19 July 2013


This time last year, The Dark Knight Rises opened to something of a mixed response, with some fans inevitably feeling disappointed after the build-up of Christopher Nolan's previous two Batman films. The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, co-written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, isn't nearly grandiose, but in the wake of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, there's perhaps just as much expectation riding on The World's End.

Surprisingly, Wright and Pegg have pulled it off by changing lanes, and they've completed their thematic trilogy with a big, idea-driven sci-fi film about entering your 40s, which also has some great gags in it. The anti-hero is Gary King, a slappable man-child who insists that he had the greatest night of his life when he and his mates were 17, and they attempted an epic 12-pub quest through their hometown, culminating in The World's End. Haunted by the aborted pub crawl, Gary reunites his friends for another try, and they soon find that the homely Newton Haven has changed a lot since they last visited.

Viewed as a complete trilogy, the Cornetto movies aren't necessarily linked by story as much as by in-jokes and a recurring cast. Hot Fuzz is the most detached of the three, featuring characters who are in their 30s as opposed to necessarily exploring what it means to be in your 30s. Shaun of the Dead finds an average, feckless 20-something bloke having to sort his life out on the edge of the apocalypse. The World's End mirrors it, time-adjusted for a leading man who is now in his 40s, but feels like it may be pitched a little more to viewers of that age than Shaun and Fuzz, both of which have accrued more fans via repeat screenings on ITV2 over the years.

Also in contrast to Shaun, this is less a comedy than it is a science-fiction film, and the trademark homages to other genre classics are far more subtly embedded. Above all else, it remains very British, so there's a flavour of John Wyndham that rises above asides from sources as varied as John Carpenter's The Thing and The Wild Angels (via Primal Scream), and it's all topped with a nice, juicy, relevant allegory, hooked right into our heroes' nostalgic quest. It's almost like Wright made a beer-soaked and artfully profane episode of Doctor Who, and that tickles my inner geek to no end.

On the basis of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World alone, Wright is more than equipped to make a gorgeous-looking British sci-fi actioner, and in reuniting with cinematographer Bill Pope, this one doesn't disappoint. While Scott Pilgrim and pals had unexplained superpowers, the martial-arts prowess of our increasingly sozzled leads has the potential to baffle, if you view it soberly. Nevertheless, you'll more than likely find yourself being swept up in the amazing choreography each and every time a scrap breaks out. It's a real unexpected pleasure to see Nick Frost get his turn to be the action man, as teetotal rugby player Andy.

In fact, it's an all-around role reversal with Pegg, as Frost takes on the much more serious character and Pegg relishes the role of Gary. He makes for Pegg's least likeable character ever, but also, perhaps, his best performance ever. The three films are connected as much by bromantic relations between the two leads as anything else, and the reversal freshens up the formula just as much as the genre shift, and gives both actors a chance to show what they can do.

The film also widens its focus to supporting characters played by Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan- on first viewing, it does feel like there's always at least one of them who is lost in the shuffle, along with a terrific but frequently underused Rosamund Pike. There are also a horde of great cameos, ranging from almost every familiar face from Spaced (with one really unfortunate exception) to a couple of big stars who I wouldn't dream of revealing. For my money, it's David Bradley who most frequently steals the show, but there are plenty of more surprises in both the lead performances and the supporting roles.

As the end of a trilogy, there's no point in comparing this to a Dark Knight Rises, or a Return of the King, or a Toy Story 3, because Wright and Pegg have actually pulled an Army of Darkness on us. While I'm not sure that all will agree with that it's less a comedy than it is a sci-fi film, it feels like just as much of a tonal 180° turn from the genre parodies seen in Shaun and Fuzz as Sam Raimi's fantasy-comedy did from the previous Evil Dead movies. And, like Army of Darkness, it's just so fucking quotable! It's been too long since the last even halfway-comedic movie that was this quotable, (the Legoland line is an instant classic) and you're going to be hearing some of the very best lines repeated over post-film pints all week.

The World's End calls time on the Cornetto trilogy in style, with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg bringing the same depth and intelligence to its sci-fi homage as they do in their densely plotted and infinitely rewatchable parody films. It's a Cornetto of a different flavour, but in using constants like bromance and Britishness to break from the expected formula, it tastes just as sweet. When I compare it to Army of Darkness and Doctor Who, I mean it as the highest compliment. But all comparisons aside, Wright continues to work in a league of his own, and even if this is the end of an era, it is still so bold and brilliant and to feel like the beginning of another.

The World's End is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The World's End, why not share your comments below? If you're not watching it right now, just go listen to that soundtrack. Oh Lord, that soundtrack...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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