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Review: Edgar Wright’s ‘The World’s End’ Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman & More

Review: Edgar Wright's 'The World's End' Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman & More

As the completion of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s thus-far endlessly watchable Cornetto Trilogy, “The World’s End” is probably the funniest movie I’ve ever felt really disappointed by. Like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” before it, their collaboration once again produces some of the most genuine, earned, character-driven laughs in any modern comedy. And in many ways it evidences the trio’s individual and collective growth as performers and creators, employing what has become to their fans familiar techniques to communicate increasingly sophisticated ideas. But as a film whose central theme emphasizes the dangers of living in the past, Wright, Pegg and Frost become fatally distracted by nostalgia, eventually paying too much homage to previous classics—especially their own—to create another film that deserves to stand alongside them.

Pegg plays Gary King, the last holdout in a group of friends who thoroughly enjoyed the irresponsible glory of their high school years but in the 20 years since then, settled into more mature, mundane routines. With virtually nothing else to hold onto in his life but a mythical pub crawl that they failed to complete when they were 18, Gary rounds up Andrew (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) and convinces them to try again. But as they begin to walk “The Golden Mile,” Gary quickly discovers that it’s impossible to relive the past—first when he sees how much the pubs and his friends have changed, and then when the group slowly realizes that their sleepy hometown has apparently been taken over by a bizarrely polite alien menace.

Typically, there are more interlocking pieces in Edgar Wright’s scripts than a 1,000-piece puzzle—and they usually fit together with similar beauty: asides announce future plot points, pop culture references reveal character details and comic set pieces augment profound emotional truths. And there is much of that layering in “The World’s End,” starting with Gary’s account of their first attempt at the pub crawl, which more or less presages all that happens to him and his pals throughout the course of their second attempt. But the fulfillment of that narrative foreshadowing is messier and more convoluted than in any of their previous efforts, perhaps by design but seldom to greater effect. The idea alone of visiting twelve pubs makes it foundationally more complicated, for example, but rather than generating a sense of inescapable momentum or building tension, as they move from one to the next, the choice only exposes the characters and story to more unevenness.

Truthfully, the film’s big problem is the characterization of Gary, a guy whose halcyon self-glorification isn’t merely delusional, but relentless. His entire adulthood is defined, or maybe more accurately, constrained by the memories of his reckless youth. But despite his friends’ efforts to cajole or even confront him about letting go of the past, growing up and embracing a new phase of life, Gary persists in trying to recapture old glories, which eventually becomes as exasperating for the audience as it does his buddies. Oddly, the movie literally never portrays his perception of himself as flattering, but never fully (or appropriately) excoriates him for this obnoxious behavior, instead choosing to mostly let him off the hook—if not actually sort of validate his pathetic self-destructiveness.

If the alchemy of Pegg and Frost’s personalities generated so much of the emotional substance of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” their relationship is less central—and less impactful—to “The World’s End” than it maybe intends to be, primarily because the there aren’t two, but five characters who figure into the main thrust of the narrative. Considerable lip service is paid to the deep-rooted friendship between Gary and Andrew, but their current-day estrangement frequently takes a back seat to Gary’s issues with the other three characters, especially Steven, whose resurrected, imaginary rivalry for Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) much more painfully evidences the craterlike destructiveness of his behavior on all of their lives.

That the catalyst for Gary and Andrew’s rift is only mentioned where these other conflicts are shown on screen further undermines its importance. But the fatal blow to their eventual reconciliation is the fact that Gary never satisfactorily makes amends for his earlier negligence, even though Andrew forgives and forgets anyway.

Moreover, the film spends a significant chunk of time explaining a whole lot about the characters, their world, and the circumstances in which they find themselves by the end, without pairing it with enough action. In terms of fights and physical confrontations, mind you, there are several big, mostly-well-staged set pieces. But once the film takes a step back to examine the machinery of the friends’ relationships and the mythology of their alien opponents, its dramatic momentum grinds to a halt. Wright primarily introduces and resolves emotional conflicts through petulant conversations between Gary and, well, everyone, but even the film’s acknowledgement of the immaturity of those exchanges is writ large in a way that glorifies rather than critiques his myopic, self-destructive devotion to the past.

