Film review of ‘The World’s End’: In-jokes wearing thin out on the genre-bender

Five old school friends, now pushing 40, are reunited by means of bribery and emotional blackmail by Gary ‘The King’ King (Pegg) for the purpose of completing a pub crawl that had previously bettered them back in the day: 12 pubs, 12 pints.

Attempting to lay old divisions aside – Gary, a kind of Robin Hood character (if Robin Hood were an ageing goth man-child), has particular difficulties ascribing the past to the past – the not-so-merry men return to their hometown to find things are much as they’d left them, roughly two decades ago. The pot-selling Irishman still props up the bar in the Old Familiar, and Gary is still barred from the Famous Cock. Little has changed. In fact, so little that alarm bells are beginning to sound…

At around the pub number 5 mark, just as you’re settling into this charming, chuckle-inducing, five-friended bromance, something upsets the apple cart, in much the same manner as Robert Rodriguez’s Dusk Till Dawn, and this comedy does a u-turn, directly into Stepford Wives territory.

This is, after all, the third entry in Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s so-called Cornetto Trilogy which began with the genre-mashing zom-rom-com Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and continued with the west country police procedural Hot Fuzz (2007), which gave quiet rural crime dramas like Heartbeat a Michael Bay makeover.

The links between these three films, beyond ice cream, Nick Frost and other returning cast members, at first seems tenuous, but there’s a gentle absurdism that connects the films. They also share a jolly frivolity centred around pub culture, friendships, relationships and music that smacks of unconditional love for ‘90s Britain.

It’s these years that have undoubtedly informed the majority of this film and, moreover, a nostalgia for those years. Arguably the lead of this ensemble, Pegg’s Gary King, is unable to separate himself from a past that imprisons him: his hair is still dyed black, he talks of past sexual conquests as if they occurred only yesterday, he drives the same car and plays a mid-‘90s mix-tape in his ancient radio-cassette deck. While the others have moved on with their lives, careers, homes, families – he certainly has not. He remains committed to a past where Gary King was The King, because in the present, Gary King is, quite frankly, a bit of a loser. When he finally awakes from this past in which he has been sleepwalking for years, he finds that, contrary to appearances, much has changed.

Before you cry SPOILER ALERT, the following revelation is in the trailer: the small town has been discreetly overtaken and its inhabitants replaced by robot replicas who emit blue light from their eyes and eject blue blood from their wounds.

There’s little doubt this is intended as a none-too-subtle allegory for Britain’s recent Tory takeover: everything looks the same as it did, but previous ideals and allegiances have been readjusted at every level of society. In effect, an occupation of the country has happened without anyone realising it, and the whole operation is administered by the mysterious ‘Network’ voiced by Bill Nighy (referring to the ‘old boy’ alumni of Eton from which many of the UK ruling class hail).

The World’s End isn’t as tightly constructed or conceptually clean as Shaun Of The Dead, a film that surely rates as one of the greatest comedies of the last decade, but nor is it as flabby as Hot Fuzz. It may play best to British sensibilities, such as my own, as I laughed heartily throughout.

The World's End (11)

Dir: Edgar Wright; UK, sci-fi/comedy 2013, 109 mins; Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsun

Premiered November 14

Playing Palads & Kinopalæt

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.