The posters for “The World’s End” outside my local cinema featured something I’d never seen before. There, right across the top of the poster, was a stark warning that showings of this film were being specially monitored for recording equipment (including mobile phones!) to prevent unauthorised copying. Not only did it spoil the look of the posters, it smacked of a particular kind of arrogance.
No other film in this big blockbusting year of cinema felt the need to issue this blunt warning. Did the makers really believe that this – this was the film which people would be so desperate to get hold of a pirate copy of? Not “Iron Man 3”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Man Of Steel” or “World War Z” but “The World’s End”? Perhaps the demand for pirate copies would be so high because all the screenings would be sold out?
I have another theory. Maybe they’re so keen to keep the film under wraps to protect its biggest secret: it’s just not very good.
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, “The World’s End” tries desperately to recapture the charm, swagger and joy of its predecessors but instead comes off as smug, arrogant and lazy. It feels like both Pegg and Wright felt more obligated than excited to make this. The whole things feels like ‘good enough’ was good enough and there’s little of the love and care for the genre which was evident in both “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”.
The film suffers from a multiple personality disorder, abruptly and jarringly changing from a belated coming of age/ recaptured youth story to an alien invasion and is bogged down by a slow start and a shortage of likeable characters. Pegg’s Gary King is so odious and unsympathetic that Pegg, never the most naturally likeable performer, struggles to offer anything for the audience to latch on to. Fortunately, Nick Frost is on hand to inject some much-needed heart and humanity into this film. The cast do what they can with their underdeveloped roles but even with help from Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike, the film still feels oddly flat and lifeless. Pierce Brosnan even pops up in a cameo to remind us just how limited his range as an actor is.
The second half plot of the movie feels like a first draft of an episode of (modern) Doctor Who, the reason for the draft being rejected is that the writer forgot to actually put the Doctor in it. There’s a pleasing Britishness about the idea of an alien invasion taking place on a small, provincial level. Unfortunately, the movie ruins even that by going global for a downbeat coda which just fritters away any good feeling you may have left.
“The World’s End” isn’t terrible, just not terribly good and given the talent involved, very disappointing. There’s a smugness to it, like it’s enough for them to put Pegg and Frost on screen without giving them something great to work with. Oh, it has it’s moments (Nick Frost’s epiphanic bar brawl being a particular highlight) and it would have made a cracking episode of Doctor Who with a few tweaks here and there but it’s not as ballsy as “Shaun Of The Dead” nor as funny as “Hot Fuzz” and lacks the re-watchability of either. The closest comparison I can think of is “Ghostbusters II” – it probably all looked great on paper but just doesn’t quite click on screen.