Five friends gather together to complete an epic pub crawl, convinced by former ring-leader that they need to visit twelve pubs in their hometown. Gary King (Simon Pegg), in his forties, looks for some sort of link to his past, and draws the men together with one goal in mind. To reach The World’s End. Along the way, however, they realise there is something seriously wrong with the town, and the five must try to survive…while also completing the pub crawl.
Any fan of Pegg & Frost is aware of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, starting with Shaun of the Dead, with Hot Fuzz as the second instalment and now ending with The World’s End. And it’s a decent end to these films, containing the same sort of humour and running jokes as the first two. Yet The World’s End is different in an important way. It feels like, with this film, Pegg & Frost have grown up, have matured beyond the guys who stared in Spaced (if you haven’t watched it, please do) and were in Shaun of the Dead.
Of course, all three films do have strong things in common. Sometimes, it feels like they’re acting out a fantasy; being the last standing in an apocalypse, saving a village, or fighting strange alien robot creatures. The fight scenes do look like the people involved are having fun. But it’s in the characters themselves that the main change can be felt.
In Shaun of the Dead, Pegg’s character is hopelessly in love with his ex-girlfriend. His main aim is to save her, because what is more important to a twenty-something than the love of his life? In Hot Fuzz, which very much feels like the middle ground, they play on the idea of the cop movie and Pegg plays a big city cop who moves to a crime-free village, only to find it’s not as slow-paced or quiet as initially expected. And in both these films, Frost is at his side, helping him, working with him, and, in Hot Fuzz, in awe of him.
But in The World’s End, Frost isn’t Pegg’s partner in crime. Instead, he actively tries to stop Pegg’s character from doing what he wants to do. He joins in with the pub crawl out of pity, rather than friendship or a desire to follow. It’s interesting to watch, as Frost, rather than standing to the side and letting Pegg get on with it, challenges Pegg, fights him and tries to make him stop.
With very good reason.
Pegg plays Gary King, a middle-aged man trying to relive his youth. He gathers his friends, all of which seem to have been fairly successful, with jobs and/or families, happy lives that they’ve built for themselves. King, with none of that, disrupts their routine and persuades them to try to relive the glory days.
It becomes painfully obvious that the only person desperate to relive them is King himself. Recovering addict, King is eager to return to a point in his life where it felt like anything was possible. And Pegg creates this sad, pathetic character, getting it easily across to the audience exactly how we should feel about him. He’s not the one who should get the girl, not the one who should be the hero, and he puts himself and his friends at risk trying to complete the mile. He’s held up as the worst of humanity. And yet, yet, there are points where we still root for him. Where we want him to come through and make it. And by the end…King has matured, in a way. Has progressed after facing the end of the world and has realised that the life he was clinging to just wasn’t obtainable.
The World’s End still has the same action and fun as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but with a more mature, grown up edge to it, a deeper level of feeling beyond what we’ve seen from Pegg & Frost previously. Not as good as Shaun of the Dead, perhaps, but it has its own unique charm to it, even if there are moments where the main character deserves a punch to the face.