The final instalment of the cult-popular Cornetto Trilogy—starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, directed by Edgar Wright, and produced by Nira Park—is a sci-fi invasion story aptly named The World’s End. Gary King (Pegg) ropes in his old school friends Andy (Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) for an epic, twelve-stop pub-crawl in their hometown only to make the uncanny discovery that things haven’t really changed in Newton Haven since the men’s youth. Old flames, like pretty Sam (Rosamund Pike), and other familiar faces trigger happy and unhappy memories for the five friends, but a far more insidious, alien influence soon makes itself known.
Settling easily back into the familiar comedic and dramatic rhythms with Pegg, Frost, and Wright since Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End is able to lean into themes of friendship, youth, and adulthood immediately and organically while still being full of inside jokes and Easter eggs. Gary is an emotionally stunted alcoholic, clinging pathetically to his glory days as a teen while his friends have grown up and moved on, yet he retains a certain glamour and reckless energy that his friends are attracted to, despite his destructive tendencies. When confronted by the end, both of his life and of the world, Gary owns up to his failures and finally rejects the rosy illusion of his childhood for the harsher realities around him now and thus reaches new maturity (although some bad habits still die hard).
Unfortunately, the sci-fi, alien/robots elements don’t quite mesh well with the emotional drama brewing among the friends during their pub-crawl. I would have been perfectly content to watch these talented and affable actors drinking (or simply drunk-acting) their way through a cobble-stoned hamlet, chatting about their shared past, and encountering their old teachers (such as the one played by Pierce Brosnan) and weed dealers (Michael Smiley). The homogenizing power of the aliens makes for a different kind of metaphor about the evils of branding and globalization and how it affects a small town. However, one or two brawl sequences lead to some fun, Jackie Chan-inspired fight choreography, and it is a treat to hear Bill Nighy voice the main alien in charge of the invasion at the end of the film. As always, Wright drags out the ending of his movies with an epilogue, but since it is the end of a nearly decade-long journey with the Cornetto Trilogy, it doesn’t seem nearly as egregious here.
Ratings (out of 5):
Overall Average: 3.3