It’s with a heavy heart I write this. I watched Edgar Wright’s concluding chapter in the “Cornetto Trilogy” of revisionist comedy genre films THE WORLD’S END yesterday afternoon, and I’m sorry to report that mint is the least successful filmic frozen ice cream flavour.
I don’t entirely blame the artists responsible; the co-screenwriters Wright and Simon Pegg’s sci-fi pub crawl has a lot going for it. Pegg is almost unrecognisable for the first time in his film career as the substance-addled man-child Gary King, and Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan have rarely been better (Marsan, in particular surprises with his comic timing). There’s also memorable cameos from most of the previous Spaced/Shaun/Fuzz collaborators, albeit with the glaring absence of SPACED co-creator Jessica Hynes, and some fluid action direction from Wright. It’s not un-funny either with some great sight gags, believable inebriated acting and an amusing recurring Three Musketeers routine.
Other than the plot, which resembles a mid-quality DOCTOR WHO story excruciatingly stretched out more than it does INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, my main problem is that after the perfection that was SHAUN OF THE DEAD and the delirious fun that was HOT FUZZ, I expected so much more from this talented team. The first two Cornetto films affectionately aped beloved horror and action movie, and at times surpassed the films being referenced. They also never lost sight of the human element – the characters we were following (especially those played by Pegg and Frost) were always so vivid and well-defined, their relationships often being a more appealing and compelling part of the film than the pitch-perfect spoofery. The message behind The World’s End is largely lost beneath fountains of blue goo, and I never really got a sense of what Wright and Pegg were trying to say beyond “you need to grow up someday”, and never got under the skin of Pegg’s Gary or Frost’s Andrew.
Again, I profess that The World’s End isn’t a bad film, it’s a moderately funny sci-fi, and for a UK production, it’s a visually impressive one. It’s also still very British in its heart and soul, and I’m sure that’s where it will be received most warmly. But, tragically, it has to compete with what came before, and it pales in comparison with Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Wright and Pegg might have grown up, they might have artistically matured (or restrained themselves in Wright’s case), but I’m already missing their younger selves – unapologetically childish film-obsessives with ambition and energy and boundless creativity.
Still, as Ed would say, “It’s not the end of the world!” SSP