From the blurb alone this film would have probably been on my ‘wait for the dvd release’ – “Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival”. But, that aside, this film stars an excellent British cast, and more importantly is the long awaited third installment of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, so that bumped it right up to ‘must see!’.
It might not be what you expected from the mint choc chip entry before even walking into the cinema. I had thought, or maybe hoped, that this installment would be pure sci-fi. Some sort of awesome space saga, pulling from Edgar Wright (Director) and Simon Pegg’s (writer and actor) influences and inspirations of Star Wars and the like, mixed with the their previous efforts – Sanford in space perhaps. Instead it was much more grounded, with the boy’s hometown of Newton Haven as a cross between Shaun of the Dead’s London and Hot Fuzz’s Sandford. The story itself more Attack the Block meets Invasion of The Body Snatchers.
On reflection, this homegrown feel to the surroundings rooted it in reality, even if it didn’t feel like quite the same reality as the previous trilogy entries.
As apparent from the pre-release buzz, the differences didn’t end there and included the switch up of Pegg and Frost in their usual archetypal roles, and a change in humour. Don’t be worried, this film is uncontrollably laugh out loud, but the humour is decidedly more grown up, almost to illustrate that Gary King (Pegg) is that guy who never grew up. The lack of nerd humour, and the trademark silliness, doesn’t detract from the movie, but it does make it a decidedly different film to Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Opening with an introduction to King and the friends of his childhood – Andrew Knightley (Frost), Steven Price (Paddy Considine), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), and Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) – it feels like you could be watching a coming of age Brit flick of the late 80s. Coupled with the excellent soundtrack, I challenge thd over 35s in the audience not to feel the warmth of nostalgia. Coming up to the modern day the real story begins, of friends unwillingly reunited, and that one guy who just can’t grow up, at the very centre of it.
As the film quickly escalates, we start to see some of the best aspects of Shaun and Hot Fuzz brought together – bar brawls, paranoia over who is and isn’t who you think they are, and of course, jumping fences.
As we enter the final act, although the humour is still going strong, the emotions evoked about alcoholic King are somewhat sobering (pardon the pun). Skating dangerously close to being a slight buzz kill. For me, the reason this doesn’t work is because King represents not growing up and the message that his life is better for it (compared to his friends who have their own grownup perks and problems), turns out to be devestatingly not the case.
But, it is when the sci-fi element really breaks through that the film is at it’s weakest – it feels a little jarring, and there is something missing from King’s speech about humanity to the aliens. Perhaps it’s because it has been done so many times before in many different genre movies, as well as several episodes of new Who (most especially the Christmas Invasion), it just feels trope. The trick here to spin this speech into a parody of those, or do something new altogether, is completely missed and it feels the weaker for it.
However, the humour continues through as we move into the final scenes, with Frost’s Knightley doing a good stand in for Wenham’s closing speech as Dilios at the end of 300, and of course the nod to the now infamous and eagerly awaited mint choc chip corneto.
The first thought at the end of the movie, other than “what an awesome soundtrack!”, is an uncertainty as what, if any, message was to be taken from it. If there is anything to be taken from it’s predecessors it’s the iconically done messages of the zombification of society (Shaun of the Dead) and infringement on liberties (and to lighten up! Hot Fuzz). The message from World’s End is uncertain, other than the freedom to be mankind, which has been done many times before and often better.
Regardless, this is an amusing and stellar effort, with an outstanding cast, including cameos from other Three Flavours alumni. An entertaining movie, it is best enjoyed without thinking too deeply about the differences from it’s predecessors – this is not Shaun or Hot Fuzz, but it is a valiant effort and well worth the watch.