I feel as though I’m not fully prepared to write a proper review of The World’s End. The previous entries in Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) are so dense with subtle setups and clever payoffs that the experience of watching one of them isn’t really complete until you’ve seen it a second time–possibly even a third or fourth. Recurring images and lines of dialogue enrich every subsequent viewing, while the visual motifs that bridge the three films (from the rapid pace of the editing to the iconic fence-hopping gag) reward longtime fans.
Of course, The World’s End is more than a mere regurgitation of familiar jokes and situations; it builds upon the foundation of what came before. An integral part of that winning formula has always been the chemistry between stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and this time around, the two actors/bros-for-life discover the series’ most emotionally complex, challenging characters by swapping their usual archetypes. Pegg’s Gary King is his least sympathetic role thus far, a slacker, Hell-raiser, and all-around loser desperate to recapture the (illusory) glory of his youth, regardless of the cost to himself and those around him. Frost’s Andrew Knightley, the sober, well-adjusted straight man, once considered Gary his closest friend, but has come to resent his lack of maturity and responsibility. When the members of their high school quintet reconvene after twenty-something years to attempt their hometown’s legendary pub crawl, only to discover that all of their old acquaintances have been replaced by robotic doppelgängers, Gary and Andy find their tumultuous relationship rekindled and retested over the course of one wild night as they drunkenly fight to survive–and, possibly, prevent a full-scale extraterrestrial invasion.
This careful attention to characterization ensures that the humor is never forced, instead arising organically from the legitimately dramatic conflict. I eagerly look forward to revisiting The World’s End and unearthing its hidden nuances–just as I sincerely hope that Pegg, Frost, and Edgar Wright will someday revisit their Cornetto Universe and transform it into something more than a loose trilogy (indeed, the closing moments of this “finale” practically demand to be expanded upon).
[Originally written August 25, 2013.]