Director Edgar Wright finishes his “Cornetto Trilogy” (the first two being “Shaun of the Dead,” and “Hot Fuzz”) finally with “The World’s End,” a film very much in the tradition of the first two installments. Wright and co. dwell on the prevalent themes that have fueled the first two stories. They’re tales about xenophobia, alienation, conformity, coming of age, the fear of progress, and the dangers of nostalgia. Much in the way Woody Allen did with “Midnight in Paris,” director Wright warns about nostalgia and how our memories can lie to us and become a crutch, preventing us from growing up and moving on with our lives.
Simon Pegg takes a different route in leading roles for the last installment, playing the slimy lecherous Gary King. As a teenager he was a popular and daring young bull who took risks, drank almost non-stop, and hoped for a future with massive opportunities. When we first meet him, he’s in a rehabilitation clinic, stuck on re-telling stories from his youth as a means of avoiding the current reality of his problems involving alcohol and probably recreational narcotics. As Gary King, Pegg plays a grade A jerk who is unwilling to grow up, and incapable of finding a reason to move on from the one night where he and his five friends staged a pub crawl around their town. King views life as a still frame, and attempts to live it as such, referring to himself in an old nickname, and wearing the same clothes he did as a teenager. As a hope of reversing time and finding a new starting point for his life, he interrupts the lives of his five friends.
Now they’re working class, family oriented individuals, on the cusp of middle age, and they have no intention of finishing their crawl. Wright and Pegg assemble a large cast of brilliant actors, all of whom are given their chance to be funny and live in this enormous world that’s both shocking and fascinating. When Gary discovers their old town hasn’t changed a bit, the revelation becomes even more horrifying when he and his old friends learn the town has begun replacing its denizens with robotic drones the group eventually identifies as “blanks.” With their gaping maws and eyes that peer through a window in to a vast bright void of nothing, they’re a harrowing villain with a goal in the Wright tradition. The irony is of course that Gary himself is something of a blank. He, like the robotic drones, are stills of the past seeking only to live on a fixed memory, rather than progress and seek evolution. Only when Gary begins fighting off the blanks, and struggling to survive, does he come to a moment of clarity and begin pondering on how he’s wasting his life fixating on a single moment in time.
Wright and Pegg take many visual cues that are call backs to the past two films in the Cornetto trilogy, including the big showdown in the town’s square, the unveiling of the menace through a slow tracking shot, an appearance by a seasoned British actor, and a wonderfully choreographed battle. This one in particular is set in a bathroom and is an excellent nod to “The Warriors.” Wright and Pegg don’t seem anxious to short hand their fans, and really dive head first in to this scenario, creating horrific villains, rapid fire comedy, and a finale that unabashedly embraces the science fiction genre, and never looks back. “The World’s End” is the most emotionally and socially conscious of the trilogy, with much more focus on the themes that the first two films only scratched on here and there. Director Edgar Wright is as brilliant as ever, finishing off the trilogy with a very entertaining horror comedy cementing it as one of the many great (and complete) cinematic trilogies.