I know what you’re thinking: The World’s End grossed double its production budget and came out less than a year ago. How can it possibly be a hidden gem? First of all, I WILL ASK THE QUESTIONS . Second, it’s the type of movie seemingly destined to be underrated into posterity. Especially for American viewers, the quirkiness and Britishness of the film may make it seem like a less than desirable choice, which makes me sad. The movie is undeniably strange and borders on being dark at several moments, but just like the rest of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, it manages to convey a touching take on humanity and friendship in an absolutely distinct manner.
For the many of you who are not lucky enough to have seen the film, it follows Gary King (a dark Simon Pegg) as he alcoholically aims to track down his friends in order to complete the “Golden Mile,” a legendary pub crawl culminating in a drink at “The World’s End.” Martin Freeman and Nick Frost play two of Gary’s reluctant, estranged friends, and the chemistry between the group is phenomenal, with each barb and recollection coming off incredibly sincere. Pegg and director Edgar Wright, however, go beyond a simple buddy dramedy to achieve greater resonance, incorporating a robot invasion into a tale of growing up and growing together, because why not have a robot invasion? The script is filled with unyielding wordplay and trickery, and Pegg nails every clever moment, comically unaware of his surroundings and inattentive to his friends.
Consistently funny and constantly twisted, the movie aptly concludes the aforementioned trilogy, comprised of three movies with semi-dark tinges of realness mixed in with their loud, creative humor. Even James Bond joins in the tragifun, with Pierce Brosnan standing out to the guys as a tarnished hero of their youth. Who better to break a manboy’s heart than a beloved teacher, a symbol of a time when growing up was not yet necessary?
Besides the fantastic script and willfully absurd action sequences, the movie does touch on — or at least tiptoe around — some heavy ideas as the gang of misfit boys contemplate their fading youth and social detachments. Laughs and squirming abound, but darkness still lingers around the edges: Gary does drink too much, and he does cling to one night decades ago. Marriages struggle, and their childhood town dims compared to idealized memories. In this way, Pegg and Wright keep the movie perfectly British, refusing to tidy things up as neatly as we tentative Americans tend to do.
Gary and the gang eventually escape “The Network,” voiced by Bill Nighy (Why wouldn’t it be?), embracing their imperfect humanity, their “basic human right to be $%#^-ups,” but it’s still hard to view the final moments as a truly happy ending. The Network strives to rid the world of imperfection, and the boys go right ahead and exclaim “we are the human race, and we don’t like being told what to do,” but it’s still too late for Gary to go back and choose the woman over the booze or the friendships over the binges. Even the world itself doesn’t survive their standing up to the vague institution; we are still left with desolation and ruin. I don’t intend this as a knock against the movie but instead as a point of emphasis in outlining just how good it is. The world’s going to end whether Gary and his friends like it or not, so they might as well not be robots. Like many works of British film and television before it, The World’s End chooses to accept the bad things that happen to and between people and the fallibility of the human race. It just lets us be destroyed on our own terms.