With The World’s End, Edgar Wright finally completes his Blood and Cornettoes trilogy. This was a trilogy that simultaneously examined the lives of aging Gen Xers realizing that their slacker mentality was becoming pathetically outdated and paid homage to the same b-movies those slackers would have been viewing.
I can’t imagine Wright doing something like this again. The World’s End has a level of finality to it, and not just in the title. The theme of the work is about the need to move on and not depend on the tricks that everyone takes for granted. Wright’s approach in this film is not particularly fresh, but then, the film actually has the courage to admit it.
Pegg seems to be the one who is relishing in the themes of the work the most. His Gary King, a man who is forever stuck in high school and comes up with the idea of pub crawl to end all pub crawls in an attempt to relive his favorite day. The first act of the film actually plays as a mixture of a Mike Leigh drama and Trainspotting. It’s not until halfway into the movie that the Village of the Damned and Stepford Wives tributes begin. And the film actually would have worked well based on its first act alone. It’s funny and touching, more so than a lot of other mainstream comedies.
It’s also, despite the emphasis on drinking that would have Mel Gibson telling the lads they’re going a touch overboard, a surprising amount of maturity and depth to the proceedings. In Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the calamities that faced the characters were something that could have happened to anyone. The robots (known as blanks) that appear to replace characters in the film is a situation that seems tailored to fit the people in the film.
The robots seem to be as King wants to be – forever frozen in time, perfect, and immune to the problems of the world. There is even some moral dilemma in classifying the robots as villains. At least it will cause a debate amongst the aging Gen Xers that the film was made for. King is the hero of the film, but his refusal to grow up and his living in the past brings destruction and frustration to many others. The robots, living the same existence, seem to provide some level of happiness for everyone. What does King have that they don’t? And are the robots right to do what they do? Not bad questions to ask in a film that has characters ripping the heads off everyone they meet.
What’s also interesting is how Wright is growing comfortable with his collaborators and letting them explore. Previously, Nick Frost took the role of clownish man-child who needed the authoritative Simon Pegg to bring him into reality. This time, it’s reversed. Pegg and Frost also manage to convey a very real depth in their characters. Gary and Andy have a very strained relationship that actually seems real. Andy only agrees to go on the pub crawl after Gary repays him the 600 pounds he is owed for some unnamed accident. What that is is not revealed until much later, and when it is, it’s a moment that could be placed in any decent drama.
Neither Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz were that interested in their characters. Both films were great in their own way, but neither were particularly deep. The World’s End takes a lot more risks with its love letters to genre pictures. This time, Wright examines the themes that makes the best of those films so memorable.
Edgar Wright has gained a cult following through his films. They’ve been well received, but I don’t think that Wright has the recognition and respect he deserves. He is not just a Tarantino-esque pop culture freak. Wright is a director capable of surprising depth and understanding of his characters. The World’s End is his most mature piece and a fine farewell to the sort of films that have made him popular throughout the world. I remember scrambling to find theaters willing to show Shaun of the Dead. Now, The World’s End gets a major release. People seem to like what Wright has to say.