Compared to the other films in director Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – its conclusion, The World’s End, is relatively unassuming at its outset. It begins with a high school flashback told through the eyes, or rather the beer goggles of Gary King (Simon Pegg). He gushes over the elevated emotions of a great night that he still feels was never quite right, when he and his friends attempted ‘The Golden Mile’ – twelve pubs, twelve pints. When the prologue concludes and the story of the film begins, all the boys are thirty-somethings – except for Gary. Although his papers might say different, Gary is an 18-year-old frat boy stuck in the body of an aging punk rocker. This provides tremendous comedic and dramatic fodder when he gets his band of brothers back together to attempt to finish what they started on that fateful night. When Andy (Nick Frost), whom Gary considered his best friend in high school, orders a glass of water instead of a pint, Gary is furious. But Andy and his other older-and-wiser friends (played by the terrific trio of Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan) turn the tables on Gary so effectively that his role in all of this is reduced to basically a jester; the four only stick with him for the next few pubs out of some misguided sense of loyalty. But at about pub three or four, Gary takes a bathroom break that goes haywire and sets the sci-fi elements of the movie’s plot in motion.
The gang realizes that their old hometown has been taken over by an organization that wants all to conform to a few certain principles, and I love the way this ties in thematically to what’s going on in Gary’s relationship with his friends. To him, they’ve all given up. To them, he needs to shape up and join the real world. I really appreciate that Edgar Wright never drops this important dramatic through-line, even through all the chaos and the uproarious comedy in the film’s latter two-thirds. The climax of the film is a perfect blend of all the film’s best elements, from the intensely bromantic showdown between Pegg and Frost (who are both on their a-game in this movie, by the way), to the way Gary’s drunk logic helps defeat the villains of the film. It’s akin to what Wright did with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, even though that was adapted from a graphic novel series. The same way Scott has to tackle his inner demons to get to Ramona, Gary King wrestles with his own shortcomings in The World’s End and, in some ways, emerges victorious.
There has been some level of controversy over this film’s ending and whether or not it supports the piece as a whole. In a way, I think it does. Perhaps I don’t feel as strongly positive about the ending as some do, but all in all, this is another great amusement from a comedic mastermind and his loyal and very capable stable of actors.
(By the way, The World’s End got me REALLY excited to see Edgar Wright’s upcoming Marvel superhero film, Ant-Man.)