Film review of ‘The World’s End’, the final installment in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’.
I often find that films inspire me in bizarre ways: Pirates of the Caribbean gives me a sudden leaning towards nauticalism and criminality; The Avengers makes me want to become a superhero, or at the very least a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. The World’s End had less of an aspirational effect on me: I came away from it simply with a serious desire to get pissed. As someone who should’ve been ID checked to even get into the film, this is perhaps not a cogent advertisement for it; but the fact that it is truly bloody brilliant certainly is.
When a sci-fi film still would’ve been good without the sci-fi, you know it’s a damn good film. With a dazzling cast playing a fantastic array of characters, the plot wouldn’t have even needed to be very good for the film to be enjoyable – although it certainly didn’t hurt that it was in fact excellent. The norm for alien invasion sci-fi films is for the supernatural aspect to be introduced very early on, and for us to meet the characters as they battle hoards of aliens. The World’s End takes a very different approach, seeming for the first half hour or so as though this might simply be a comedy about some old schoolmates reliving the pub crawl of their youth; and the brilliant thing is that it’s still good just as that …And then Simon Pegg starts wrestling with a teenaged robot with Lego limbs and ink for blood, and you realise that actually you didn’t misunderstand the description on the cinema’s website after all. The two genres seem to wrestle and intertwine throughout the course of the film, to effect of great (and utterly ludicrous) hilarity.
Pegg plays the tragic yet riotous Gary King, a boy who never grew up, suffering from a hell of a lot more than a midlife crisis. His character is actually very moving as we learn more about his past, and yet, despite discovering just how troubled and unhappy he is, he simply doesn’t allow us to feel more than fleetingly sorry for him, for, bizarrely, it is here that he is in his element. The adventure, the excitement, the drunken reversion to teenaged immaturity; this is what he has wasted his whole life dreaming of. Stephen Fry once said that British humour favours the loser as opposed to the hero, and I think that this is perfectly embodied here. From asserting that no one was ever quite sure how many Musketeers there historically were, to smashing his head against a pillar to prove his humanity, and quoting the lyric, ‘we wanna be free to do what we wanna do, and we wanna get loaded,’ from a 90s rock song whilst negotiating the future of the human race with a bunch of politically correct aliens, Gary King is the ultimate hilarious idiot. Yes, he’s a seriously unhappy man, a liar, and manipulative; but he’s also mental, ridiculous, insane, and just good fun. As his best mate from school, played by Nick Frost, poetically says: ‘Gary may be a cock. But he’s my cock!’
One of the most incredible (both literally and in the colloquial sense) aspects of the film is the way in which the pub crawl continues, with unheralded Blitz spirit, despite the pesky intrusion of alien-controlled robots – Gary isn’t about to let the invasion of Earth obstruct his alcoholic escapades. Through a mix of inebriated logic and ironic coincidences, the men continue along the so-called ‘Golden Mile,’ Gary downing pints amidst constant threat of robot attacks, actual robot attacks, and witnessing his friend stave off a robot attack whilst he – first things first – finishes his lager.
This film seems to do everything at once. It is utterly outrageous. It is just scary enough to make everything funnier, keeping you in a state of heightened nervous tension and disbelieving laughter. It effectively combines both teenhood nostalgia and an alien invasion. It presents tap water as a heroic choice of in-pub beverage. It is, in parts (few parts, but still, they’re there) utterly heartbreaking. And it made a whole cinema of cynical Brits laugh and clap at a one-liner.
I couldn’t help thinking; watching a truly plastered middle-aged man in a black trench coat yell “Get back in your rocket and fuck off back you Legoland, you cunts!” at a hyper intelligent alien invasion force; Doctor Who could do with more of this.
[film poster from www.edgarwrighthere.com]