Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Comedy/Action/Sci-Fi, Rated: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2013
Today we’re privileged to have a special guest reviewer join me and Greg in our review of The World’s End.
Welcome to Matt Langdon, founder of the Hero Construction Company and organizer of The Hero Round Table Conference, to be held in Flint, Michigan. This is the first interdisciplinary conference on heroism ever held. Welcome, Matt!
We are introduced to Gary King (Simon Pegg), a guy who was cool when he was in high school in the 80’s. He’s bestest buds with four other guys: Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan), and Oliver (Martin Freeman). They attempted the Golden Mile pub crawl as young men. It’s an attempt to drink a beer at each of 12 taverns in their hometown of Newton Haven. But as kids they couldn’t complete it. Now, Gary’s facing 40 and wants to reclaim his former glory. He gathers his old friends together to attempt the Golden Mile one more time.
A lot of care went into the setup of Gary and his friends. Gary King was the king of the town, as he often mentions during the movie, and he has a band of followers with surnames that reinforce that – Knightley, Prince, Page, and Chamberlain. The movie spends quite some time establishing the current lives of the five musketeers before launching them onto the legendary pub crawl.
The guys begin their pub crawl but find it impossible to re-live the old magic of their high school days. Nothing is going right. People don’t recognize them. Andy doesn’t drink. Samantha (Rosamund Pike), his old flame, wants nothing to do with him. Then something completely unexpected jolts the old gang into a new and dangerous reality that serves as a catalyst for their hero journeys. Frustrated at how bad the pub crawl is going, Gary picks a fight with a young man in a pub restroom, and to his shock the young man’s head is severed and blue ink spurts out. It turns out that Newton Haven is infested with robot aliens from outer space.
And not just aliens, but they are carbon copies of most of the occupants of Newton Haven. And so begins our journey into what is a gleeful homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and films of that ilk.
As the third movie of the Cornetto Trilogy, we knew to expect an homage with humour, heart, and a clear love for the genre. We got it. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright first made Shaun of the Dead, a zombie comedy, then followed it up with a buddy cop flick, Hot Fuzz. Their fans have been waiting for the third installment for some time. The trilogy gets its name from the subtle appearance of a Cornetto (a British ice cream) in each film.
I was caught completely by surprise by the blue-inked aliens. The film was muddling along and I was trying to figure out if anything could happen that would salvage the story. And it did. The World’s End turns out to be quite an entertaining jaunt. We haven’t seen this much silliness since the film ‘This is the End’, which was another farcical interpretation of the human race’s demise. The World’s End features clever, witty dialogue and some outstanding performances by a seasoned ensemble cast.
I agree, Scott. I was getting a bit antsy thinking this was going to be another Hangover 3 type movie. And I had seen the first two in the Cornetto Trilogy, so I was wondering when the big reveal would occur. For me it was a bit late in the film. But what came next more than made up for it. It was a race against time as Gary King continues to work his way from pub to pub despite being chased by characters from his past. And the interweaving of the love interest Sam was a clever wink to the side plots we often see in such horror films. I was pleasantly surprised.
I liked it a lot. I am a fan of British humour, so there was plenty for me to enjoy. I worried a bit about the length of time it took to get into the story, but looking back, I think it was justified. Certainly there is a hero’s journey in play here. Gary begins the story as an aging man looking for a change – in particular he thinks the answer lies in his youth. His companions are all mostly satisfied in their lives, but the lure of Gary and youthful adventures was enough to get them to accept his call to adventure. As a big drinker, it’s no coincidence that Gary’s journey has 12 steps – the 12 pubs of the Golden Mile.
I agree that we have a solid hero story here, but I’m not sure how seriously we can take the hero journey in a film in which the hero seems more interested in drinking the next beer than in saving the world. If we treat this film as a goofball comedy, then it works just fine. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy how well the absurdity unfolds, thanks to strong screenplay writing, fine acting, and deft directing.
This is a story of redemption for Gary. The appearance of the aliens is exactly what Gary needs to emerge as a hero, as he evolves from total loser to a man who is able to take the lead in resolving the conflict at the end. As the least successful member of the musketeers, he is primed for greater change in his life than any of his friends. We then witness the change, and as in any good hero story, it is satisfying.
I think this is a great example of a story being able to tell a hero’s journey without necessarily showing a lot of heroism. It’s hard to describe any heroic acts performed by the “king”, but his story of redemption is certainly complete. He changes and due to that the world has a new hero story to tell.
I agree with Scott, this was a really tight script. There wasn’t much that was just thrown in or wasted later. The jokes were quick and subtle as well as some that were just clubs over the head. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright really have the knack for concise and hilarious writing without becoming slapstick. You may have to see the film a couple times to really get all the in jokes.
Certainly, the naming of each of the pubs is one of those subtle efforts. Each one describes what happens in that visit. There is also a lot of foreshadowing with comments like the five musketeers one.
Good observations, Matt. And Greg, you’re spot-on with your praise of Pegg and Frost’s exceptional chemistry. I was delightfully surprised by The World’s End. I don’t recall ever experiencing such a dramatic shift in my assessment of a film in mid-stream. I was about to write it off as a soft, dull attempt by 5 people to re-create the past, a sort of lame version of The Big Chill. But then sparks began flying and I was a giggling mess in the theater. I truly enjoyed the bold outrageousness of The World’s End and am happy to award it 4 Reels out of 5. The hero story was a bit less impressive to me; I give it 3 Heroes out of 5.
I’m with you guys. A slow start and a rollicking finish. As we’ve seen in other comedies, the Hero’s Journey gets less attention in favor of gags and laughs. Still I enjoyed myself and I plan to see it again to catch some more of that slanted humor. I award 4 Reels for fun entertainment, but only 3 Heroes for a less solid hero treatment.
I certainly enjoyed it, but I knew I would. I do think they could have added some heroism to the hero’s journey, but I’m still happy to give it a 4 out of 5 Heroes as it was constructed very well. I have to give it 4 out of 5 Reels, just like you guys. It was the third best Cornetto movie for me, but that might change after a few viewings.
I certainly appreciate you guys letting me invade your space. It’s good to actually be here rather than living vicariously each week.
Matt, it was a great pleasure having you here. We appreciate your insights and we hope you can join us again in the future.