Saturday, 16 August 2014

Film review - The World's End

"We're here," announces erstwhile protagonist Gary King, "to get annihilated."


The World's End is the finale to Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Cornetto trilogy, three films connected by themes and motifs rather than plot and characters - a riff of sorts on the Three Colours Trilogy. In it we once again see Pegg and Frost placed in a new genre mash-up: this time, we're somewhere between a sci-fi and The Hangover bro-comedy of recent years.

Gary King is getting old - not that he seems to know it. He's out to convince his four childhood friends to come back to their childhood home and finish a pub crawl that they had attempted when they were younger. There's something irresistibly British about the whole trilogy, and the omnipresence of pubs in all three narratives is perhaps the most British thing about it. It's a cultural twist on The Hangover - the pub crawl. Whilst trawling round the pubs, the once-upon-a-time highschool friends (now middle-aged) discover that all is not as it once was back home.

As is increasingly the case with director Edgar Wright's films, there's a lot buried within the comedy here. Laughs and joke are hidden within each shot, and rarely is a word uttered which eschews comedic intentions, but when you look at film beyond it's comedic wrapping the film is actually an alien invasion movie. More so than either Hot Fuzz of Shaun of the Dead, really, The World's End needs to be enjoyed as the genre movie it is, rather than an outright comedy. It's funny, but the comedy feels like it serves the greater story, whereas in Hot Fuzz the opposite was true.

That's highly arguable of course - again, increasingly in Wright's films, everything is interlocked. The story is wrapped up tightly in the plot and characters and themes and laughs. The central concept works both as an absurd punchline and a genuinely interesting reflection of humanity's relationship with technology. That's the more subtle of the two central themes - as a sci-fi film, The World's End continues sci-fi's tradition of asking questions.

The more obvious theme is the one which is more personally important to Gary King - growing up and nostalgia. King's not so much going through a coming of age than attempting to go backwards through that process - trying to recapture a youth he's never properly left behind.

Most people's main problem with the film is likely to be the ending; much like Hot Fuzz, the entire film builds to a big shift in plot and tone that functions as a punchline. Unlike Hot Fuzz, however, the movie isn't all that great at communicating that this is meant to be a punchline - partly because the core of the film is so serious and partly because the tone shift is just a bit confusing. Personally I liked it, but it is also fair to say that it really could have been done better.

Otherwise The World's End is a thoughtful, funny, complex and at times genuinely emotional film full of secrets and imagination. Well worth a look.

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