One film. Two halves. Not much segue.
Simon Pegg seems to have cut out a career for himself playing big-kid science fiction fans who never grew up, and are about my age.
In this one he takes my ability to identify with his characters one stage further and plays Gary King - a man with detailed recall of his mates' lives circa 1990, despite not having really seen much of them lately. (ask any of my own current friends from back then)
Gary: "Drink up. Let's Boo-Boo."
Steven: "'Boo-Boo'? What is that?"
Gary: "You remember 'Let's Boo-Boo'. You know, from Mr. Shepherd's classroom, it said on the wall 'Exit, Pursued by a Bear', you know, from that Shakespeare play?"
Steven: "A Winter's Tale."
Gary: "Yeah. What was it called?"
Steven: "A Winter's Tale."
Gary: "That's it, and if we needed to make a quick getaway, we'd say 'Exit, pursued by a bear', and then it was 'Exit, pursued by Yogi Bear', and then it was just 'Let's Yogi and Boo-Boo', and then, 'Let's Boo-Boo'."
Well all right, maybe selective recall.
Steven: "Wow, you really have a selective memory don't you."
Gary: "Somebody else was saying that."
Gary: "No, I would have remembered."
Of course, by the present day (2013) everyone else has settled down, got married, and are earning a reasonable amount of income from their careers, but something seems to be missing from their lives, something other than just cassette tape.
After the opening flashback sequence, Gary - an unwanted reminder of the scattered friends' adolescent past - sets about rounding the gang up again to complete an old unfinished pub crawl. So far it's the classic reunion movie set-up, with most reluctantly conceding to come along just for old time's sake, plus of course the customary one who flat refuses to.
This then makes up pretty well the first half of the movie. It's great to see all these old friends cautiously catching up with each other, and gradually dropping their guard to have a bit of fun again. Gary himself is fascinating to watch too, clearly hiding his true agenda from them, and revealing not a jot of what he's actually been up to since any of them last saw him.
Then the second half of the film features them all in multiple fight scenes against alien zombies in a battle to save what little is still left of human civilisation.
Whoa, sorry, what did that last sentence say? As I suggested at the start, this is one story that definitely needs a stronger segue in the middle. I mean there is one, but for my money it's not handled as well as in the earlier films of this Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.
Back in Shaun Of The Dead, the leads' moment of realisation that there really was a zombie invasion came when they witnessed the girl in their garden standing back up again despite the whacking great hole through her body. There was no way for the characters to rationalise this, and so they were credibly forced to accept that something supernatural had to really be going on.
In The World's End, this dawning moment is represented by someone standing up with no head. The problem with this variation is that one of the humans present would surely have rationalised the headless human as being a shorter person wearing a tall costume with their head in the chest. That's what I would assume, and you too, I further assume.
But not these characters, who consequently lose all the believability they'd acquired in the first half, and quickly become the fantasy characters of the second. The change in the second half isn't so much in the events that happen, as in who the main characters are, and therefore have been up until this point.
Out of nowhere, the guys suddenly have the ability to fight like action heroes, and it all feels more like Scott Pilgrim. When they fight an equal number of aliens, our heroes win. When they are hopelessly outnumbered, our heroes win. When the film's final scene ends with Gary and his band of good aliens getting into a fight with a whole room full of angry humans, that his new alien friends are all about to get ripped to shreds is inevitable, which is surely not the feel-good implication that we are supposed to leave the cinema visualising. (just look at what earlier became of the damage to robot Oliver's head)
Other storyline shortcomings include the coincidence of the invasion both beginning and ending on the same two days as the lads' two pub crawls 20 years apart, the awkward motivation for continuing the drunken pub crawl despite the probability of getting poisoned, and at the end the said aliens just letting mankind off. I kid you not, they are simply talked out of their dastardly plan. In fact, there's so much careless plotting here that it must surely be intended?
Hm, sorry guys, you've set the bench so high on your previous movies that I'm afraid I now expect cleverer from you...
However although the second half makes this one the weakest storyline of the trilogy, overall, this is not a bad film. The World's End features less swearing than usual, and is directed by Edgar Wright with his always compelling flair.
It also pummels the viewer with a verbose script packed to bursting with strings of brilliant one-liners.
Gary: "And here we go! Just like the five Musketeers!"
Steven: "Three musketeers, wasn't it?"
Peter: "Four, if you count d'Artagnan."
Gary: "Well, nobody knows how many there were really, do they?"
Oliver: "You do know that 'The Three Musketeers' was a fiction, right? Written by Alexandre Dumas?"
Gary: "A lot of people are saying that about the Bible these days."
Steven: "What, that it was written by Alexandre Dumas?"
Gary: "Don't be daft, Steve! It was written by Jesus!"
Andrew: "Are we there yet?"
Basically, I thought this was a much better character piece than it was a science fiction.
Highly enjoyable, and a rare film in that I actually wouldn't mind paying to go see it again next week.
Although this represents the end of the trilogy, I very much doubt that we've seen the last of these guys.
There are a lot more flavours of Cornetto still out there.
(review of Shaun Of The Dead here)
(review of Hot Fuzz here)