All of which is honestly why in a way I hope that I missed things in the film on a first viewing that, like the dense and layered structures of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” reveal themselves in subsequent ones. Especially since its climax seems more interested in paying homage to alien-invasion and apocalypse movies than in reinforcing or reconciling the dynamics between the characters, and an inexplicable coda seemingly undermines almost every single idea presented by one of the characters in the previous scene. But then again, maybe “The World’s End” is itself a self-fulfilling treatise on the dangers of trying to recapture the same experience over and over again: possibly feeling like they have evolved beyond the tomfoolery, brilliant though it is, of their earlier work, this enormously talented trio would perhaps rather look forward than back.

In delivering something that powerfully condemns that sort of celebratory self-reflection, it encourages its audience to do so as well, which given Wright’s brilliantly post-modern body of work, feels delightfully subversive. But if that’s the case, then viscerally, “The World’s End” is also a real bummer, because even though Wright, Pegg and Frost wrap up their trilogy with tons of incredibly funny material, they seem like the only ones who ultimately get the last laugh. [C+]

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I found myself looking at my watch several times as the movie was a rollercoaster of frantic energy and lulls. Some references may have been lost on me, but mainly I just didn't find the pacing helpful and after a while, found the movie a bit repetitive and boring in spots. If I had to rate the 'trilogy', it remains in the order of release with Shaun at #1.


cant we all just get along?
failing that can we all agree the film sucks the sweat off a rotting babys arse

Movie Buff

Not their best work but still a good watch . Don't listen to other guys who couldn't write a bazooka Joe comic , or act there way out of a paper bag . I have to admit though these guys could be legends of the comedy genre if they would just trying to be so serious , I want to see more from them but come on break out the laughs be proud of what you kickass at .


Gilchrist. Was an idiot at IGN, is still an idiot now. Can't believe anyone publishes this guy.

you're an idiot truth


jim the movie buff

No "You're an Idiot Truth", it is YOU who are the "Stupid Pathetic Idiotic Troll" ! ! !. "The Sayer of the Truth" is a genius who is all-knowing and all-seeing, everything he says is ALWAYS completely right and true. Indeed no-one else should reply 'TO YOU' you bloody silly bastard, where-as "The Sayer of the Truth" should ALWAYS be worshipped like the God that he obviously is ! ! !.

You're an idiot truth

Wow just first class trolling man… Oh and try to spread your comments out so it isn't obvious it's from the same guy at the same time… Stupid pathetic idiotic troll… No one else should reply…

jim the movie buff

"The Sayer of the Truth" is right, "The Worlds End" is no different from the kind of unwatchable garbage that the (so-called) British film industry was producing 50 or even 80 years ago ! ! !, i know Americans are renowned for biting the hand that feeds them but giving this movie a place in the multi-plexes really does take the cake for all-encompassing stupidity on the part of the distributors.

the sayer of the truth

Its absolutely appalling and totally unacceptable that this pile of laughably pathetic and excruciatingly unwatchable British made celluloid dog-shit has been given a cinema release in North America (it should have instead been flushed straight down the toilet where ALL British made films belong), any Americans who are stupid enough to pay $8 to see this horse-shit should be literally shot for being such idiotic morons, its also denying ANY infinitely superior American made movie a place in the multi-plexes, the distributors should be bloody-well ashamed of themselves for encouraging the talentless British wankers who made this bull-shit and for being turn-coats to the American film industry. LONG LIVE HOLLYWOOD, DEATH TO THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.

jimmie t. murakami

Eradicate the British film industry NOW, with a 50 megaton device ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster

The British film industry is an abomination and it must be destroyed with malice-a-fore-thought and extreme prejudice.

jim the movie buff

Todd. I think It's time to look for a new job. Reviews just aren't your cup of tea. Sincerely, Everyone.


To be honest, the only opinion that matters to me is my own. To that end…I loved it. I laughed from start to finish, dunno what you stoneyfaced folks were watching.


It was pretty clear this film wasn't a comedy. It was a black comedy. The idiots citing the lack of laughs in the audience obviously had no idea how to take the film.

This film paid more homage to Spaced than anything else. I mean, frick me, I absolutely loved Spaced. But I don't really recall laughing all that much. Comedy doesn't particularly have to make you laugh out loud, just look at satire.

