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Monday, September 4, 2023

‘The World’s End’ 10 Years Later – Edgar Wright’s Sci-fi Comedy Hits Even Harder Today

English director Edgar Wright clearly began his love affair with the horror genre long before he released his first actual scary movie back in 2021. From the hyper-violent amateur films of his youth to that memorable Resident-Evil-inspired episode of Spaced, it’s quite clear that the genre mashup of Shaun of the Dead -and the ensuing Cornetto Trilogy- was a lifetime in the making.

However, while the balls-to-the-wall satire of Hot Fuzz was just as well received as its zombie-spoofing predecessor, I find it strange that fans usually refer to 2013’s The World’s End as the weakest entry in the trilogy. In fact, I’ve always been baffled by negative perceptions of the film’s surprising tonal shifts and bizarre finale, as I think these unique elements make it a natural evolution of Wright’s previous work (though nothing can ever surpass the perfection of Hot Fuzz). And with the flick celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, I think it’s high time that we look back on this comedic gem to see if its sci-fi shenanigans still hold up.

When discussing the Cornetto Trilogy, I think it’s important to note that these films are just as much Wright’s brainchildren as they are Simon Pegg’s. Not only is Pegg’s sardonic writing the perfect foil for Wright’s genre-loving brain, but the actor’s vastly different yet equally iconic performances are what really tie these movies together (which is especially true in this last entry). To be perfectly honest, I don’t think either one of these insanely talented artists ever recovered from going their separate ways, as The World’s End would sadly be their final collaboration.

Thankfully, the two decided to have their partnership go out with a bang. Originally based on a coming-of-age comedy about a teenage pub crawl that Wright wrote back when he was 21, the concept of a gentrified alien invasion appeared when the director brought the idea to Pegg. Looking to develop a finale for their Cornetto trilogy, the duo soon realized that the ultimate conclusion to feeling alienated during a return to your hometown would be a literal extraterrestrial invasion – and the rest is history!

I love the screw-on doll-head design!

If you still somehow haven’t seen The World’s End yet, I’d recommend doing so immediately and reading as little about it as possible as the film contains some clever twists. However, if you’re still on the fence, the finished film follows Simon Pegg as Gary King, an aging alcoholic who embarks on a quest to relive his teenage glory days by recruiting his estranged friends (with the memorable ensemble including Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan) for an epic pub crawl back in their hometown of Newton Haven. Naturally, the group slowly begins to notice that there’s something wrong with their once quaint town and we’re soon gifted with one of the best genre-mashups of all time.

Putting the film’s plot into writing doesn’t do it any justice, as Wright’s energetic direction and editing help to keep this a masterfully engaging movie even before our characters begin to throw down with hostile invaders. That being said, the ensuing genre elements are much more than mere set dressing here, with Wright and Pegg using tried-and-true sci-fi tropes to discuss poignant issues like the aforementioned gentrification, unhealthy nostalgia and even humanity’s unassailable right to act like buffoons in the face of chaos.

The experience is also a love-letter to classic sci-fi and horror media of all kinds – and I’m not just talking about the clear homages to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. From subtle nods to Mario-Bava-style lighting to the growing paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing, this is a movie made by genre fans for genre fans. Hell, there’s even a running gag about Martin Freeman’s birthmark looking like Damian’s satanic brand in The Omen (which actually becomes a minor plot point later on).

I also really appreciate how the filmmakers decided to make the villainous “Blanks” be filled with blue ink instead of blood so that the movie can get away with absurd amounts of gory violence during its action scenes, with the visual gag also working as a bit of a pun on royal “blue bloods.” And speaking of action, most of these otherworldly moments are brought to life through legitimately impressive practical effects, with only some of the more impossible stunts resorting to pure CGI.

Here comes The Network!

Of course, what I really love about this movie is the tremendous amount of heart that went into the character work, which is why I think The World’s End hits harder than any of Wright’s previous output. While I certainly empathized with Shaun’s love-life and cheered for Sergeant Nick Angel’s righteous fury, Gary King remains Pegg’s most emotionally grounded performance despite the character acting like an over-the-top eternal teenager.

When the walls finally come crashing down and we see the tragic consequences of Gary’s lifestyle, I’d argue that it’s one of the most genuinely human moments I’ve ever seen in a comedy, with the whole conflict being perfectly summarized by Nick Frost’s line about how Gary remembers the Friday nights but he remembers the Monday mornings. Moments like these are why I can’t understand why someone would think that this is a lesser film in Wright’s filmography.

I mean, even that bonkers finale is actually trying to say something important. Sure, humanity won’t always make the right choice, but mistakes are just a part of who we are as a species, and learning to deal with our collective incompetence is a universal right of passage. And after living through a pandemic with so many preventable deaths, I’d argue that this message hits even harder now than it did ten years ago.

At the end of the day, The World’s End doesn’t actually need defending. The film made a decent profit at the box office and even managed to impress most critics at the time. I just think it’s kind of unfair that this creatively unhinged comedy isn’t as well respected as its predecessors should be just because it dares to be different. That being said, even if you don’t appreciate the film’s apocalyptic madness, you’ve got to admit that it boasts one of the best motion picture soundtracks of the 2010s – which culminates in an epic Sisters of Mercy needle-drop that remains the stuff of Goth legend.

The post ‘The World’s End’ 10 Years Later – Edgar Wright’s Sci-fi Comedy Hits Even Harder Today appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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