Friends, booze and a dawning apocalypse: what could go wrong? The answer: a lot, apparently, and The World's End does a great job of documenting it.
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost once again manage to join drama, action and a healthy dose of British humor in this final installment of a film trio that includes the fantastically successful Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Something about this one is different, though. The World's End, despite its ridiculous premise, draws on something real and solemn that any adult can relate to. Sure, it's a movie about a group of buddies re-connecting through a perilous adventure around their hometown's watering holes. Sure, there are robots and over-the-top fight scenes and Pegg rocking a painfully 90s getup that had me cringing through the duration of the screening.
There's more to it, though. It's a story about growing up or failing to grow up. It tells about the search for identity and the dangers of holding on too tightly to past events or relationships. For a moment, it even exposes the unfortunate effects of addiction. "It's the most personal of our three films together," Pegg notes. It's equal parts satire and real-life nostalgia.
Everything revolves around Pegg's character, Gary "The King" King-- or at least, that's what Gary would like to believe. Self-centered, stubborn and intentionally oblivious to everyone's problems (including his own), he is a product of a carefree childhood that he hasn't quite gotten around to moving past. He also has unfinished business hanging over his head: a twelve-pub crawl that he and his friends never managed to complete in high school. Gary becomes fixated with the marathon, gripped by the singular motivation to have that last pint at the twelfth and final pub, The World's End. He jumps a number of hoops and hurdles to get the old gang back together but, when their adventure finally begins, they discover that their quaint hometown of Newton Haven is a little different than they remember it.
There are robots involved in this, guys. Well, they're robots that aren't really robots (as the robots themselves are eager to remind you), but for the sake of our collective sanity, we're going to go ahead and say they're robots. Built with human shapes and plentiful in number, Gary and the group struggle to keep them at bay in a series of Shaun of the Dead-esque battles with some really exciting choreography and camera play. Some seconds were a little clumsy and forced but, hey, these actors aren't stuntmen, and the characters they portray aren't exactly specimens of peak physical perfection. This ragtag group, ranging from a lonely contractor to a meek car dealer, put up a hell of a fight, smashing heads in and dousing themselves in creamy, blue robot blood. Excellent.
The mystery behind the robots takes a while to unravel, but when it finally culminates in a stand-off between man and the ultimate "machine," Pegg and company do a wonderful job of showing just what humanity is made of. In this case, it's free will, beer and bullheadedness. The exchange was heartfelt but also completely absurd, and I loved it. What comes next, though, is a little questionable. The movie's ending is the only part I wasn't entirely sure I liked, because it felt a little rushed and out of place. I won't spoil it for you, but I will say this... Though some characters reach their expected conclusions, others don't, and it's those others that make me tilt my head. Gary, for example, faces some trying inner demons just before the final showdown in a poignant scene that had the entire audience holding its breath. I'm sure I'm not the only one who instantly thought of her best friend and wondered if he would go through such trials to help me. Afterward, though, Gary's fate is almost... Unsatisfying. It's as if it didn't have enough substance to follow up his development. This ending, coupled with a few stray scenes that could have easily been cut or altered to mesh better, were my only complaints.
Overall, The World's End is well worth a viewing. If you enjoyed Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz (and who am I kidding, of course you did), you'll definitely enjoy this. Thoughtful, silly and featuring a great cast with equally great writing, it's the perfect way to conclude a team-up that's provided laughs for nearly a decade.
When Marlene isn't fighting British robot-like creatures with blue spooge coming out of every orifice, she can be found at http://