WARNING: Spoilers (and hangovers) to follow.
The grand finale of Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy,” beginning in 2004 with zom-com Shaun of the Dead, and continuing with 2007’s action parody overload, Hot Fuzz, is very appropriately titled THE WORLD’S END. In fact, it works on more levels, I think, than the filmmakers ever intended. You see, to a select group of friends and myself, it signaled the end of an era, the end our own “British Invasion” of sorts.
If you count the short-lived, yet groundbreaking BBC series Spaced, we’ve sat through well over a decade of Edgar Wright & his merry band of idiots skewering every pop culture genre known to man. We identified with and cared about his characters, the average geeks of the world such as ourselves, thrown into situations ranging from the mundane rigors of everyday reality to the disturbing terrors of supernatural fantasy, but always with a touch of their signature Brit wit, cockney charm, and hobknocker hilarity. So when we learned more of the plot details of the final film in the trilogy… well, we all knew that there was only one logical way to give this series the proper send off that it truly deserved: EPIC PUB CRAWL!
The World’s End focuses on a group of five friends (manipulated and spurred on by an equal-parts charismatic and pathetic Simon Pegg) and their reluctant journey home to Newton Haven in an effort to complete the town’s signature “Golden Mile” pub crawl, a feat that the formerly inseparable gang failed to complete 20 years prior. Chalking it up to both morbid curiosity and a modicum of pity for Pegg’s once great leader of the group (“The once and future King!”), who’s now become a perpetual soon-to-be 40 relic, mentally frozen in time at the height of his former (teenage) glory. He sees their ill-fated pub crawl as his unfinished business, and has never been able to move on from what, in his mind, should’ve been the greatest night of their lives. So, in an attempt to both honor and mourn the passing of these films that had left such an impact in all of our lives, we set out to capture a bit of that greatness ourselves.
The plan was simple, just as it was supposed to be in the film: An 11 bar pub crawl through University City, Missouri’s famous Delmar Loop, our very own “Golden Mile.” 11 beers at 11 bars, stumbling our way towards Landmark’s historic movie house, the Tivoli Theater, where we would grab our 12th and final pint, settling in for what would surely be a bittersweet screening of The World’s End. Well, looking back on it now, in a seemingly predestined bit of irony, our epic failure paid homage to the film moreso than we could’ve ever thought possible.
Without a doubt, as with the other films in the series, this is Pegg and Nick Frost’s show. The cornerstone of this trilogy has always been their characters’ tumultuous yet deep-rooted bromances, and this one is no exception. Inseperable in their youth, Frost’s Andy Knightly shared a deep bond with Pegg’s Gary King that the other members of the group just didn’t have. I don’t care what anyone says; you have your mates, and then you have your best mates, and then you have your BEST best mates. The kind you consider family. In their heyday, these two shared that kind of friendship. This, unfortunately, led to the age old adage coming true, “The ones that you love the most are usually the ones that hurt you the most.” At the outset of this journey, Andy’s hatred for Gary knows almost no bounds.
The outset of our journey, however, couldn’t have been more different. 6 friends (was supposed to be 10, but you know how these things go) on a shared mission to paint the town red, blue, and green. Cornetto-style. And I’ve gotta say, the first few pubs went smooth as silk. The excitement building, the beers just frosty enough to combat an unnaturally muggy St. Louis August evening, and an overwhelming feeling that we were onto something special here. As the buzz firmly began to set in, we laughed and joked about who would actually be able to handle all 12 pints, and who would end up trying not to puke in the back of a cab before the flick even started. We stumbled (slightly) through the bustling and invigorating crowds of Delmar, past the neon signs and the street musicians, the air smelling of sidewalk hookahs and Thai food. 5 down, 6 to go. And the night was still young…
While Pegg and Frost’s relationship may be the heart of the film, that doesn’t devalue the relationships of the rest of the gang. As much as this is an effects-driven sci-fi comedy, and Edgar Wright’s time spent with Scott Pilgrim has obviously influenced the latter half of this film’s AMAZING fight choreography, there are some truly poignant and heart-wrenching moments in this film. Just as Shaun’s Mum inevitably ended up on the receiving end of his shotgun, The World’s End has a heaping helping of “grab your kleenex” scenes. But hey, you’d want to have them handy anyway, because if this movie doesn’t make you laugh until you cry at some key moments… well, you’re obviously some kind of alien robot replicant filled with a blue inky-substance. Did that seem oddly specific? Whatever… we’re onto you.
