The creators of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (director Edgar Wright, and fellow writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) did something truly original withFuzz and Shaun, satirizing the genre film while creating the depth it lacked in its Bruckeriran inception. In order to kill all the bad guys, the characters must come to terms with who they were in the world and who they decide to be in the future.
The Worlds End plays on these themes as Gary (Pegg), Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine, In America), Peter (Eddie Marsan, Happy Go Lucky) and Oliver (Martin Freeman, The Hobbit), attempt to finish a bar crawl they started over twenty years ago. When we first meet what Gary refers to as “The Five Musketeers” they are young and ridiculous as teenagers should be, fighting, drinking, and making out in the “disables.” Twenty years later they have moved onto respectable careers that require suits and a certain level of snobbery, with the exception of Gary who continues to revive his youth manifesting itself through drinking and drugs. In an attempt to relive his high school daze Gary gets all of his old mates back together to complete the bar crawl. What starts out innocently (Andy prefers water over beer and the local bars resemble Starbucks) turns into an apocalyptic fight to the death.
At first the town’s dreariness seems normal; five friends coming from the city have evolved beyond the confines of their little village? Hometowns tend to be in a dull time warp anyway, so it’s not surprising that things seem a bit off. But what happens when the guy that used to sell you weed is wearing a suit? The line between expected adult stages and mediocrity is blurry for Gary and it’s only natural that he is the first to detect the soulless mediocrity as robotic. These robots are more Stepford Wife than Transformer, Zoloft 5.0 with a normalcy so frightening Gary is the only one fit to lead the annihilation. While the others want to leave town immediately Gary suspects this is what the machines will expect and continues on the bar crawl—part “sophisticated” plan and vendetta for Gary who never seemed to accomplish anything substantial in his life. As the bar crawl continues the mates unravel what has happened to their town and themselves—propelled towards a destiny their younger versions would not understand.
Despite the new plot twist, the bar hopping scenes are as drab as a Dunkin Donuts / Subway combination eatery, nothing particularly funny happens and I only laughed once throughout the film. But magic occurs in the third act, when Gary is faced with a younger version of himself, he has to make a choice between the past or the future, passivity or humanity? With Gary’s decision the final act is almost another film entirely, becoming a post-apocalyptic comment on the modern day reliance on technology.
If it was all wiped away, would we be better people? Certainly we would have to rely on our own instincts, avoiding the idiocricy Mike Judge predicted. In the bikes v. cars generation trading in a good burger and carbonated sugar for a juicer and a compost pile, it seems society has gone full circle. Although our ancestors may have had it right all along, Gary’s decision tells us that there are consequences to every action— Zoloft may ease our anxiety and fears, but if a horse’s head were to end up in your bed, would you Michael Corleone the shit out of someone or go back to sleep?
Wright should have started where the third act began, when Gary chooses fears and anxieties over things made in the factory. If you love Pegg & Company go see this film, God knows we need more of them, but don’t expect anything mind blowing.