I was overcome by both anticipation and trepidation when I heard Wright and Pegg had finally received the green light to make The World’s End, the wrap-up to their epic genre-bending trilogy of instant cult classics they had spoken about in interviews practically since Hot Fuzz first hit theater screens here in the States. The final film in a trilogy typically carries the greatest expectations but tends to deliver the biggest disappointments, as the knives-out furor over last year’s The Dark Knight Rises will attest. But the Three Flavours Cornetto was always meant to be different; each movie featured a great deal of elaborately layered humor and a fearless dedication to telling a somewhat tired story in a totally unique and entertaining manner that demanded repeat viewings and made fans out of anyone who watched them. From my first viewing of Shaun of the Dead through Hot Fuzz and my discovery of their late-90s BBC comedy series Spaced to even the non-Pegg-starring Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I knew Wright and Pegg were a team of bonafide cinematic geniuses who were both students and masters of the fine art of the pop culture education. I trusted them. Unlike the character of Gary tends to do for his friends, these guys never let me down.
The World's End
The World’s End brings Wright and Pegg’s trilogy full circle by returning to many of the same ideas and themes they first explored in Shaun, such as the concept of adults arrested in adolescence finally blossoming into maturity by battling a voracious evil that has invaded their small town. As Gary King, Pegg is clearly playing the least charming and most abrasive of all of the characters he has played in his collaborations with Wright. Gary is a hard man to like, the former big man and leader among his friends who peaked before he really started to live his life. He’s insensitive, rude, deceitful, hedonistic, self-destructive, and an unbearable blowhard you just can’t help but like as if he were a beloved sibling gone hopelessly rotten from years of total devotion to having a good time all the time. Many of us are all too familiar with that type. It’s the twinkle in Pegg’s eye and the delightful chipper tone in his voice that keeps the character from becoming a trial to just have on screen. His all-black wardrobe, complete with faded Sisters of Mercy T-shirt (and accompanying chest tattoo), suggests the oldest and least respected wannabe Goth kid in the known universe. But Pegg wears it all with honor and brings Gary’s introspective character arc to full fruition by the end. It’s a wonderful performance with a few moments of touching sweetness and a metric ton of quotable profane dialogue.
For a change, Nick Frost gets to play a character who is not only a mature and intelligent adult who knows how to handle himself in any situation, but also one who looks on Pegg’s character with near-complete disdain. If Gary is the wayward sibling who is constantly making life miserable for those around him, then Andy is the responsible older brother who long ago grew weary of putting up with the unnecessary crap and decided to wash his hands of the whole deal and get on with his life. He’s the friend some of us really need, the one who isn’t afraid to grab us by the shoulder and shake us a few times while screaming, “Snap the ****** out of it!” But in the end, Andy and Gary are friends, and watching as they repair that broken bond through the insane adventure they plunge into is one of the greatest pleasures to be found in The World’s End. Frost gives one of the best acting turns of his young career and even gets to kick unholy amounts of keister during the movie’s many drag-out human-on-alien bar and street brawls (which I will get to further along in this review).