Since the arrival of Spaced in 1999, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost’s creations have grown with us over the years, converting many to the escapades of lovable characters in fantastic scenarios with lashings of film references to stoke the hearts of hardened buffs. From Spaced, which followed a group of friends struggling with life in their twenties, to Shaun of the Dead (2004), a film about the pressures of turning thirty (and a zombie apocalypse) on to Hot Fuzz (2007): the numbing of vocational embodiment in the guise of an action film. Now with the arrival of The World’s End, the trio’s latest incarnations look back fondly on the years gone by in a heart-felt slice of suburban sci-fi. But this is not just a film about growing old. Like its predecessors, The World’s End is also a love letter to cinema and the fans that have followed them from their humble beginning.
Gary King (Pegg) is a washed out, might have been rock star, struggling with life and clinging to the glory days when he should be growing old gracefully. Overwhelmed with memories and battling drug and drink addictions, Gary seeks out his old school buddies to embark on a legendary pub crawl the clan tried to conquer in their youth. Naturally things go awry in the event of a small scale alien invasion, but that’s not going to stop Gary in his determination to have a great night out and finish the crawl he started twenty years earlier.
Unlike Men In Black, The Watch and former Pegg and Frost vehicle Paul, The World’s End is not simply a comedy sci-fi but works best as a straight sci-fi with comedic moments, the same way that Shaun Of The Dead did with the horror genre and Hot Fuzz action. Weaving genre attributes into a very human story featuring flawed but loveable characters that make both the fantastical elements more fantastic and the human moments heart-rendering. The greatest qualities derive from the dialogue, simple reactions and inventive direction rather than parodying the genre aesthetics in the manner of a pastiche. There are no talking, bad bowelled, CG alien globules or direct movie send ups, Donald Sutherland references aside. The style of sci-fi referenced is more reminiscent of 50s/ 60s b movies like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives and Village Of The Damned, than those featured in popular franchises like Star Trek/ Wars and the Alien films.
Pegg and Frost play against type as frenemies baring grudges while supporting turns from the jittery Eddie Marsan and restrained Paddy Considine stand out. Rosamund Pike also brings a welcome light hearted maturity to the proceedings while Martin Freeman does his usual bumbling nice guy well and there is the usual sharp and frenetic direction from Edgar Wright. The only problem is that the film takes a little too long to get going and, as this is the last entry, the resolve doesn’t feel as poignant as what comes before it. As with most mid-life crisis’, the reminiscing conjures sounds and images from the days of youth. Brit pop, here in the form of Suede, Pulp and Primal Scream, laces The World’s End soundtrack with a cool Britannia vibe that is so integrated it almost feels dated.
Despite a slow beginning and a not totally satisfying conclusion, The World’s End is a fantastic slice of comedy/ sci-fi that embraces/ references/ rips off elements from great, lesser known classics that fans of the genre, and film in general, will adore. While its rural settings bring Hot Fuzz to mind, the pub sequences echo those in Shaun Of The Dead, which makes The World’s End a perfect ending to a near perfect trilogy without necessarily being a perfect film. It is as thrilling a sci-fi as it is hilarious a comedy and poignant without being overly sentimental, offering just the right amount of love required for those whom have grown with Wright, Pegg and Frost over the years and share their mutual passion for the films that inspired them.
The World’s End is released on 19th July