Similar to their previous collaborations with director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), “The World’s End” features Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as friends coming to the realization that they’re surrounded by hostile forces. This time out it’s robots, who have taken over the town where they and their friends went to school together.
“The World’s End” feels a bit scattershot at times, but fans will consider it part of its “charm”. It’s a film that has a bit of bittersweet nostalgia for misspent youth, a bit of railing against the conformity of the world, and plenty of sequences where middle aged men kick robotic ass.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a ne’er do well who never grew up. Though he’s in his early 40s now, he still drinks and carouses as if he were in college. After landing himself in therapy, he counters by recruiting his old friends to re-enact a legendary night of drinking with him. One by one he convinces Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) to come back out with him and try to complete “The Golden Mile”, a pub crawl that consists of twelve different pubs, culminating at “The World’s End”. The five of them attempted the Golden Mile in their youth, but never completed it. Now Gary argues, it’s the perfect excuse for an “old time’s sake” reunion.
What they don’t realize though, is that since they’ve been gone, alien invaders have replaced the residents of the town with robots. The discover this when Gary winds up in a fistfight in a bathroom, and he knocks his opponent’s head off. Now that Gary and his friends know the truth, the invaders consider them a threat. If they can’t be convinced to voluntarily get replaced by robots, they’ll have to be eliminated. The five of them are forced to fight and run for their lives.
Only, Gary still wants to make it to the World’s End and finish the Golden Mile.
As in the prior collaborations in the “Cornetto trilogy”, the events of the film are a thinly disguised satire of society. This time, in particular, the focus is on the conformity that comes along with maturity and responsibility. While Gary is obviously stunted in his growth, the social standardization that the others in the group seem to have become comfortable with is put under attack when illustrated in the extreme by the robotic replacements. Wright even lambasts the cookie cutter “Starbucks-ization” that seems to be standardizing the world’s pubs (and restaurants). Although never completely justified, Gary’s brand of individualism is given a victory by the film’s end, when it’s shown to be the perfect antidote for the onslaught of robotic conformity.
Even though it hops around in tone – at one moment it’s a dramedy revolving around five friends that age and responsibility have forced apart, the next it’s a quasi-sci-fi actioner – “World’s End” is still fun and charming. Pegg and Frost are charismatic and likeable as always, and the script contains some genuinely witty conversations. There’s a part of me that wishes this film had played it more traditionally and given us a film JUST about five friends who reunite for a pub crawl who then work through their issues together (that element of the film was very well done), but even given the robotic invasion concept, it was still very entertaining, albeit in a more lighthearted way.
“The World’s End” is a humorous movie with a bit to say about society and maturity, with a helping of light action thrown in for good measure. It’s sure to appeal to fans of the prior offerings from this trio, and to make some new fans along the way.