by J.D. Cook
The World’s End can be summed up in one very simple word…Great. That’s a word that doesn’t seem very large next to fantastic, awesome, spectacular but yet it’s exactly how I would describe this film. It’s a wonderful work of art and everyone involved in its making should be happy to have been a part of it. It’s a culmination of the work Wright, Pegg and Frost have done together over the years and a fitting end for the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I got to see this film early and that adventure can be read about here but this is strictly about the movie. Usually third acts seem dried up and depressing as they take what was good about previous works and either follow the exact same pattern or destroy it so completely that no one can recognize the film anymore. The World’s End is one of those rare instances where the last chapter just might be the best.
The Plot follows five friends who reunite to re-attempt a failed Pub Crawl from years prior called the Golden Mile. The crew is assembled by Gary King (played by Simon Pegg) due to a longing to relive his glory years. He gets his estranged best friend Andrew (played by Nick Frost), Steven (played by Paddy Considine), Peter (played by Eddie Marsan) and Oliver “Omen” (Martin Freeman) to ‘enable’ him in this pursuit. Together along with Sam (played by Rosamund Pike) they discover the town has been largely replaced by robots and they must figure out how to survive the night. Of course that is just the surface of the film. There is a much deeper level to almost everything that happens within the movie but I should warn you that to continue is to go past the point of no return for spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film go see it and come back!
Still here? Ok! Now onto the Various Metaphors of the World’s End. The biggest reason I loved the World’s End was because of how well thought out it is. Each Pub name reflects something that occurs or occurred there.
The First Post
-The first Pub they visit for the night
The Old Familiar
-Looks identical to the old post and they meet Sam there again.
The Famous Cock
-A place where Gary King was a ‘famous cock’ year’s earlier and where he is now banned for that same reason.
The Cross Hands
-The first Pub they literally cross hands with the robots in the town via awesome slugfest.
The Good Companion
-The group must act like good companions to avoid Robot detection.
The Trusty Servant
-This is where Gary King meets up with his drug dealer who could be said to be his ‘trusty servant’ while he is called by the robots to join them and become a ‘trusty servant’ to them. Oliver also becomes a robot at this point so he is also a ‘trusty servant’.
The Two Headed Dog
-Where they face identical evil robot twins who are a sort of two headed attack dog.
-The group encounters beautiful women who are tempting them in order to get their DNA thus foreshadowing doom much like ancient Mermaids often did. They also are simply acting as Sirens in this sense too.
-It is at this point that the protagonists of the film engage in a debate and a showdown with the robots causing a beehive of activity to take place there. Oh and the robots want people to work together much like bees do in a well-coordinated manner.
The King’s Head
-Where Gary King loses his!
The Hole in the Wall
-This one is pretty funny, it’s called such because Steven drives into it and creates a, you guessed it, hole in the wall
The World’s End
-Here the Pub Crawl ends along with the world its character’s knew so well.
So there are the various metaphors of the Pubs in the film. Now let’s move a little deeper into the story. As you may know the film deals heavily with the idea that where you grow up tends to change when you leave it and return. People come of age and usually have great child hood memories with where they came of age but upon leaving and starting an adult life and returning they find their home is unable to live up to the expectations or the memories they had of it. It’s an idea focused on in the book You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe; this has since given rise to the title of the book being used to describe this situation. All the protagonists in the World’s End must face this…especially since their town has been taken over by Robots. There is the greatness of this film though; it uses a Science Fiction premises to connect it’s viewers to a very human emotion most of us have felt at one time in our lives. It’s the best of Social Science Fiction!
Now onto Gary King; he is the simplest character in this film because we’ve all met him. Everyone knows someone who just never progressed past high school for whatever reason. He’s a sad character because we all long for our younger days at some point but to be trapped and consumed by them is something else entirely. Dare I say that Gary King might be the best character of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy? Perhaps I feel this way because his plight is so lamentable as he runs to finish the Golden Mile you don’t root for him you want him to stop and realize there’s more to life. Simon Pegg plays him brilliantly and I hope he dives into more roles like this in the future. Obviously it’s not all sad for Gary King though because he stands up to the aliens in triumphant fashion choosing to live free and unique rather than being assimilated. It is his flaws and unwillingness to change that allows him to stand up to the aliens and demand the human race be left free to be as messed up as they want to be. It’s after this moment that he gets his true heroic moment retrying the Golden Mile with robot copies of his young friends but instead of drinking alcohol he choose water; why? Earlier in the film Andrew (Nick Frost) tells Gary it takes courage to walk into a bar with your friends and order water instead of beer. Gary King has taken this to heart proving that not only has he finally escaped being trapped in the past but also that he truly loves and respects his friends.
