Movie Review: The World's End
By Edwin Davies
August 29, 2013
They say that school days are the best days of your life. It's a lovely thought, especially since it conjures up images of youthful exuberance untainted by the responsibilities of adulthood, but also an insidious one. After all, for school days to be the best days of your life, everything afterwards has to be all downhill. All the excitement, joy and promise has to fizzle out into nothing, leaving only fond memories of a future that never came to pass. Gary King (Simon Pegg) not only sees school as the peak of his life, but one night in particular. Back in June of 1990, he and his friends Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Pete (Eddie Marsan) embarked on an epic pub crawl through their home town of Newton Haven. They had intended to drink in all 12 drinking establishments along the fabled Golden Mile, but ultimately they failed. Regardless, it was the best night of Gary's life, and everything since then has been a sad, sorry decline.
It's while recounting this story to a support group that Gary strikes upon a moment of inspiration; he'll get his friends back together, head back to Newton Haven and try to conquer the Golden Mile. After some cajoling, needling and outright lying, he crams everyone into his battered old car and they head off. But it soon becomes apparent that you really can't go home again, especially when your home has been taken over by robots that spew blue light.
I've been a huge fan of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost since Spaced debuted on Channel 4 back in 1999. I think it's fair to say that their work has done more to shape my sense of humour and comedic sensibilities than anything else, with the exceptions of Monty Python and The Simpsons. I've followed their careers with great excitement, especially once they made the leap from television to cinema with Shaun of the Dead, and went into The World's End with very high hopes and more than a little trepidation,: the most stressful thing about being a fan is knowing there is always the chance that the people you admire will let you down. While The World's End is undeniably a much messier affair than any of their previous endeavours, it certainly didn't disappoint.
The brilliance of Wright and Pegg's work as writers is their ability to weave together the standard connective tissue of different genres - be they zombie, action or, in this instance, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers-style science fiction - with social commentary and genuine emotion. It's a heady brew that can leave an interesting aftertaste, and it also lends their films a density that can be a little hard to digest in a single sitting. This is particularly true of The World's End, which not only has copious amounts of back story that it needs to deal with right up front, establishing all the characters in a montage/voiceover sequence that is breathlessly delivered by Pegg and blisteringly assembled by Wright, but it has to layer its decades old friendships on top of a science fiction conceit which is not as immediately easy to grasp as "slacker vs. zombies" was for Shaun.