THE WORLD'S END
The third, and final film, in the Cornetto Trilogy, “The World's End” yadda yadda Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, used to be In Shaun Of The Fuzz, you know the deal. Anyway, this, the long awaited climax of three distinctly loving parody-homages to genres end with this huge ensemble piece that is made of passion and silliness. At the heart of it, “The World's End” is the first film in a long time that approaches an issue that anyone around 40 knows : what happens as you start to age, as your world starts to change, as you have to grow up and stop being childish, without losing your sense of childlike wonder. In it, Pegg plays Gary King, a nervously recovering alcoholic in a shell of a life, planning a meticulous relapse / acceptance of his own world's end. At the cusp of 40, and still in the same Sisters Of Mercy t-shirt he was wearing at 18, he reforms 'the band' for one last night of glory. Some of us still do this, of course, but we only visit the past, we don't live there : we see old bands, old friends, but we know that this is the new world, and no longer the past. Never forget the past, just don't stay part of it forever.
As a midlife crisis, there is no more accurate film than the painful first half of “The World's End”, where the dogged refusal to realise it's not the same becomes more, and more, obvious until a failure to accept the changing reality is not just obvious, but downright dangerous. At the midpoint the film offers it's grand reveal, and the unsubtle imagery is that somehow maturity, responsibility, is some kind of spiritual death : at some point the person we were was replaced by someone far more boring and dead inside. At what point does maturity become domestication, at what point does beldnming in become subservience? On the other hand, “The World's End” is more intelligent than that, and it's a complex, but fun film, about addiction – at what point does the addict become the core personality, at what point is Gary King really himself? Is Gary King really the hollow man in AA, a twelve-step plan, recovery and leisurewear, or is he really the stuck-in-time Goth from 1990? Him sticking to his outlandish self-appointed mission is thrice a) the last bastion of the addict, b) the living out of a final dream and c) really fucking stupid. Because, as the Bayster had it, Shit Just Got Real.
On the other hand, this is the nearest Edgar Wright ever got to making an episode of Doctor Who ; from the smalltown England setting to the cheap-and-cheerful effects and distinctly insular threats that never stretch any further than the cold, small streets and the girl next door ; the greatest love interest in this film is, after all, your mate's sister. Of course, the dialogue and imagery is dense and multifacted, thought through to the umpteenth level and rewarding multiple repeat viewings. Even now, 10 years after the fact, I get new things out of “Shaun Of The Dead”, and this is, even on a first watch, denser than neutron soup with innocent double-meanings and moments.
Perhaps, and this is spoiler territory, the ending is the greatest copout there is ; unlike “Terminator 3” which gave a bravely bleak finale, “The World's End” is more a self-defeatingly obvious finale, a final moment of rebellion to fulfill the illusion of choice, at whatever cost, an illusion that costs the world billions of lives. Make no mistake, Gary King is an asshole argumentative drunk who wouldn't back down and ending up ruining most of mankind with stubborn stupidity and a denial of reality. Films are nothing but imagination anyway and this one is perhaps one of the more terrifying imaginations there is – no comfort, no resolution. But an end, and a beginning. It's a film that could only have been made there and then, at that point in life, at middle age, and perhaps then, the most mature work any of them have been involved in yet. So maybe a childhood's end, the end of a world of innocence. A rich and thoughtful film. One I will be coming back to.
And, by the way, about a thousand times better than Paul.