The World’s End (2013) Review

The World’s End represents what happens when small-time creators get ideas beyond their reach. That sounds really harsh and Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright are a lot more than “small-time” but considering where they came from and the early success and quality they had, The World’s End isn’t quite the film I wanted it to be.

I love Pegg/Wright’s early work. I’m a huge fan of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead is as perfect a British comedy as you can get. It was small, clever and didn’t try too hard to be bigger than it was. It never felt like the pair were over-reaching and I liked how we saw a huge, national, if not global, event from the perspective of an average guy.

I wasn’t a fan of Hot Fuzz because it wasn’t close to as funny or as clever as Shaun of the Dead. Pegg and Wright had set a huge standard with their early work and were always going to struggle to hit that level. Unfortunately, they don’t quite reach it with The World’s End either, not that there aren’t some fantastic aspects to the movie.

Before the world starts ending, the movie is really good and very clever…

In fact, the first forty-five minutes, in which the characters are established and the situation for the pub crawl is developed is great. I would gladly have watched a smaller, more personal comedy about five guys “forced” to go back home and undertake this almost impossible pub crawl. The dialogue is brilliant, with fast paced jokes and conversation that seamlessly mixes the farcical with the underlying issues some of the characters have.

This makes even more sense when you consider the fantastic cast the movie has. Pegg plays the immature, brash and obnoxious Gary King, and does it very well. It feels completely against type but it helps distinguish this movie, and other roles he’s played, from the previous two in the “trilogy.” Add to him Nick Frost, who is fast becoming one of the more underrated British actors, in the role Pegg would usually fit, and the successful double act show off their acting talents. It’s then a who’s who of British acting stars, from the mega star in the making Martin Freeman to the constant quality of Paddy Considine. There are loads more besides but these stand-out and show that a much more personal, character comedy piece would have worked fantastically.

Especially considering how well the film is written. There are hints, foreshadowing and small clues left throughout the movie for events that are yet to come. If you are keen enough to look out for them, there is a whole added depth to the movie that is obvious enough to be noticed but subtle enough not to distract, a very difficult but rewarding balancing act to achieve.

…when the robots are introduced, the movie gets too silly and begins to lose its magic.

It’s just a shame that the need to include something bigger and sillier seems to spoil things. The moment that our bar crawlers realise there is a “robot-invasion” occurring, the movie begins to lose its identity. It is still very funny in places and the action sequences are brilliantly staged and executed but they jar with what we have already seen. Our heroes are instantly transformed into superhero-type characters with the abilities to fend off strong, agile robots. It doesn’t have the innocence or the naivety that we got from Shaun, throwing his old LP records at a fat zombie.

The movie is also clearly trying to be deeper and more serious than the rest of the movie will allow. If the film had just been an eye-opening, pub crawl for our characters, the serious revelations and bigger picture moments that occur towards the end of the film would have more impact. When these moments do occur, because its been such a silly, weird movie up to that point, they don’t feel right and the movie feels like more of a jumbled mess than it deserves to.

If the movie had just been about the five central characters and their lives, it would have been much better.

I know the prospect of five old friends, trying to relive past glorious by drinking in twelve pubs is harder to sell than them surviving a world-wide invasion but the movie should have been smaller. It shouldn’t have felt like these characters were saving the world, just trying to survive in it. I would have settled for a pub crawl during the end of the world if it could have been during natural disasters or a “Day After Tomorrow” type scenario.

Maybe I’m missing the point but it feels like the bigger and bolder Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright go, the more they lose the magic that made Shaun of the Dead so original and timeless. The characters and their small worlds were always the strength of the pairs early work and the sooner they return to those type of stories (hopefully with new Spaced episodes) the better.

Overall, there is loads to like about The World’s End but I feel like it should have been better. They have great actors, playing fantastic characters who are in a brilliantly written story, for at least the first half of the movie. When the big, game-changing robots enter the film, the movie begins to lose its way and subsequently its quality, becoming something much more jumbled, messy and confused.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

No where near Shaun of the Dead but there still a lot to like here.
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