Watching this brilliant film for the first time tonight, I have developed a theory regarding the often lukewarm responses I have previously seen towards this, the last in the Pegg/Frost/Wright 'Cornetto Trilogy' of films.
The reason why some do not rate this quite highly is I may feel due to an age/generational thing.
Warning this blog post contains...
Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were vibrant balls out movies. Fresh and innovative, they spoke across the generations, specifically the 20s/early 30s slackers I grant you, but they also appealed to kids obsessed with zombies and comedic violence. As spoofs of such genres they offered little more and they didn't need to; they were perfect and did just what was required of them.
But The World's End is a film about a different generation, the generation Pegg et al now find themselves in, a generation I'm about 5 or so years shy of, and yet I found myself empathising utterly. Perhaps because I was literally a child of the 80s and 90s and perhaps because I was of the Spaced generation. As such, I feel the large teen following who have grew up with Shaun and Fuzz were a bit surprised and bemused to find an elegiac tone to the finale, but I think it is decidedly fitting in two ways; one, of course they should concern themselves with their own age and experience and two, a finale of anything is just the right time for an elegy.
I loved the characters, I know those characters. I hate to say it but I saw a little bit of myself in the overcoat wearing permanent adolescent that is Gary King. I'm 34, I'm single and I've watched my friends fall in love, marry, buy a house, have kids, split up and divorce over the years whilst I remain in a loop at that first category. And I loved the allusions and references that litter the film. It's something the trio have been doing ever since Spaced and I do believe it reached quite a pinnacle here with references not just to their previous works but also to King Arthur - as any student of Malory will surely appreciate 'the once and future king' tag so in tune with the surnames - the folkloric social myths of pub crawls and drinking/pub vernacular throughout ('empties' and the fear of well loved placed being 'starbucked') all played out against plot trappings worthy of John Wyndham. I also liked the subtle hints and digs towards the new towns of Herts the film was shot in and how, in the final moments, Goth rock loving King's little band resembles Stevenage's finest (not much that is fine in that town eh?) The Fields of Nephilim! Which also reminds me; Fucking excellent soundtrack....seriously, the tracks of my years. When The Sundays kicked in I was in heaven...shame Pierce Brosnan had to drawl on all over it mind with his voice like a goose farting in the fog.
I also wonder if this one, dealing as it does so specifically with British life harking back to the early 90s, alienated (pun not intended) some fans across the pond who may have felt lost at some of the references, pub culture or the soundtrack.
It's not a perfect movie, and I can see why some are critical, I'm not sure the Terry Gilliam-esque finale in which our heroes stand before the disembodied voice of Bill Nighy as a greater alien intelligence (who has, rather satisfyingly, been responsible for all our technological advancements) truly works and I actually felt less concerned for the fates of some characters than I did back in Shaun strangely. I also feel that, on the whole, Frost always plays a better fool than Pegg does. He seems more suited to the role of the guy who will lead someone astray, so the comedic persona swap here wasn't as successful or believable, though it was perhaps understandable - Pegg now being a bigger box office name may mean a desire for him to have the better gags/more to do.
I waited some time before watching this, largely because of some reviews and word of mouth, and now I rather wish I hadn't. As with Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz before it (and specifically Shaun, as this feels the closest to that movie, indeed it could easily have been a sequel to it - Shaun, dumped remains adrift in his adult juvenalia) it's a rip roaring comedic ride. It's the end of an era though, and perhaps seeing Steve Oram and Alice Lowe in cameos here - having previously starred in and written the Edgar Wright produced, Ben Wheatley comedy Sightseers points to the next era of Britcom on film.