Friday, August 30, 2013

Love: The World's End


The moment I became really excited about seeing The World's End was when I got home late last Friday night and decided it was desperately important to re-watch Scott Pilgrim for the umpteenth time. As the film played, I ran the numbers and realized that Edgar Wright may have the strongest track record making films I really, really like (without caveats, qualifications, etc) of any director...ever. Granted, Wright only has a handful of films to his name (and the excellent Spaced), but all of them are rather wonderful.  Scott Pilgrim is admittedly my personal favorite for a host of reasons that come down to raw individual appeal, but each of the three flavors in the Cornetto trilogy are near-genius plays with the fluidity of genre and, of course, brilliant satires.  It's important to note, perhaps, that Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End are not parodies of the genres they replicate, they're not in the business of sending things up so much as they are of using time-tested genre archetypes to their advantage.  Each of Wright's Cornetto films has quite a bit to say about placid surfaces, workaday life, and 'good country people'.  The World's End may be the loudest speakerbox of them all, but an appraisal of message over material would be a shameful waste.  
Shaun of the Dead trafficked in zombies, Hot Fuzz in action tropes, and now The World's End introduces an invasion that's a bit like a combination of the two.  Though no human flesh is consumed, our heroes find themselves in a space where bodies may be snatched, things are not what they seem, and the line between corporate drone and, well, drone is blurred.  The action sparked as a result is deftly choreographed and there's little you could say about the plot that would spoil the visual punchlines.  The catalyst to all the action, though, is where The World's End covers the most ground.  Everything that comes to fruition - in the context of the film- is worst-case-scenario happenstance attached to a night that was never a good idea in the first place.  Five former friends reunite to attempt a pub crawl they failed at in their teenage years: the Golden Mile.  It's 20-years later, but the pubs remain: 12 pubs, 12 pints, various shots, one legendary evening. As they tend to do, however, things have changed. Relationships are strained, most haven't talked in years, and none of the members of the unmerry band seem to know why they've let their one-time leader, Gary King (Simon Pegg) talk them into this.
Gary is one of Pegg's least likable characters to date, and yet like him we do.  He's insufferable and selfish, a pathetic study of a man trapped forever in the live fast, die young mentality of his 18-year old former self.  The men he identifies as his closest friends all put him at a distance. Steven, Oliver, and Peter (Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, & Eddie Marsan) have all made passing attempts at settling into what they'd be quick to identify as respectable lives.  Gary's one time bestie Andy (Nick Frost), too, has given up alcohol and taken to holding a well-deserved grudge against his former mate.  When Gary appears in each of their lives, he does so as a sort of specter.  He's an apparition of their earlier irresponsibility dressed, naturally, in the very same Sisters of Mercy fan-gear he'd donned in his prime.  Gary is an addict, a liar, a shameless self-promoter and, in his quiet moments, a total sad sack.  Where many films would attempt to somehow redeem him or bend him towards compromise, though, Gary has a rather different role to play in The World's End.
Of course, as this is Edgar Wright and not, say, The Hangover, one might expect as much.  The characters are developed just exactly as much as each needs to be to fulfill their individual role in both the personal drama and the larger satire.  Gary is a fascinating comedic anti-hero whose belligerent foolhardiness is both punished and accepted - not rewarded - but accepted for the odd contrast that it provides, even as the film comments on what that might mean.  Gary's manic energy affects the other characters and triggers emotional responses that allow the genre concepts of the film to resonate beyond the success of each individual action set piece.  The result is something as smart and layered as it is funny.  And maybe I haven't said this enough, but it should go without saying: The World's End is very funny indeed.

2 comments:

  1. Good review! I haven't seen this yet, but I liked Hot Fuzz, so fairly excited to see this one!

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  2. This was an awesome movie! Like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead it made me laugh and think. I enjoyed every last bit of it. :3 I like your blog.

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