Our modern culture has become so accustomed to franchises that the conversations leading up to that penultimate film spark controversies on whether the story’s end will live up the first couple of installments. For the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, the last film, The World’s End, refuses to be chained to its predecessors, even if it is set within another world. Where the previous films dealt with the tribulations of over-told zombie and action films, this final film explores the most treacherous of science fiction antagonists, robots and aliens.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) reveals to his support group an aborted attempt to compete the Golden Mile pub crawl with his mates nearly twenty years earlier. When Gary is confronted about the disappointment of never reaching The World’s End—the last pub on the crawl, he becomes enamored with reliving that night with his friends. He narrowly persuades his reluctant and professional friends to return to Newton Haven to make another attempt at the Golden Mile. Their return is not as simple as they had thought, Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) has been sober 18 years, and the others are not as gung-ho about sobriety as Gary would have liked. Not only have many of the pubs closed or been renovated to look alike, the Newton Haven residents seem forgetful of Gary’s obnoxious behavior some twenty years ago, which piques Gary’s curiosity.
Along with Gary and Andy are Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Steven (Paddy Condisdine), to complete the quintet of pub crawlers. Except for Gary, who continues to lead a life on the margins of society with drinking and drug abuse, the other four have become responsible men with families and jobs to uphold. They join Gary on the Golden Mile without enthusiasm, and do so primarily to comfort Gary after learning of his mother’s death.
The previous two films in the Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, satirized and parodied zombie and action films with love and respect, while placing pressure for future films to be more original. In The World’s End, the film subverts the themes and motifs to top off the trilogy while taking aim at another narrative style ripe for parody: science fiction.
The previous films featured Pegg and Frost, with Pegg being the more grounded, by-the books everyman, and with Frost providing devil-may-care jester duties. The trilogy never intended to maintain any form of continuity outside a few sight gags such as the jumping of fences and the main characters’ penchant for Cornetto ice cream cones. The main performers have also flipped roles, with Pegg assuming much more obnoxious character than Cornetto fans are accustomed to, and Frost taking on a more professional demeanor.
While all of the fun and games are indeed entertaining, the film is conveying the sanitization of British pubs from franchise mergers and acquisitions and the complacency of consumers as they reach adulthood, professional occupations, and become family-focused. When the group enters the first pub, they immediately notice that it has been renovated beyond recognition, and that the second pub has also been renovated to match the floor plan of the first. Nearly all the residents of the town have also been become forgetful of the town’s past, particularly the night in which the gang first attempted the Golden Mile.
Director Edgar Wright, along with Pegg, has crafted a film that relives the past for its characters but refuses to fall into the trap of the previous two films to its audience. The World’s End resists repeating the Cornetto films, and it manages to tell a story that is much better crafted that is predecessors. The film offers an intelligent form of self-parody, propelling itself to a hyper-modern concept that is charmingly funny. Even the effects are sublime; particularly an animated metal sculpture and robot-aliens emitting a piercing blue light as they attempt to abduct the protagonists.
When all is said and done, what was meant to be a meager pub crawl of a group of friends who have reunited after twenty years apart, becomes a wild escapade in defending the world’s autonomy. Not only has The World’s End supplanted what was expected from its precursors, it rises above in terms of humor and in storytelling. It is an ode to Douglas Adams’ absurdist existentialism through science fiction, but captures the inanity of a drunk’s circular logic better than anything seen in cinema before.