With movie theaters currently shut down, why not do my top three favorite movies of all time? Number three is The World’s End, and again I have to admit to hesitation over another doom’s day movie with our current situation. Still, unlike Bird Box, The World’s End approaches the subject with humor, while also adding in some deeply emotional lessons that are great to keep in mind. I do not know when I will do the second movie in my top three. Maybe next week? At any rate, please enjoy one of the rare reviews where I have zero criticisms of the film.
Any discussion of The World’s End needs to start with Edgar Wright. I say this unabashedly: he is the best director around. He has a fast cutting style that allows the viewer to plow through extraneous, though contextually important, scenes. In the process, he can indulge in the good stuff, such as building relationships between characters that drive his films and help you understand what the heck is going on. He also drops in occasional call backs that are both noticeable yet subtle, and always humorous. Finally, while he typically directs films that might seem light hearted on the surface, without fail they have an emotional heart to them that leave you feeling good about life in general.
The World’s End accomplishes all these things brilliantly. It sets up the relationship between the five friends, led by Gary King (Simon Pegg), who the film focuses on, with a short montage of their last night of drunken escapades after they graduated high school as they attempt the Golden Mile pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. This opening bit basically serves as the introductory paragraph in an essay, giving you the topic, laying out the arguments, and proposing the idea that life would never be better than that night. That was how Gary felt about it anyway, and fast forward to twenty years later and he had apparently done nothing with his life save for a downward spiral of drinking and drugs. He had drifted from his friends (which happens fart too often in real life, does it not?), including his closest companion, Andy Knightley (Nick Frost). After a group therapy session where he related the events of that night, Gary decides to get his friends back together and head back to their former stomping grounds to give the Golden Mile one more try.
So far you might be thinking to yourself, “The World’s End sounds like your run-of-the-mill Judd Apatow-esque comedy.” Well, a few pubs into their crawl, our band of drinkers discover that their home has been almost entirely overrun by alien robots that mimic the people living in that town. Having had a few too many, they decide the best approach to their situation is to stay on the crawl and to try not to draw attention to themselves. At least this was Gary’s plan anyway, and his obsession with reliving his youth results in two of his friends being replaced with robots, nearly all of them getting killed, and the entire world being knocked back to the Stone Age.
Yes, the entire world. This is what makes The World’s End so great, and the team that is Wright, Pegg, and Frost: the word play. The World’s End is literally about the end of the world. The whole movie, though, is full of witty repartee. There is a great exchange when they are all in the car on the way to Newton Haven and Gary refers to them as the Five Musketeers. Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) attempts to correct Gary by reminding him that it is actually the Three Musketeers (and it ends up being that way too), a fictional tale written by Alexander Dumas. Gary retorts by saying that people are claiming the same thing about the Bible. Then Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) chimes in asking if the Bible is a fiction written Alexander Dumas. Gary ends the conversation by concluding that no, clearly the Bible was written by Jesus. While the Bible may not be taken seriously here, I love the interplay. Also notice the subtle reference to the era in which The Three Musketeers is set with the last names like King, Prince, and Knightley. I find this stuff to be hilarious.
The World’s End is not a movie for the kiddos. It kind of celebrates drinking, and drug use (to a small degree). Indeed, it suggests that the desire of humans to misbehave is the reason why the clearly more advanced aliens give up on humanity, taking their technology with them, and leaving humanity without any modern conveniences. Thankfully God does not have the same feelings towards us, and loves us all the same no matter how much we might want to party. The heart of the movie, though, is in the personal struggles of Gary. He cannot get past that one night, and he even attempted suicide at one point because he could not take life beyond that moment. It took the intervention of Andy to really save him, and the affection between the two is genuine. Of course, it also took the end of the world to truly turn things around for Gary.