In the world of filmmaking, there’s a certain consciousness adopted amongst directors, writers and actors in relation to their next project, whether it be of the expectations of audiences, financiers or themselves. Of course, the best filmmakers are more concerned with making the best story that they can, balancing character development, narrative progression and visual electricity, but there’s always a lingering sense of insurance behind each filmmaker’s mechanisms in order to preserve their careers. In some ways, sequels are the best way for a director, writer or actor to ensure their future and a level of creative freedom with their future projects, but often times sequels can be just as much of gambles as an individual project as there is more on the line. Often times, a filmmaker in any position is best suited to learn from their previous hits and misses and adapt, crafting something that feels like their former projects have been nothing but precursors for the sake of fine tuning their newest effort.
It’s that adaptation that, while not entirely true, is indicative of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, a science-fiction laden horror comedy that is grandiose and masterful but absolutely humble and out-and-out hilarious. Assembling a murderer’s row of British actors, including Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike, as well as collaborators Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, Wright puts characters first and foremost in this film, dropping nuances with such finesse that there’s no information that’s ever served arbitrarily and often times pays off in a big way that also works for the story. Wright constructs this story impeccably, beginning with a narrative tale that serves as a framework for the rest of the film that’s all-the-more satisfying to see reprised in a natural and brilliant way. And to his credit, Wright is also able to make a film that’s emotionally affecting and inspiring whilst never letting down on the humor or the incredibly fun action sequences.
The World’s End is a rare breed of horror comedy, as it’s subversive but never mean-spirited or existing within a single realm of which to satire. There seems to be a loving embrace of the “invasion” genre behind the portrayal of these mechanical and foreign threats, which all the more makes these beings more likeable and eventually, more dangerous. At the same time, the focus on the film falls upon the human characters, of which many exist within their own flaws and origins. This comes through in every aspect of the characters development, whether it be loyalty amongst their friends, their fighting styles and especially their dialogue, which is both biting and witty in the best way possible. And the film also prides itself on its intelligence, purveying a unique philosophy on the dangers of nostalgia and corporatization while also delivering a story that’s logical in an illogical situation and genuine in its most sobering moments.
Of course, with any Wright directorial effort, the performances all around are stellar and are what keep you grounded in the film even as the madness fires on all cylinders. Pegg is outstanding in the film, anchoring the films funniest and most emotional moments and possibly reeling in his best performance to date. Frost is almost as good, exceptionally portraying a flawed and damaged man who has grown weary of his past, especially the role that Pegg’s Gary King had played. Considine, Pike, Freeman and Marsan are all incredible as well, each offering a different perspective on their meeker archetypes and attack each character with the same gusto as they would with a dramatically tuned role. And as par for the course, Wright delivers a few great cameos from British acting stalwarts, none of which I have the right to ruin for you hear but will absolutely please any fan of genre entertainment.
Technically speaking, Wright has absolutely adapted brilliantly from his work on Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim, offering realistic looking special effects from Double Negative with a gorgeously shot film from Bill Pope. Every shot looks appropriately glossy and defined, lending an appropriately beautiful and otherworldly look to the bizarre freakiness on display. Furthermore, Wright’s eye as an artist works in correspondence with Pope, offering brilliant framing devices and ambitious long-take action set pieces as well as nice references to past works, subtle or otherwise. Additionally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely fantastic musical choices in the film, whether it’s the immersive original score from Steven Price or the incredibly satisfying and constructed tracks from longtime Wright music supervisor Nick Angel.
Overall, The World’s End is as great as it ought to be, showing a new, more mature side to the mischievously hilarious Wright and his dependable cohorts. The script from Wright and Pegg is amongst the strongest I’ve ever seen in the world of comedy, and Wright’s visual collaboration makes The World’s End a choice specimen for repeat viewings, as each frame is worth analysis for subtle laughs and Easter Eggs. Overall though, even without Wright’s history coming into play, The World’s End is a genuinely excellent genre hybrid, one that’s creepy as a solid sci-fi horror, compelling as thoughtful drama and hysterical as a comedy. It’s a high bar for Wright to meet in the future, but if the level of imagination and resourcefulness from Wright, Pegg and Frost leap as they have done previously, then I’m already excited for their next effort.
– By Ken W. Hanley