So, around bar 7 is when things started to go to hell. Someone, who shall remain nameless (whistling innocently), had the bright idea to throw shots into the mix (a move mirrored by Pegg later in the film). The end result of which ended with a supercharged nearly 30 year old running out on his tab and trying desperately to get his shirt off because, and I quote, “IT’S TOO GODDAMN HOT!!!” Well, just like the oh-so eloquent ‘Blade runner’ quote, “The candle that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.” That smell of hookah smoke and Thai food was quickly overpowered by the pungent aroma of that morning’s lunch paying an impromptu visit to the sidewalk. Well, they started to drop like flies after that. But as they say in the theatre, “The show must go on!”
Speaking of special-effects, the robo-replacements in the film are done to perfection. A purposeful cross between cartoonish and terrifying, these droids pay homage to everyone from John Carpenter to Ridley Scott. They come apart frequently during those epic battles I previously referenced, and ever-eager to get back into the fight, have a tendency to remake themselves with whatever spare limbs happen to be laying around. As you can imagine, a fight involving a robot with spinning legs where her arms should be and a man doing everything in his power to simultaneously not die AND not spill his beer, can make for a fairly entertaining situation.
First we were 6, then we were 3. In hindsight, I’m betting that it was the round of shots that started the others down the slippery slope towards FUBAR, but we lost 3 between bars 8, 9, and 10. And I know for a fact that the 3 of us who remained steadfast really didn’t want anything to do with that 11th bar. And I know this, because all of the hearty and excited conversation that had comprised the majority of the evening was dead and buried. Sallow, wobbly faces, internally contemplating what could possibly be the lightest beer to order, and dreading actually having to drink it regardless. The fun was over. This was no longer a pub crawl. It had become an endurance match. But damn it, we signed on, and we were gonna see this thing through.
A true grand finale, this film is the culmination of virtually every influence and undercurrent that’s run throughout the entire series. There are so many easter eggs hidden that I’m quite sure I missed half of them on my first (drunken) viewing, and the devil’s in the details to the point that the name of every pub along their journey is complete foreshadowing of the events that’ll transpire once inside (I’m going to have to go with “The World’s End” being the biggest, obviously).
As is the trend in comedies of late, there are a few pretty surprising cameos along the way that I refuse to spoil here, but they’re a treat for fans, to say the least. This film is truly a love letter to the fans that have supported and followed this madcap crew throughout the years, and is a deliciously strange brew of a film that certainly takes the meaning of the phrase “go out with a bang” to heart! And what a big heart it is…
Finally. We made it. The three musketeers that fought the good fight, and won. We walked into the theater lobby holding our heads high, and promptly proudly ordered our final pint that we’d more than earned along our arduous journey to The World’s End.
…and of course, that’s a complete and utter lie. That’s the idealized version that we’d love to be able to say happened, but the reality of the situation is far less romantic. We didn’t finish our beers at the 11th bar, in fact, the 3rd member of our party refused to even order one. Two sips minimum and we were done, hurriedly stumbling towards the theater having lost track of time. We damn near crawled through the door, foregoing the bar completely, seeing as how we were quickly approaching being 10 minutes late for the film.
Drunk, pouring sweat, more than a little nauseous, and pissed off, we slumped in our seats just in time for the trailers to end and the studio logo to grace the screen. We DID make it. Literally in the nick of time, and a helluva lot worse for wear, but we had made our pilgrimage to The World’s End and had come as close to living the movie as we possibly could, this side of an alien invasion. Some of the parallels we found there, between our journey and those that the characters in the film undergo, actually surprised the hell out of us, but I can’t help but think that it only enhanced the filmgoing experience for all of us.
The hangover the next morning, though? Ugh, you can keep that shit.