The World's End: 8 out of 10
I love the combination of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are two of my all-time favorite movies, and their TV show 'Spaced' is a classic in its own right. As such, my expectations were absolutely sky-high for their new movie, The World's End, and there was nothing that I could do about it. And so I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed in TWE - but it was still probably the best movie I've seen this year by a fair amount.
The premise of this movie revolves around a bar crawl in a mid-sized British town, recreating a similar bar crawl from 23 years before. This core supports the main premise of the Wright/Pegg movies to date: show the repetition of previous actions from a decidedly different perspective, with said premise involving a major film trope. Shaun compared daily working life to a zombie plague; Hot Fuzz compared small-town life to a big-budget action movie; and TWE compares visiting our old childhood haunts to an alien invasion.
The core character of the movie is Gary King, a 40-year-old druggie burnout who is still living out his high school years. He is clearly a pathetic creature, pitied or hated by every major character (including himself); yet, there is something compelling about him, and you can see why his friends would have respected him and the past and feel drawn to him now. He is not, and cannot be, the hero; he is simply the catalyst for all that happens around him. And he made me feel as personally uncomfortable as his friends in the movie.
The first third-to-half of the movie revolves around Gary gathering his friends to go on the bar crawl, and everyone recognizing just how pathetic he is. The rest of the movie is the action.
Yes, this is a sci-fi action movie, with even fairly-reasonable science fiction (perhaps modelled a bit after the Culture books shown in the backgrounds of Hot Fuzz). As such, we can judge this movie based on semi-standard action movie guidelines, and on this things look good:
The action scenes are well-choreographed and consistent. We are clear as to the current state of the chases and fights.
The audience is always clear as to the sides and the stakes.
The special effects are effective and only as obtrusive as necessary.
The action scenes are there for the sake of the story; the story is not there just for the sake of the action scenes.
Things look similarly reasonable on the science fiction front:
Only one major thing has changed, and other things follow from it. These things are somewhat-vaguely-sensible.
The implications of this change are at least partially thought through, and the implications are there that you could do so again.
The associated action scenes are related to the science-fiction bits.
The metaphors make sense and are thought-through, too.
That said, the biggest problem with the movie was that the two parts of the movie were not tied together very tightly. I suspect that many of the connections will come out on a second viewing, but I didn't feel as much like the second part of the movie followed from the first part, and that overall made it less interesting.
Also, there is an epilogue (and I liked it!), but it felt even less tight as the rest of the movie. I had the sense that the epilogue was the point of the main two parts of the movie, but it came across as a sequel instead. I can't see how the two halves of the movie would hold together at all without the epilogue, but what we got still felt frustratingly ham-handed.
Still, though I came out somewhat disappointed, this was still a great movie, and well worth seeing. I will see it again, probably many times. And I still hope that the group gets together and does another one of these movies again some day - but perhaps it would be okay if this remains in the past, too.
Rating: 8 (out of 10)
Trailer thoughts: the trailers before the main movie were confusing; only one trailer really stood out - About Time, a British sci-fi romantic comedy - and the others just felt like they were filling up space. I'm worried that they didn't know how to market this movie.
I highly recommend the first trailer for TWE itself. It spoils a few things about the movie, but not as many as you'd expect, as long as you don't try to analyze it frame-by-frame. It both summarizes the movie and acts as a nice little piece of short cinema on its own. This is top-tier trailer creation.
I should also note that I saw this movie as part of a general showing of 'The Cornetto Trilogy', which included Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I recommend this, but I don't think I can handle that many hours in the theatre very often. There were plenty of stylistic and thematic continuities mixed into the movies, not to mention shared props and cast members that I hadn't spotted before.