‘The World’s End:’ Apocalypse Wow

Beer, old friends, beer, beer, robots filled with blue stuff, beer, the apocalypse, and beer. Clearly a recipe for fun, but The World’s End is more than just predictably amusing. It’s at once a classic Wright/Pegg witfest, one that’s chock full of heart and truth, and a new and improved take on the apocalypse, a subject that’s so widely tapped in film and television lately that people seem to be running out of things to say about it. But Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are like the Three Musketeers (written by Alexandre Dumas…) of the stylized action/comedy/friendship romp, and nobody does it better.

Wright and Pegg co-wrote The World’s End, the story of Gary King (Pegg), a middle aged punk who not only peaked in high school but has spent each year since then like a broken record, stuck on the discordant fact that he and his pals never completed the Golden Mile, a twelve stop pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. King’s other pals have grown up into suits and ties and bluetooths, but King has retained his signature Doc Martens and intolerable rebellious streak, and all he wants to do is finally make it to the World’s End pub.

Gary spends the first part of the movie wrangling the old gang. He appeals to each of his old friends, including Oliver (Martin Freeman), a real estate agent with a stick up his bum, Peter (Eddie Marsan), a nebbish little man who scarred by bullying, and Steven (Paddy Considine), fellow former band member and rival for at the very least, the tolerance of Oliver’s sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike). The last of the group and the hardest to convince is Andy (Nick Frost), who has a justified chip on his shoulder from a serious betrayal. But Gary is the King of talking in circles until he gets his way, and the five guys reunite for an epic night of heavy drinking at their old stomping grounds.

They hop from bar to bar, exploring their friendships and characters and beers, and it becomes clear that something isn’t quite right in Newton Haven. From the Famous Cock to the Two Headed Dog and the Mermaid, they discover that yes, Newton Haven is boring, but that’s because the town’s been taken over by alien robots full of blue ink. What ensues is action-filled and hilarious and poignant all at once. There are lovely cameos from Spaced vet Mark Heap and a dapper, bearded Pierce Brosnan. The fight scenes are great fun and also revelatory of the characters and their conflicts. Pegg brings a perfect frustrating charm to Gary King, one that masks a dark center; he’s a has-been who refuses to acknowledge that time has passed and he has nothing to show for it.

The World’s End clearly rounds out the Cornetto Trilogy, combining the genre-parody of Shaun of the Dead and the small-town-gone-haywire formula of Hot Fuzz, but Wright and Pegg are so secure in their style that they create such nuanced stories every single time. The subject matter of The World’s End, you know, the end of the world, is heavy stuff, and yes, it’s a comedy, but it deals with the subject in a very human way. That’s what’s always so consistent about Wright’s films; at the core of them are always friendships and the way people are and err. And The World’s End is all that and a bunch of robots.

Grade: A

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