“The World’s End” is in many ways the most mature movie to come out in the last few years. It isn’t a depressing, melancholic drag; it’s a highly entertaining romp that just happens to have something important to say. It views modern society through a skewed lens and picks it apart with a deft, humorous hand. “The World’s End” is not perfect, of course, but in a world where soulless drivel tends to dominate theaters, a movie that makes us think and feel something is rare.
This movie caps off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, the brainchild of director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. All three movies, including “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” function on a basic level as parodies of a familiar genre. “The World’s End” might best be classified as a science-fiction spoof, though that would be selling it short. It is a satire that discusses the pleasures and pains of individuality, the dangers of conformism, and the difficulty of moving on from past failures. It borrows liberally from just about every significant science-fiction movie, such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Blade Runner,” and even “The Thing,” but it becomes something all its own. Where so many other social satires view their subjects with detachment, “The World’s End” looks at everything with sentimentality and thoughtfulness. There are no cheap shots here; every gag and reference says something about the characters or the world around them.
Like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End” is surprisingly touching. Viewers come to feel something for the core figures in the story, though they function more as actual characters than caricatures, unlike in the previous two movies in the trilogy. Everybody plays an archetype, but they play their archetypes well enough to make them feel like real, fleshed-out people. Central to the story are Frost and Pegg, playing a straight man and a comedic foil, respectively, in a reversal of the formula that the last two movies used to such great effect. It still works. Frost plays a fine corporate type who has started to lose his soul to the constraints of modern society, while Pegg gets to showcase his dramatic ability in addition to his comedic timing. Both characters develop in subtle, sensible ways.
That’s not to say that “The World’s End” is focused entirely on these men and their personal trials. There are plenty of chases and fight scenes, which are overproduced but flashy enough to keep your interest during the movie’s slower sections. The choreographers who worked with the film’s cast had past experience with Jackie Chan, and it shows. Even though everything revolves around the five main characters getting drunker and drunker, they remain strangely coordinated and capable of taking on small armies of robotic doppelgangers. Does it make sense? Not really, but it’s fun to watch.
Unfortunately, the movie’s pacing starts to peter off in the third act. It becomes grim, and though it is still fun, it seems more focused on hammering down its themes than bringing things to a natural, unforced conclusion. The comedy is still there, but it is subdued. “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” also suffered from third act tonal changes and plot twists. Though hints are dropped throughout the first 80 minutes as to the true nature of the invasion, the bulk of the mystery is solved in the last 30, and all of the characters’ problems are either wrapped up in haste or left unsolved.
Even if “The World’s End” disappoints in the last act, everything before it is so well-made that it doesn’t even matter. It might be hard to choose what to see when theaters are packed with such critical darlings as “Planes,” “Kick-Ass 2,” and “The Mortal Instruments,” but I’d recommend seeing “The World’s End” over anything else that has come out in the last three months. It feels as though it was made with some purpose besides raking in money, and it’s too entertaining to pass up.