The big problem with World’s End, the third installment in Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”, is that it follows on the heels of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two of the funniest movies of the last decade. Although it has more than its share of laugh out loud moments, World’s End simply cannot compare with the previous two movies. Viewed independently of the trilogy, the movie works just fine. It’s funny, well-shot, and filled with great performances. But given its connection to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it comes as a major disappointment.
The main reason World’s End suffers in comparison to the previous two movies is that it’s really, really repetitive. In the first section of the movie, the hero (Simon Pegg), a burned out alcoholic in his early 40s, tries to enlist the help of four old friends from high school (Nick Frost, Eddie Marsen, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine) to recreate a legendary pub crawl that they failed to complete as 18-year-olds. He visits each of the friends independently, and after arguing the matter back and forth for awhile (his friends don’t seem to like him very much), he eventually manages to persuade each of them. This sequence basically repeats itself four times.
The rest of the movie follows the five friends as they visit each of the 12 pubs that constitute “The Golden Mile”, the last of which provides the movie with its title. Each of the 12 pubs, they soon discover, has been “Starbucksized” (i.e. they are all exactly the same). Another observation that they make is that the townsfolk all appear to be acting a little strange. By the time they get to the third pub, they realize that this is because the people of the town have also been Starbucksized (i.e. they’ve been replaced by robots with blue blood). Undaunted by this discovery, Pegg’s character doubles down on finishing the pub crawl.
With each new pub the characters visit, the robots get more and more dangerous. Sometimes elaborate kung fu fights break out between the main characters and the robots, and like the fights in Wright’s similarly repetitive Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, these fights go on forever and are all staged the same way. By the time they get to the ninth pub, half the gang has been replaced by robot look-a-likes, and yet Pegg’s character remains as determined as ever to finish the pub crawl.
To an extent, the excessive repetition in World’s End is perfectly justified. The movie has an important point to make about the homogenization of culture, and what better way to do that than by showing the same people arrive at the same pub 12 different times? The problem is that, in the absence of narrative development, the movie needs something to hold the viewer’s attention, and all that Wright and co-writer Pegg have to offer in this department is occasionally amusing dialogue, long, drawn out fight scenes, and a vivid depiction of a burned out loser desperately trying to re-live the glory days of his youth. That’s enough to put the movie a few notches above other comedies this summer (like The Internship, say), but it’s not nearly enough to put it on the level of comedic masterpieces like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.