Good Food, Fine Ales, Total Annihilation
Alright, try not to beat me to death here but I’ve got a confession to make. While I enjoyed Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, I don’t rate them as highly as others. Most of the people I know/meet will say to me “They’re like the best films ever made” to which I’m always biting my tongue thinking, “Steady on.” The World’s End, on the other hand, is just sorely disappointing. I’m sure there will be plenty of boot-licking sycophants who will contest this but I don’t think I’m alone in my assessment; I attended a fairly packed screening of at least a few hundred and the laughs were few and far between.
The story opens with a recounting of ‘the perfect day’ twenty years ago, upon which a group of five friends set out to complete an epic pub crawl of twelve pubs, in the small British town of Newton Haven. The tale is recalled by Gary King [Pegg], a narcissistic, immature alcoholic with a selective memory who wants to reunite the group, in an attempt to finish what they failed to do in their youth. The other four friends are Peter [Marsan], the shy kid with the rich parents, Oliver [Freeman], a successful estate agent with a head for business from an early age, Steven [Considine], the would-be leader of the group but takes a backseat to Gary and Andrew [Frost], Gary’s best friend before a falling out after a car accident. Throw in the addition of Oliver’s sister Sam [Pike], who both Gary and Steven have a thing for and you have the makings of a simple drama. However, being an Edgar Wright film, things in Newton Haven feel strangely off and after the fourth or fifth pub it becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. In addition to working through their issues, the group must continue the crawl to avoid suspicion, escape the town if possible and/or defeat a host of robotic invaders.
**I tried to keep this spoiler free but I can’t. Consider yourself warned**
A continuing theme that runs through each instalment of the Blood And Ice Cream Trilogy is the notion of growing up or moving on. In Shaun Of The Dead it was about shirking adult responsibilities and in Hot Fuzz, it was about realising that there is more to life than ambitious ladder-climbing. The World’s End attempts this in a very literal sense by creating a mentally unhinged central character who has not grown up or moved on in twenty years, rejecting therapy and desperately trying to reclaim the supposed glory days of his youth. In doing this, Wright has focused on a more adult premise but the resolve is still the same old deferment. So many social problems, issues and complications are generated but almost none of them are resolved, they simply get side-tracked by the presence of blue-blooded robotic invaders. Another frustration is that the humour is no longer reliant on wit and severely British mannerisms but slapstick and swearing. That’s not to say there aren’t some genuinely funny moments but they don’t build enough or grow, so you’re almost surprised when something funny actually happens. The pacing works well enough but the story literally goes nowhere, to the degree that the death of main characters isn’t really felt by the audience. Even when it is revealed that the original had been mulched down to compost to fuel the copy, you don’t really care. And after the story is told and the enemy vanquished, we’re treated to a horrifically messy ending; a sort of ham-fisted statement about technology and simpler times, or maybe it was about societal bonding, the nature of humanity and friendship. I dunno. But I’ll expand on that later. The visual effects are rather impressive but after Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, I’d be surprised if they weren’t. Same goes for the cinematography, lighting, sets, props and most other technical aspects. But the direction (of the fights especially) is very samey and Wright’s signature traits are severely subdued or, at times, not present. I’m not saying he should be whip-panning everywhere and quick cutting like a drug segment in Requiem For A Dream but a little personality to the execution would have been nice.
Performance-wise, The World’s End is pretty strong. The role reversal between Pegg and Frost’s characters was very pleasing a real testament to their abilities. Sure, Gary King may not be the most likeable or identifiable character but he is different from Pegg’s other roles. Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan are tremendous actors but don’t really get enough leg room to really achieve much of anything with their roles. And then there’s Martin Freeman, who has been cast to play Martin Freeman with a different name. Again, highly unfortunate. The introduction of Rosamund Pike doesn’t help, with her character embodying the same traits as every other two dimensional female character in Wright’s films (I’m choosing to exclude Scott Pilgrim from that statement), continually saying “Oh crumbs” like she’s in bloody Danger Mouse. But one could argue that Wright’s films aren’t about the characters or the performances, or even the story but the quotability, the references and the cameos. Sure, there’s another ex-James Bond and several cast members from Spaced show up but none of them add anything to the plot. As a filmmaker and critic, I really love the hidden layering in Wright’s movies; his use of background items, jokes and references make his films a re-viewing pleasure. Creating a multi-layered experience is all well and good but when you’re relying on people realising that the main group’s surnames (King, Page, Chamberlain, Prince, Knightly) and several of the lines are linked to Arthurian legend and that it’s all cleverly connected, you’re taking a massive gamble; especially as the surface layer is so bland.
But it’s not all bad, Steven Price’s score is really impressive at times but unlike his previous composition for Attack The Block, it’s not as memorable or well utilised. In fact, Attack The Block is a good comparison of an extremely well executed, infinitely superior alien invasion film which doesn’t get bogged down in forced messages and genre clashing. So my recommendation would be to watch that instead.
19th July 2013
The Scene To Look Out For:
**I’m going to effectively describe the end of the film.. so obviously there will be spoilers**
The only time the audience really started chuckling was during Gary’s drunken final confrontation with the disembodied voice of the alien network. Having reached the twelfth pub, Gary is considerably ratted and all bar Andrew (and later Steven) are presumably dead. The giant glowing lights, voiced by Bill Nighy explain that Earth (and by extension, humanity) is the most uncivilised in the universe and is a danger to themselves and everyone else. Effectively, it’s the The Day The Earth Stood Still argument. But rather than simply issuing a warning, the invaders believe that a melding of the species is in order to offset chaos. Being drunk, unreasonable and devoid of ignominy, Gary hurls insults and abuse at the voice, as though a stroppy child arguing with a parent. Except the child wins, the force gives up and they escape.. only to roam the vast wasteland of a technology ridden Earth. It’s baffling. Funny delivery but a really stupid, stupid close to a movie. As if the genuine message is “fuck it, have a good time, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Although this is more a scene than a highlighted individual, it really adds something to the character, so I’ve put it here. Just before the group become aware of the robotic invaders, Peter speaks with his high school bully, Hawkins (played by Darren Boyd), who doesn’t recognise the man he tyrannised daily for years. This leads to a very personal and heartfelt speech from Eddie Marsan detailing “It’s not that he beat me up every day, it’s not that he made my life a living hell, it’s the fact he didn’t know me. He looked right through me.” Then the scene is undercut by a selfish, comedic outburst from Gary. Every time Marsan turns up in a film, whether he’s playing a horribly vicious individual (Tyrannosaur) or a bumbling detective (Sherlock Holmes), or an introverted criminal (Ray Donovan), he really sells the role he’s in. The World’s End is no different but the character is never really explored further than the obvious arc. Pity really.
“Why don’t you get back in your rocket and fuck off back to Legoland, you cunt!”
In A Few Words:
“The only word that keeps echoing in my mind is ‘disappointing’. Everything about this film is slathered in disappointment and failed potential, which is a damn shame”