‘I’ ON CULTURE
We found The World’s End to be an anomaly among summer movies. Most of the big movies follow a certain pathway. We have superheroes, or simply heroes, facing evil foes with major skills. Although victory seems hopeless, the good guys win. This new movie breaks the mold entirely and, as a result, provides a nice bit of fun for the audience. Of course, since the movie not only features a pub with the apocalyptic name but, more or less, the end of the world, it is a very strange kind of comedy. Who can laugh at the end of civilization?
It begins as a sort of British version of The Hangover. Gary King (Simon Pegg) has centered his life on a night 20 years earlier when he and a group of buddies tried to complete “the Golden Mile,” a trek through 12 bars in their quiet hometown. They never finished, and 20 years later, he feels his life is incomplete. He has never grown up, he wears the same clothes he did two decades ago, drives the same old car and even listens to the same music cassette he did back then, not to mention abusing the same drugs.
He has remained in 1990 while the others have grown up, gotten married and gotten adult jobs.
Yet Gary finagles his buddies to have a reunion. All have matured, particularly his closest friend from back then, Andy (Nick Frost), who is a successful attorney.
They join in the pub crawl, even meeting up with the sister of one of the men (Rosamund Pike), with whom Gary had managed to have drunken sex on the fated night in 1990. However, the movie quickly moves from The Hangover to Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the group gradually becomes aware that many people are actually robots.
There is a running joke in the film; every one of the robots denies being one because “robots are slaves and we are simply happy.” This little film trashes similar movies; the humans beat the daylights out of the robots. One of the most affecting scenes is watching Peter (Eddie Marsan) beating the daylights out of the robot whose human counterpart had bullied him to such a degree that it had ruined his youth, staying behind to beat him even though he would wind up being taken by the bad guys.
In the end, the alien brain debates Gary and Andy on the value of being changed and supervised, being improved. The two humans absolutely refuse, defending the right of humans to decide for themselves. They defend their right to make mistakes and, when the alien notes that only a handful of humans have to be changed, ask the townspeople how many are still human. Only three answer; one an old rebel and two suck-ups. Asked to explain why it believes it can improve people so easily, the alien overlord finally just leaves, destroying civilization. Somehow, afterward everyone seems happier.
The movie is a critique of many aspects of our civilized silliness. Many of the pubs look exactly alike — corporate clones. The robots, who the heroes decide to call “blanks” since they all deny they are robots, are exactly the type of folk who would be considered ideal: generally young, good-looking and sociable. Talk about Stepford wives.
The cast is fun, although most of the parts are fairly one-dimensional. Pegg is simply a runaway train; even while everything in town is chasing his friends, he keeps moving through the bars, eager to complete the tour. Frost is good as his best friend, one he betrayed 15 years earlier. He begins the movie as an uptight, obese party pooper, unwilling to drink anything but water. As things get crazy, he turns into a berserker, smashing “blanks” as he moves.
This is not a great movie, not even close. But it is different, and it is fun. Considering most of what is now playing, it is worth seeing.