A bitter end
Ten years ago in a flat not so far away, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were humble British television personalities until Shaun of the Dead launched their cinematic careers. Three years later, and despite immense expectation, they surpassed their previous success with the superior Hot Fuzz. A further six years later and the prodigal sons have returned with the final part of their Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy; The World’s End. Sadly, as victims of their own success, they are unable to go one further and this flat attempt provides a far from fitting conclusion to what could have been one of cinema’s greatest trilogies.
Having marvellously deconstructed the zombie horror and buddy-cop action subgenres with an arsenal of wit and satire it was somewhat inevitable that the final, mint-flavoured entry would tackle science fiction; the trio’s most admired genre. From the moment it begins the film is brimming with tastefully subtle references to iconic sci-fi films and the central concept borrows ideas from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still among others. However, obsessed with emulating classic pieces of sci-fi, The World’s End loses the key ingredient of narrative innovation that made the previous films so successful; the result is a film made with the same formula, but that comes out entirely different.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s redeeming feature is its comedy, but even the trio’s strongest element feels underdone. While expected sight gags, slapstick and self-reference make for a frequently pleasing experience, a desire for a little more immaturity and laughter does linger throughout. Most disappointingly of all is that the absence of memorable dialogue means that The World’s End is not nearly as quotable as the two previous films.
The high octane fight sequences, Wright’s familiar snapshot editing and the lively camaraderie between the five leads ensure the film is full of energy, but there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Even the narrative itself is fraught with unexpected errors. Questionable character motivations, ridiculous inconsistencies and lazy exposition plague the film from the moment it begins; something unimaginable from a Wright and Pegg script.
The tired construction and unwillingness to push boundaries as they had done to great effect previously gives the impression that these filmmakers never intended upon a trilogy, played it safe to avoid stumbling with the vital third and final film or even are possibly sad to see it all end. This point is amplified by the film’s conclusion, an all too rushed confusion of ideas and shoehorned references that never comes close to tying up this narrative effectively, let alone bringing the entire franchise to a convincing close.
Much like the overlying themes of nostalgia, clinging to the memory of childhood and reliving former glories, The World’s End will leave audiences remembering the past experiences of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and longing for the same groundbreaking hilarity they provided. As a standalone production The World’s End is fine, but just “fine” is a disappointment and far below the expected standard from this once exceptional trio.