Thursday, July 25, 2013

Movie Review: The Worlds End

I thought it a little odd much the team behind The Worlds End - director Edgar Wright, and stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg - made of this being the final part of the "Cornetto Trilogy", a movie to cap off Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Aside from anything else, there isn't a lot to link the first two films, other than some vague thematic touchstones and the odd repeated gag. Touting this as something that will tie up those themes and cap them all off adds a weight of expectation to the movie on top of just "track record so far" and also, I think, sets a bar it needs to cross by it's own advertising. And I think that's a mistake, because The Worlds End is a decent movie, and a good send-off, but still the weakest of this "trilogy".

So, years after failing to complete a legendary pub crawl, Gary (Simon Pegg) attempts to round up his old gang to try again. Unlike Gary, they've all got on with their lives and have jobs, cars and families, whereas he is is "stuck" in the early 90s, same car, same clothes, same everything. Tension, as well as alcohol, is in the air as old hopes, dreams and resentments start to resurface. And then there is the little matter of the alien invasion...

Now the thing is that the first half of that description is a really interesting film, especially with the jokey, fast-paced structure that these Wright/Pegg/Frost collaborations have. The first half of the movie is by far the stronger; it's funny, sharp, and there is a depth of pathos mixed in, driven by Gary's underlying pathetic nature. He's grating and shallow, and the film doesn't pretend he isn't, and watching the other characters react to him and a whole load of backstory unfold around them works really well. The aliens, I feel, spoil more than just the pub crawl.

It's not that the Alien Invasion story is bad, per se, but it does feel a little bit like a high-budget Doctor Who storyline. I mean, clearly the film needed something to keep the pub crawl going, and there is some interesting twists to the setup, but overall its just not as interesting as the character stuff around it. Spaced - which this resembles more than the earlier movies - would riff of zombies or aliens without them actually being true, allowing them to be true, is somehow less interesting. Oh, and speaking of Spaced, the "boysiness" of The Worlds End acts as a reminder of the balance the Jessica Stevenson brought to the writing of that show.

I enjoyed The Worlds End - I laughed a fair bit and I certainly grinned all the way through it. But it doesn't have the energy of the earlier films and it's terribly self-indulgent and pleased with itself at times. There is, however, and interesting and well-done subtext to the film, and it does say something about the conflicts of growing old (and apart) from the people you knew when you were younger. The soundtrack is bloody awesome, too.