Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Film Review: The World's End

Success can be a rod for your back.  Imagine making an affectionate genre tribute with some old mates that not only becomes a cult hit, but snowballs into an iconic moment in British cinema.
In 2004 the creative trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did exactly that with the rom-zom-com Sean of the Dead and in doing so created a yardstick by which all their future creative endeavours will be measured.
Their 2007 follow up Hot Fuzz was largely enjoyed but seemed less critically lauded for no reason other than not conforming to audience expectations established by Sean of the Dead.  Skewering the action genre in the same way that 'Sean' lampooned horror Hot Fuzz remains a massively enjoyable affair that actually improves with repeat viewings.
I'd have been happy enough with this Wright/Pegg/Frost diptych, nonetheless for years rumours abound of a potential sequel to these two blood and ice cream steeped cinematic duo. 

Then, for a long time, nothing happened.

This year, seemingly out of nowhere the trinity of Wright, Pegg and Frost returned with a stellar cast and a promised human interest story with a sci fi twist.

Pegg's lead character Gary King is a very different protagonist to the hapless Sean or the painfully straight laced Nicholas Angel and it occurred to me that Pegg gets far fewer accolades for his acting talent than he deserves.  A funnyman he may be but Pegg is first and foremost an actor, and a consummate one at that, crafting a wide range of discrete, engaging and worthy characters.  In King Pegg gets the opportunity to play a character who manages to walk the line between loveable and loathesome.  A former Sisters of Mercy loving, trenchcoat sporting teen heart throb, mans man and serial pisshead, King lives perpetually in the glory days of his teen years, even as he knocks on the door of the big 4-0.  Of course his contemporaries and former drinking buddies have all gone off and grown up as is the wont of late thirtysomethings.
In a last ditch attempt to reconnect with his golden years, dragging his reluctant old crew along with him, King attempts to conquer the pub crawl from days of yore that defeated them as younger men.

As the troupe journey from one amusingly named pub to the other, quaffing pints of the amber nectar as they go, we get to see some flashes of the friendship that the group once shared as well as a lot of the jarring differences that drove them apart.  It's also a nice touch that the character filled pubs they remember from their youth have all been converted into homogenous Wetherspoons style family friendly affairs.

However, after a very strange toilet encounter (clearly referencing a particular episode of the sublime sitcom Spaced) the group quickly find out that something is awry in the little Hertfordshire town and an extra terrestrial intelligence clearly has plans for its inhabitants.

The World's End is something of a curiosity in that its biggest strength is also its biggest weakness.  Sorry to roll out the example of the film's big brother but the beauty of Sean of the Dead is that the zombies were used to facilitate beautiful moments of interaction between the characters be they comedic, romantic or sentimental in nature.
The science fiction influenced antagonists of TWE disrupt the interactions between the characters rather than enhancing it, and that results in something of a problem.

When the film's Asminovian antagonists emerge the film makes a massive tonal shift that, while not necessarily jarring is a less than welcome departure from the character moments I'd previously been enjoying.  It's a bit like visiting old friends then finding out that two of them have to dash off early to catch a train.

Nonetheless TWE is a worthy entry into the 'cornetto trilogy' featuring the witty dialogue, sentimental character moments and genre homages that one would expect from a film with this pedigree, as well as a soundtrack that should evoke find memories from anyone who grew up in the early 90s.

It may not be able to escape from its predecessor's groaning, emaciated shadow but The World's End is a witty, charming and very enjoyable film that I imagine will improve with subsequent viewings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie the first day it came out and thought it was the best of the three.