The World’s End (2013)
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenwriters: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley
2013’s The World’s End has been cited by some fans as the most disappointing entry in the Cornetto Trilogy despite a positive reception from critics who welcomed it just as favourably as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Coming 6 years after the trilogy’s middle entry, The World’s End acts as the culmination of the miniature series of Pegg, Frost and Wright collaborations, offering yet more reoccurring gags and winks for fans, with plenty for new new viewers to digest. It recounts a quintet of school friends, led by Simon Pegg’s Gary King, as they attempt to finish a pub crawl known as The Golden Mile they had attempted some twenty-plus years prior, encountering some otherworldly obstacles en-route.
One of the film’s major strengths is the way in which it flips the leading roles of the two previous films on their head. On this occasion Nick Frost plays the uptight, professional and reluctant straight-man to Pegg’s man-child, the latter firmly longing for his adolescent years. This change in roles does little to nullify the chemistry of the two leads who, by this point, are so in tune that they hit every single mark and establish a relateable leading duo even after 6 years apart. Martin Freeman as Oliver is also cast against type as a stone faced estate agent, a far cry from his roles as Bilbo in The Hobbit and Tim in ‘The Office’. The other two members of the central quintet are famed British talent Paddy Considine (who of course featured in Hot Fuzz) and Cornetto newcomer Eddie Marsan (Filth).
As with the two previous entries in the Cornetto Trilogy, there is an assortment of guest stars including standouts Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike and David Bradley, with a further selection of familiar faces strewn across the 12 pubs visited, including (as always) some of the cast of Wright and Pegg’s cult TV sitcom ‘Spaced’.
The 6 year gap between the films, which saw Pegg and Wright establish themselves as some of Hollywood’s go-to filmmakers on the likes of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible (Pegg), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright), was one of the major drawbacks for The World’s End at launch as it led expectations to be at a high level amongst fans. It is difficult to note whether the gap (in terms of time and expectation) affected the film’s box office haul, which was just over half of what Hot Fuzz made, but in terms of audience reception there must be some consideration made towards the high levels of expectation the duo brought with them into this film.
As was the case with the previous Cornetto movies, The World’s End once again treated us to some inventive action sequences, including the trademarked pub fight. The standout here was perhaps the brawl in the pub toilet, which proved to be imaginative and enthralling, and nicely contrasted the style of action seen in Hot Fuzz.
Thematically, The World’s End has plenty to say and is without question the most sobering of the Cornetto films. It offers commentary on the “Starbucking” of UK towns as many of Newton Haven’s pubs have been bought out by chains and have lost their unique qualities, with a recurring comment being whether it is our quintet or their childhood town that has changed the most. Another of the main themes is letting go of the past and any disappointment one might feel about how life has turned out, Gary commenting that his life was never as good as the night they first attempted the Golden Mile. The film also offers insight into life in a small town and the nature of a lads’ night out. Meanwhile, the surprising addition of an alien invasion thread proves to be satisfying and gives the premise a welcome breath of fresh air.
A great soundtrack is one of the hallmarks of the whole trilogy and music plays arguably its most prominent role in its finale. A particular emphasis is placed on 90s Britpop which reflects the group’s at-the-time burgeoning adulthood with tracks from the likes of The Stone Roses, Pulp and The Happy Mondays. In keeping with the pub crawl theme, several of the tracks including The Doors’ “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” and The Housemartins’ “Happy Hour” are nods to the film’s alcohol-fueled plot-line.
The World’s End does, overall, round the trilogy off in fine fashion. It is more of a slow burner than its two predecessors, building suspense and a sense that something is not quite right with the residents of Newton Haven, the audience and characters alike being teased for longer than before, and the slow build isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the contrasts to the previous entries tonally and character- wise bring added depth and ensure the film never feels formulaic or repetitive. In The World’s End, we are offered more of a varied glimpse at the acting chops of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as well as some strong support from the core cast. Perhaps the film will be viewed in a more positive light in the years to come and step out of the shadow of its two siblings to take on a life of its own, but for now it remains an underappreciated entry into the canon of the Cornetto films and Edgar Wright’s wider filmography.