Never been much of an Edgar Wright fan, until I happened upon Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Now Wright is back with the third instalment in his Cornetto trilogy (following Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), the big question is whether Wright's latest follows the upwards spiral of his career, or if it slips back into more comfortable territory. I went in completely blank (no trailers, no interviews) and as it turns out: it's a little bit of both.
A fair word of warning up front: if you haven't seen this film yet, go in blank. Avoid all trailers, quit reading reviews and don't even look at any plot descriptions. Knowing nothing about The World's End makes the film all that more fun, as Wright effectively hides the film's true identity during the first half hour. Even that is saying too much already, so know you'll have to live with some spoilers if you keep on reading this review.
The World's End revolves around a group of old friends trying to recapture their youth. The one bringing the group back together is Gary, a junkie stuck in the past with nothing substantial to live for. On a support meeting he remembers the highpoint of his life: the night when he and his buddies tackled the Golden Mile: a 12-bar drinking spree. At least, they tried to tackle it as they never made it to the end (a bar called The World's End).
So Gary gets everybody back together and convinces them to finish what they started all those years ago. The others are somewhat reluctant to come at first, but Gary is a pretty persuasive guy. The first few bars everything is looking swell, but as the evening passes a feeling of awkwardness creeps up. Something is not right in Newton Haven and the five are bound to find out what is happening in the town they grew up in.
The World's End is not as visually intense as Scott Pilgrim, but Wright does make the most of his dynamic style. The film doesn't feature too many amazing shots or effects, but makes up for that with funky camera angles and lively editing. The CGI that's present is functional and stylized, never truly awing, but never feeling out of place either. It feels a bit like Ritchie-light at times, which is probably the right style for this kind of film.
The same goes for the soundtrack. A series of popular songs make up most of the soundtrack, the score itself goes largely unnoticed. The choice of songs is pretty mediocre from a purely musical point of view, but within the film Wright's choices work really well. Uptempo and upbeat music that maintains the kind of fast-paced atmosphere that a comedy like this requires.
The first half hour of the film is absolutely dominated by Simon Pegg's presence, after that the other four (including Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan) are getting more room to shine. While Pegg stays front and center the entire film, the group dynamic works extremely well and provides plenty of room for laughs and puns (of the British kind of course). The secondary cast is great too with a rather remarkable role for Pierce Brosnan, making it an all-round quality cast.
It takes a while before Wright reveals the film's true colors. I bet this makes the first half hour somewhat tame for those who know what to expect, but for people going in blank it creates a very interesting tension. You feel there's somehow more to the story, but at face value you get a film about a couple of old farts going on a drinking spree. Wright stretches this to the point where you actually start to wonder if maybe that's all there really is to it. Not that the first half is hour is bad, it's still incredibly witty and funny, it's just that Wright's teasing is subtle enough to introduce reasonable doubt.
The World's End if by far my favorite entry in the trilogy (don't worry if you haven't seen the other two first by the way, they are only related by crew and a few running gags). The humor is decidedly British and the first half hour is somewhat of a gamble, but Wright delivers a fun, fresh and fast-paced comedy with plenty of laughs and giggles, solid effects and quite a few surprises. I'm ready for Wright's next film.