I fear the majority of naysayers got too accustomed to the slight Americanisms in SOTD and HF, and failed to appreciate what a bleak, thoroughly British comedy is.


You know what the problem with this review is? The film is a COMEDY meaning stop analysing it so much, if its hilarious hasn't it done a good job? Man, in a world where we have Adam Sandler and a mountain of shitty comedies, you give a C+ to this!? A genuinely funny film! ARGHHHH!!!!!!!


Spinal tap meets the likely lads grange hill and dr who, love peg frost wright and park but maybe its a corneto to far,sometimes its better to end on a high ,they should have stoped at hot fuzz if that was to be the case.


a good review that pretty much summed up a lot of the reasons why i didn't enjoy this movie. A shame, since I thought it was a very enjoyable premise, and I usually love these guys' work.


I really didn't enjoy the film and I don't see the Americans standing more of a chance with a few of the jokes and references and the overall tone feeling very English. I felt the fight scenes were dull, too many of the jokes feel flat and Pegg's character was annoying and not in a good David Brent way.


The World's End was about the horrors of globalisation, not nostalgia. Duh.


This has to have been the most pretentious way to say absolutely nothing. Your desperatly clinging to the past and don't want them to grow and change and more over from a group of guys making films to entertain you were clearly looking for some benevolent god to come and speak to you through the film rather than just being entertained.
Maybe you should just stick to super pretentious filmmakers as well, don't worry Nymphomaniac looks terrible, but I bet you'll love your boy von Trier!

Alan B

This is the best review I've read on this site for a while. It unpackages your problems with the film with thoughtful detail and common sense. Well done.


World's End was a disappointment for me. The main problem was they tried to fix what wasn't broken. In Shaun and Hot Fuzz, Nick Frost was the goof and Simon Pegg the straight man, trying to switch that around for TWE just didn't work. Pegg was kinda annoying in the role and their dynamic was disjointed and stale.

Other things that were great about the SoD and HF was the clever use of editing for comic effect. All those little quick cuts which were actually gags showing events were missing here save for two times (pints being pulled and seatbelts being put on), so nothing in terms of funny edits comparable to SoD's 'go round Mum's/ whack Phillip/ have a cup of tea etc

The film was stale. The introduction was too long, the story inaccessible or unrelatable for most people and the pay off disappointing. The editing was poor and the screenplay was just not well written or funny enough for the name of the film to be spoken in the same sentence as Shaun or Hot Fuzz.

Sorry A-MAN but you must have been watching a different film to me and the theatre I was in. My auditorium was packed and I could count the laughs we all had on one hand for the whole movie. The cinema was packed but silent for most of the film. Most conversations I heard on the way out were people saying they thought it was shit. That I would not have believed had I not been there and seen it for myself.


anyone that says this film is worse than SOTD and HF is stuck in the past and ignorant of the fact that, although both previous films are funny (especially Shaun), they suffer from a real lack of thoughtful and cogent dramatism and any satisfyingly developed narrative…

that is to say Shaun of the Dead is great as a funny zombie movie, but it's a pretty godawful rom-com.
and Hot Fuzz is a funny(enough) action movie, but a truly godawful English Country Horror film.

but The World's End was everything I wanted and more – it was riotously funny, as is expected from such a talented cast (especially Nick Frost!) but also had a relatively mature and gripping story that (admittedly) has to get a bit heavy-handed with exposition for the invasion at the end, but only in an effort to give more time to serve both the comedic and dramatic elements of the central narrative beforehand – it's not a story about aliens, it's a story about the beauty, danger and ultimate horror of nostalgia…

it's a truly satisfying and thankfully more cohesive end to the Blood & Ice-Cream Trilogy… and with a great epilogue that owes a lot to Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness!

Adam Sandler's Retarded Buddy

Yeah Todd, you've got a lot of fucking nerve.


It's been the law of diminishing returns for me. I don't think any Edgar Wright has been as good as the critics and devotees hype them up to be. Shaun of the Dead remains the best film any of them have been involved in, and Pegg, particularly, has been absolutely awful in everything outside of the Wright/Zucker Bros. amped up cartoony style. Don't tell me he was good in Star Trek! He mugged his way through it sticking out like a sore thumb. No matter they'll always get a free pass, but I just don't see it.


Todd, you are a pinãta of terrible film opinions.


who the fuck are you todd?

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