Friday, August 30, 2013

The Worlds End ~ On The Road To The Apocalypse With Pegg and Frost

The world is going to end someday...  Unlike "This Is the End,” the apocalypse is not supernatural.  In fact, it is quite natural in the context of recent Hollywood blockbusters.  Like the zombie film parody, "Shaun of The Dead" and the buddy cop film parody "Hot Fuzz," "The World's End," is just that, a parody about the end of the world but with heart.  When I was young, on weekends I would watch Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's "On the Road" pictures.  I get the same warm – fuzzy feeling with the Simon Pegg - Nick Frost films.  With “The World's End,” the fourth film the two have starred in together, we wind up a trilogy of films with loosely connected themes.  Some call them the “Blood and Ice Cream" trilogy, while to others it is simply the "Cornetto" trilogy.

Director Edgar Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg tell a darker tale (what's darker than zombies, dog muck, thieving kids and crusty jugglers?) of the end times by taking us on an allegorical tale set in the quiet town of Newton Haven, and is symbolized in a pub crawl.  Not just any pub-crawl, mind you.  This pub-crawl is one of epic proportions and life on Earth as we know it depends on it.  Gary King (Pegg) starts the film by relating how he and his four friends from school were in their glory days.  Gary retells the night that he and his best buds tried to do the Golden Mile 20 years ago when they graduated from High School and were about to set on their great adventure as adults.  One night back in the late 1980's there was 5 friends, 12 pubs, 60 pints of beer (1 pint per pub per person) all in one night.  They never make it.  Drunkenness befalls two of the friends sooner rather than later, and a bag of weed take the rest.  The three remaining comrades fall short by three pubs and pass out.
Now that we live in the Facebook age, how many of your old friends from your past have you connected with, only to realize that they never grew up.  This is the case with Gary.  Gary lives his life as a single man, lives in a small flat, and has no family, except his mum.  As Janis Joplin says in "Me and Bobby McGee," - "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose," and that is Gary.

After contemplating his life Gary decides to get the gang back together and try the pub-crawl again one more time for old times' sake. 

There is a lot of witty dialog that takes place throughout the film and a lot of it happens while Gary convinces his friends to come with him.  First, there is the shy and goofy high-end car salesman Peter Page, who is played by Eddie Marsden (“Jack the Giant Slayer”).  There is Oliver Chamberlain, a realtor, played by Martin Freeman ("The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), whose sister, Gary had a short fling with in the handicapped stalls back in their high school days.  Oliver, as a kid had a weird birthmark on his forehead, which looked somewhat like the numerals 666.  Of course, the kids nicknamed him Oliver the "O-man.”  The scar becomes relevant later in the film, as the town is inhabited by robots impersonating humans.  Paddy Considine ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "Hot Fuzz") plays Steven Prince.  He was the bass player in the band King had back in school, and although he is not married, he is dating a 26-year-old fitness instructor.  By the way, he had a crush on Oliver's sister Sam, as well.  Finally, we meet Gary's oldest and best friend, and the one who seems to be the most hurt by something Gary had done at some point, Andy Knightley.  Pegg’s oldest and closest friend in real life, Nick Frost, plays Andy.

In "Shaun of the Dead," and "Hot Fuzz," Frost has a co-starring role in the films, and plays mostly Pegg's foil in each of those films.  In "The World's End" Frost has stronger role and is able to show off more of his acting skills.  Take note of the last names of all of the friend's last names, as there seems to be some reason as to why the royal monikers given to each of them.  King, Page, Prince, Chamberlain and Knightly each have a role in the royal court, and here too in this film one can see the roles of the King, Knightly, and Prince as opposed to the Page, and the Chamberlain.  While drinking at the first of the pubs of the evening, The Old Familiar, Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) appears briefly and brings back the rivalry between Gary and Steve that plays out throughout the film.

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg explore themes of lost youth and dreams diminished in the day to day of adult life.  The film delves into alienation, using science fiction films as a basis to get this point across.  References to films like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and the old Christopher Lee film "The End of The World" show how humanity is replaced by technology and alien thoughts in the last twenty something years.  The 1950's version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" stands as a reference to the reasons why an alien civilization may be interested in mere humans.  A simple pub-crawl becomes an adventure in a comical Tolkien-like fable.  Characters like old Basil (David Bradley from the Harry Potter films) plays the standard old lunatic that no one believes and therefore is harmless.  Yet he is the keeper of the truth in a Lovecraftian way.  Former Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan makes an appearance as former schoolteacher, Guy Shephard.  His role as the authoritarian of the group's youth is there to remind Gary (mostly) of his unconventional ways and how it is better to submit.  Once again, the idea of settling for what some in today's world call normalcy, to let go of our individuality and become a robot, a slave to conventionality.

The scenes at the different pubs and the walk between them are tied together very nicely by music that takes those of us who remember the wild days of the late 1980's back to that time in our lives.  From songs like Primal Scream's "Loaded”, that shouts out the anthem and Gary's goal in life: "We want to be free, we want to get loaded, we want to have a good time." to the Door's version of "Alabama Song," or Suede's "So Young.”  The soundtrack for "The World's End" is in itself golden and makes the film worth viewing just to see how deftly Edgar Wright and crew weave the songs into and around the dialog and action.  The climax of "The World's End" would have made Douglas Adams proud if he were still alive to see it.  The dialog between King and the alien invaders pays homage to Adams and his legacy of logic, absurdity, and freedom that the "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" has given us.

The film wraps up all the comedy, the action, and insane dialog in a big way, and although not everything returns to the way it was before, there is some consolation that the world is once again right.  The story we are told was actually delivered by Andy (Frost) in much the way Tom Hanks main character retells his story over a campfire in "Cloud Atlas" indicating that everything is connected.  It isn't until the very end, which the last wrapper of a mint Cornetto flutters by that we see that indeed, everything is connected.  If you don't do yourself the favor of seeing "The World's End" on the big screen, at least take the time and watch it when it comes out on DVD or Blu-ray.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy
Year:  2013
Staring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike
Director:  Edgar Wright
Producer(s): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park
Writer: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Rating: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: 8/23/2013

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