The biggest shock when coming out of the theatre directly after watching The World’s End was my general lack of adoration. Don’t misunderstand, this is a very good movie. The World’s End has all the elements of its “Cornetto Trilogy” peers, quick and witty writing, clever themes, multilayered scenes, and plenty of laughs. But unlike “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that The World’s End was missing some of the genre loving focus that made these particular set of films fantastic. Instead of a strict genre tribute, The World’s End focuses its tribute to a place in time, that strange time of middle-age.
Yes, there are clever send ups of some sci–fi and alien invasion films sprinkled within The World’s End, just as there were very human themes sprinkled within “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. It’s just that the formula has been flipped this time around. The humanity takes the forefront here. For example, any genre based gags don’t take place until well within the second act of the movie. The first 30-plus minutes is all based on the dynamic of these middle-aged friends who are trying to recapture a bit of the hope of their adolescence. Thematically this feels like a giant shift from the rest of the trilogy.
After some inward searching, I think this shift is what cause the lack of adoration mentioned above. It isn’t that this film is bad, it is that it is different. Which, to be fair, is not a fair criticism of the film. While it is best practice to judge a film within a cinematic vacuum, not allowing your own preconceptions or the existence of other films seriously shift your enjoyment of a film, this best practice is exceptionally hard when you are a bit of a fan-boy. So, a day or so removed from watching The World’s End, I can say that most of the movies failures are based in the fact that it is not what I expected, which is really not a valid criticism.
In reality, The World’s End is a well crafted and wholly entertaining film that deals with several different ideas and themes simultaneously, all with noticeable success. From aging, assimilation into adult civilization, drug abuse, and all the way down to alien fighting techniques, The World’s End deals with serious and human issues all while being a funny and entertaining sci-fi film. Several scenes can be watched in a certain way and suddenly have very different meanings. There is always the literal interpretation of what’s happening on screen, as well as a few metaphors in each sequence that makes the movie about far more than advertised.
The fact that the film manages to do this with admirable skill is a tribute to the filmmakers here. Beyond a bit of a shrug of a climax, everything pays off here, sometimes three-fold. There is so much happening in this film beneath the surface that really does demand multiple viewings. The more you ruminate on The World’s End, the better the film becomes.
So no, The World’s End isn’t like the other films from the trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. It doesn’t really quite fit in the Cornetto Trilogy as a genre-loving parody. It does, though, stand out as a quality film that does so many things right. So if you can, go in with a blank mind(that pun will make sense after you see the movie) and allow the movie to speak to you on its own terms. You’ll be glad you did.