each scene offers a varied level of composition. Wright’s very obvious style bears his own stamp on film. Like “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “The World’s End” offers a fantastic blend of characters and craziness to create a weird, wonderful paradigm.
Thematically, the movie feels a lot like “The Hangover” or “Hot Tub Time Machine”—a friendly misadventure where a simple guy’s night out turns quite strange. Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a guy who can’t seem to escape the past—the kind of tortured soul who believes that everything great has already happened to him. He pines for the good old days when he ruled the roost as “the king” of his small, English hometown—being in school with his chums, with the whole world ahead of them. Times changed; Gary now is an addict who dresses like a keyboard player in a Cure cover band. His friends have moved on with their lives, most into the kind of subdued normalcy befitting of an Englishman approaching middle age. Builders, lawyers, car dealers, real-estate agents … respectable members of society who live a fairly uninteresting existence.
Gary decides he needs to recapture some of the magic of yesteryear by gathering his friends and completing a pub crawl they fell woefully short of completing years earlier. Most of Gary’s friends are a little apprehensive to return home, but Gary’s charm and a heaping serving of desperation force them to reunite and tackle “The Golden Mile.” They return to discover the old mom-and-pop pubs have been bought out and replaced by chain restaurants. Gary can’t seem to get past the fact that no one remembers him. He becomes convinced that something has changed in their old hometown. For once, he turns out to be right.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give away any twists. I will say that completing the pub crawl presents more challenges than simply staying sober. The stakes become dramatically increased; finishing their drunken adventure turns into a matter of life and death.
Like “Kick Ass 2,” I watched “The World’s End” with glee, knowing that this kind of movie has very limited appeal. Edgar Wright is a gift to the geek world, especially someone in my demographic. His characters are my age. When they pop in a cassette of Happy Mondays or Soup Dragons, it confirms that this movie is for us who spent our high school years in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
What I like about Wright’s films, and what is often the biggest criticism levied against him, is that all of his work comes from the same creative space. “Shaun of the Dead” (now nearly 10 years later) was a look at irresponsible guys in their late 20s/early 30s, who have difficulty with adulthood and are presented with a supernatural occurrence forcing them to nut up. “The World’s End” is the same, but now these blokes are 40.
There’s a wonderful sense of melancholy to the film. Even when it tacks on the science-fiction and the light drama, it still remains a very sobering and bittersweet journey. The ending is bananas in the best way, and it doesn’t just let everything revert back to the status quo. I respect “The World’s End” for not only clinging to its insane premise, but for taking it to a conclusion that feels hilariously poignant.
Sure, this movie is not for everyone, but for those who are looking for a surreal and almost heartbreaking story: Seek it out. It is just the sort of oddity the month of August is made for in the industry—when studios chuck out every piece of unmarketable brilliance still on the shelf.
I loved “The World’s End.” Edgar Wright is a real talent. The only danger lingering for him is the same one that has befallen Peter Jackson: accepting the limits of the form. There’s about 15 minutes of fat on the film. —the kind of excess found when directors are allowed to indulge. Jackson took those 15 minutes and now seems unable to deliver a movie that isn’t three hours long. Here’s hoping Wright exhibits more control going forward; he could easily join Joss Whedon and Christopher Nolan in the pantheon of great geek filmmakers. “The World’s End” is his most emotionally complex and satisfying film.
The World’s End
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost,
Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike
Directed by Edgar Wright