Interestingly Nick Frost and Pegg seem to reverse rolls completely in this film. Whereas Frost played the proverbial screw up friend in Shaun of the Dead, and the somewhat blind and obedient Danny Butterman in Hot Fuzz he plays the straight laced Andrew in the World’s End while Pegg plays the screw up in his stead. It’s a really fun reversal for the trilogies finale. What really makes his character great is that he is reluctantly dedicated to his friend. He genuinely wants to help him despite the fact that Gary King has screwed him over enough times that he shouldn’t. At the beginning he doesn’t of course but throughout the film Andrew remembers just how much he loved his friend. Oh and here’s a fun little thing I noticed on my second viewing his full name is Andrew Knightley meaning he is the Knight to Gary’s King! Besides that he kicks the most ass of any character in this film. He wields bar stools and crushes robots like they are nothing before his awesome beer powered might!
Speaking of robots did anyone notice that they looked like action figures? While I was watching the film I knew there was something peculiar about how they looked but I couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t until after the film when Simon Pegg told me what they were meant to look like during the Q and A that I got it. You see many of the moments in the film are supposed to evoke the sense that the protagonists are trapped in their pasts. What do young boys play with? Action Figures of course! It’s really subtle of course and if Pegg hadn’t told me about it I probably wouldn’t have ever guessed it. On that same note why do they have ink blood? Pegg said it was because when you’re young you often come home with ink on your hands. Have I mentioned how awesome it is to meet film makers who put this much thought into their work?
Following with the robots I have to say that I felt one of the biggest influences on this film has to be Dr. Who. I mean the movie really felt like the doctor could show up in the Tardis at any second and it was great. The fact that the robots give off such a vibrant blue and are so obsessed with not being called robots was great and also reminded me of the best kind of Dr. Who episodes. That said there were obviously other influences that are perhaps more obvious, the Stepford Wives, where women are replaced with robots to be good wives, and the Invasion of the Body Snatchers come straight to mind.
What about the various other characters in the film? Let’s talk cameos first! My favorite one had to be Michael Smiley as a reformed drug dealer trying to fit into the robots plan for Newton Heaven. This was great because it almost felt like Smiley was playing his character from Spaced, Tyres O’Flaherty, who also had a pension for giving out drugs. Then there was a great cameo by Mark Heap, also from Spaced as a bartender. Oh and let’s not forget the second James Bond cameo of the series via Pierce Brosnan as the Aliens voice of friendly cooperation and good advice. Interestingly the last time Brosnan played bond Rosmund Pike who plays Sam was a bond girl. Each of the main members of the film has their own threads that run through it. Oliver is simply trying to get buy and be a great real estate agent. Steven is trying to recapture the one that got away, Sam. My favorite though was Peter because just like Gary King there was a sadness that ran through his ark as he is confronted by his old bully who doesn’t recognize him only to get a sort of cathartic revenge by destroying the bully’s robot duplicate later and he plays a hilarious drunk. Now let’s get to the big thread running through this film, the world’s actual end.
The aliens are trying to bring humanity up to par with the rest of ‘the Network’. This network has allowed Earth’s technology to blossom at the expense of humanity’s free will in many cases. It’s essentially what is happening to the world through Globalization. McDonalds and Starbucks are spreading while Mom and Pop stores of all kinds die. Soon the whole globe will have the same stores, restaurants and even Pubs! Anyone who has ever worked for these giant corporations can relate to what it’s like to be told that the company just wants you to join their team not change you. The Network is most certainly a metaphor for that but I also think there is another thing the network is a metaphor for, social media. Today we all blog, facebook, tweet and stay connected to the internet these days. We all willingly join ‘the network’ and dismiss our right to privacy in order to stay up to date and be the same as everyone else. It’s also something creepy you notice on social networks, people tend to talk the same way online and discuss the same things. Due to the fact we are all getting connected to the same sources of information and pop culture we all seem to be adopting the same views and thoughts relating to those things. It’s spooky and I couldn’t have been happier when Gary King and the Enablers flipped got the voice of Bill Nighy to say fuck it, side note it’s pretty cool he played a sort of cosmic warden when he was a sort of planet building warden in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with none other than Martin Freeman. Six degrees of separation, am I right?
Along with these the Network also most certainly is a metaphor for all of technology in a certain sense. We are so deeply entrenched in the things we rely on for comfort that most of us wouldn’t survive without them. What would happen if it all just collapsed at once? Well that’s exactly what happens at the end of the World’s End. You see I think people are losing their sense of purpose in this new age of technological terror. The reason zombie stories and general apocalypse stories are growing is because we enjoy seeing people put back in situations where they actually have to work to survive. It’s definitely a thread running through the World’s End as the ending shows us a Gary King who suddenly has a purpose instead of using drugs and alcohol to numb himself into dealing with life he’s gone clean and is surviving it living more than he ever did before in the process.
For a full list of articles in this feature check out The World’s End Annihilation Spectacular