Here there be spoilers.
It’s my suspicion that The World’s End would make a great double bill with The Cabin in the Woods – both films whose first five minutes seem too small to bring about the apocalypse, but the build-up irrevocably leads you there as if it couldn’t be any other way. I love the idea that it was, of course, Gary King who brought about the end of the world. Who else? Without Gary, Andy and Steven never would have been in Newton Haven shouting with him at The Network that night. Without Gary, Earth would be just another link in the chain. Without Gary we’d probably pass the Ofsted. But in Gary King’s mind, there is no world without Gary King. Dear God, he’s Neil Clough.
The cast is above and beyond as you would expect from an Edgar Wright film, (although Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike as a brother/sister duo don’t get much of a look in). My only sadness with this film is that it takes so long to see any indication of our apocalyptic story, (or at least it felt that way – I’m sure I’ll see more foreshadowing in later viewings. Seeing an Edgar Wright film once is like seeing 5 minutes of any other film whilst drunk), that by the time it starts I felt like I was being pulled out of a character piece so meticulously crafted it could have been a play. Peter’s disappointment/anger/resignation that the bully didn’t recognise him feels a little cheapened by the brainwashed reasoning, because it touched on something so real to start with. Watching Martin Freeman’s character, Oliver, get tighter and tighter wound lacks payoff.
I guess I was just digging my heels in when I realised that these brilliantly realised characters would not all get their moment, and it’s to Wright and co.’s credit that the two films continue on in tandem without murdering each other, never better evidenced than in the fight between Pegg and Frost in The World’s End, (pub, not film). The INGB, (It Never Got Better), fight broke my heart. The stark truth of Gary’s words, (they told me when to go to bed), just breaks through the screen. Pegg is devastating. Anyone who’s ever witnessed someone in recovery knows Routine and Discipline are key. But what kind of life is it? What is it to face the truth about the world and realise you were lied to, that nothing was going to be handed to you because of who you are, how charming, how convinced of your own legend. The feeling is that Gary King never had a plan. Gary King expected life to fall into place and when it didn’t he carried on as Gary King until GARY KING was the armour he wore and any threat to that could not be tolerated, because what lay underneath was a scared, broken teenager who had as much resemblance to a functioning adult as the Voldemort foetus at the end of Harry Potter. He knew that bravado was all he had, and he wasn’t completely wrong about that since it’s that bravado that saves or dooms us all. It’s so startling I felt really shaken by it. It gets right under the skin of recovery, in a way that reminded me of Rob Delaney’s Cory Monteith piece; it’s not so much It Gets Better as it is It’s Awful and Hard and May Potentially Break Your Teeth But What Else Are You Gonna Do, Huh? Now Get in the Goddamned Van.
I connected more with this film than any I’ve seen in the cinema in a long time. My inner commentary shut up and shrank away, which is a rare fucking occurrence. I adored Pacific Rim, but couldn’t fight the feeling I was seeing it from a distance, (due to a combination of 3D, cocktails, exhaustion, and the disorienting feeling of being thrust into a world in full-swing), but for whatever reason I was completely in The World’s End, whether through the groundwork laid by Wright’s previous films or the material, I don’t know. It isn’t afraid to go to Those Places. It’s up to you if you view Gary’s ultimate fate as triumphant or sad. He’s the fucking Borg of the series, but his circumstances for happiness are met. He’s in Cartman levels of denial over what he’s done.
Speaking of South Park, I did feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of male characters in the film; Rosamund Pike’s role is oversold in the adverts, and I just needed a break from all the manness. In general it would be nice to see Wright tackle more female characters in his own work – his female characters in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are some of the most well formed female characters in a non-female driven film in a while so we know he’s capable of it. Mind you, in Pike’s first mention she’s objectified by the other characters, and in her first appearance she’s accosted by a male character for sex on the basis she was clearly asking for it. I’m not sure this was intentional, but it is tragically accurate.
So the Cornetto Trilogy comes to an end, and I cannot wait to get my grubby hands on all three of them. I’ll be thinking about The World’s End for a while, but thinking about it now, I just find myself wondering how many times Andy has come to Gary’s rescue. If nothing else the film proves that at the end of all things, Nick Frost just might save us all.