The World’s End, the final installment in Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy” follows a group of childhood friends who return to their hometown, Newton Haven, in order to finish a twelve stop pub crawl, dubbed the Golden Mile, they failed to complete back in 1990. In the intervening time, Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Andrew (Nick Frost) have all grown up – starting families and/or working in steady (albeit unexciting) professions. However, former group kingpin, Gary (Simon Pegg), has spent the last two decades drinking, philandering, and bouncing from one job to the next – falling very short of the lofty ambitions that he once possessed.
For that reason, Gary becomes obsessed with reaching The World’s End (the final stop on the Golden Mile), deciding to reunite his companions through lies and subterfuge in order for them to relive their glory days. Unfortunately, their pub crawl is cut short when the friends realize that Newton Haven has become ground zero for an extraterrestrial invasion – presenting Gary (and his mates) with a lofty set of goals for the evening: rekindle mangled friendships, save the world, and (of course) finish the Golden Mile.
Set as the capstone to prior Wright, Pegg, and Frost collaborations, Shaun of the Dead (set in the zombocalypse) and Hot Fuzz (a buddy cop action throwback), The World’s End hits plenty of the same marks that made its predecessors cult classics. Yet, this time, some of the laughs aren’t quite as fresh and, at times, borrow heavily from gags and action setups that were already utilized in the first two films. A number of reapportioned sequences are knowing nods, but for anyone who isn’t a die-hard fan of the series, certain sequences in The World’s End will be less exciting (or funny) than they were the first time around. Still, even though The World’s End isn’t quite as distinctive as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, it’s still a solid comedy that should have no problem satisfying viewers who enjoyed the other “Cornetto Trilogy” entries as well as casual moviegoers looking for competent mix of drama and laughs.
The core storyline succeeds in digging slightly deeper than earlier efforts from Pegg and Wright. While the Gary character can sometimes fall into standard instigator/drunkard cliches, his underlying story provides an added layer of depth and heart to the otherwise zany end of the world shenanigans. Pegg and Wright have taken a similar approach before with protagonists Shaun and Nicholas Angel, but the flashbacks and direct connections to Gary’s past offer especially worthwhile callbacks and payoff to the current Golden Mile journey – making this Cornetto installment the best character story of the bunch. Although, a number of predictable plot twists and (as mentioned earlier) familiar action/comedy setups make the overall experience of The World’s End a little uneven – as viewers will be slightly more connected to the characters this round but less enchanted by the humorous bits and fight scenes.
Even if the jokes aren’t quite as fresh this round, the cast of friends, or as Gary refers to them “The Five Musketeers,” present a lot of enjoyable (and improv) interplay. In spite of the fundamental alien invasion plot, banter between the five leads is the strongest selling point of The World’s End. Pegg differentiates Gary from Shaun and Angel, while also positioning the character in a way that allows partner-on-film Nick Frost to do something new in the role of Andrew. The pair have played “best friends” in the two previous films but the relationship between Gary and Andrew mines plenty of fresh drama and gags – offering a fun juxtaposition for the acting pair.
Supporting players Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Considine – not to mention Rosamund Pike also deliver in their parts: Oliver, Peter, Steven, and Sam (Oliver’s sister), respectively. Few of the supporting roles evolve into anything more than one-note foils for Gary and Andrew, but no one is shortchanged either, as each performer and their character get several standout moments in the spotlight. It’s apparent that Pegg and Wright wrote The World’s End with their ensemble in mind – instead of keeping the focus entirely on Gary (and his writer, producer, star) – resulting in a smart mix of reactions to the world-ending crisis at hand.
For all the mystery surrounding the alien invasion plot line (which is mostly spoiled in the trailers), the extraterrestrial threat isn’t particularly engaging or fully-realized. It’s an adequate backdrop, allowing Gary and his friends to explore their past and reevaluate their kinship, but viewers hoping for explosive CGI spectacle or thought-provoking sci-fi ideas will likely be underwhelmed by the explanation (and onscreen encounters) pertaining to Newton Haven’s alien infestation. Most of the action and sci-fi set pieces in The World’s End take place in small confined areas with budgeted visuals – which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the other Cornetto films – but will, ultimately, limit the film’s appeal to non-returning fans.
The World’s End is another worthwhile team-up from Pegg and Wright as well as a welcome addition to their cult-favorite trilogy. That said, while the movie is a solid dramedy offering, it can be a bit robotic at times – not as funny or fresh as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. In place of over-the-top gags, the writers have pumped in a bit more depth – delivering a well-rounded film experience that could slightly disappoint some longtime Cornetto enthusiasts hoping for a bigger and zanier capstone to the series – while surprising other viewers with one of the pair’s better character stories. If The World’s End is, in fact, the end of their ice-cream inspired trilogy, Pegg and Wright have reason to be proud of the final installment – even if the assembled parts result in some contentious choices that could turn a few passionate fans into less enthusiastic Cornetto automatons.
If you’re still on the fence about The World’s End, check out the trailer below:
The World’s End runs 109 minutes and is Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references. Now playing in theaters.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our World’s End Spoilers Discussion. Want to know how the movie ties-in to the Cornetto trilogy? Read our post: The World’s End: Cornetto Trilogy Tie-Ins, References, & Cameos.
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