Best Summer Movie of 2013: The World’s End

The-Worlds-End-Teaser-PosterIn a summer defined by flops, catastrophes, and movies that are counting breaking even as a win—but also a summer that delivered a billion-dollar-plus grand slam that was actually deserving of that success—the summer of 2013 will be remembered as the summer that the studio tent pole started to fail. Not the summer in which it died, that won’t happen until at least 2015, but when we look back this will be the summer we point to and say, “Right there. That’s when audiences got over the blockbuster”. There’s a rush to declare What Went Wrong in summer 2013, so here’s my contribution to that conversation: Blockbuster is not a genre. “Blockbuster” is the title given to a movie so good everyone runs out to see it, regardless of genre.

So why is The World’s End my pick for Best Summer Movie: 2013? Because it isn’t trying to be a blockbuster, and yet it out-blockbusters almost everything else this summer, for literally less than one-tenth the price. And it’s good movie that engages from start to finish.

worlds-end-pintsThe World’s End is director Edgar Wright’s final entry into the “Cornetto Trilogy”, which began in 2004 with Shaun of the Dead and continued in 2007 with Hot Fuzz, and it’s easily the best of the lot, which is really saying something. Starring Simon Pegg (who also co-wrote all three features with Wright) and Nick Frost, plus their assorted troupe of Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, David Bradley (Argus Filch for life), Julia Deakin, and Rafe Spall, and new-to-the-party Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike, The World’s End is the funniest movie of the summer and one of the best-executed action flicks. It’s built on the blueprint of a blockbuster but it dares to ask whether or not chasing past glory is all that good of an idea, really.

TheWorldsEndCastThe plot is one of those you’re better off not knowing too much about—and for once, the trailer does not spoil it at all—but if Shaun was the zombie movie and Fuzz the buddy cop parody, then World’s End is the one about alien invasion. The story goes far beyond that and touches on some truly serious matters, like the life-shattering reality of bullying and the long-term damage between Gary (Pegg) and Andy (Frost) is dealt with in one monologue that Frost CRUSHES, but it is never not funny. If anything, the deftly sensitive handling of the serious matters only serves to escalate the humor by contrast.

It’s clear from the beginning that Gary is not a well man, but as his manic quest to conquer the “Golden Mile”, a trail of twelve pubs in his hometown, unravels with the absurdity of the alien invasion, the depths of his damage become the highlight for the real-world consequence of his increasingly improbable actions. That the long and troubled history between Gary and his childhood friends (Andy in particular) is dealt with in only glancing moments in between killer robot-alien attacks and downing pints at various pubs makes it feel more real. These men have known each other so long and so well they don’t need to drag everything out all at once—it comes out in fits and starts as frustration mounts and feels like texture in a richly realized world, not mere plot points.

The-Worlds-End-Nick-Frost-Simon-Pegg-Paddy-ConsidineWright and Pegg are at their most confident as writers, commanding the many jokes and running gags—like the fence-jump fail—that makes up their trilogy, accommodating the strengths of their friends, particularly Frost and Marsan, whom Pegg graciously cedes much of the best material to, and constructing a script that feels improvised but which is micro-managed in execution. Wright’s direction is also supremely confident, particularly in action sequences. Shaun mined humor from the fast and dirty action scenes but nine years later Wright’s ability is such that he can shoot complicated fight sequences in tight spaces in eye-popping long takes that are balletic in their camera movements.

the-worlds-end-fence-gagThe World’s End delivers on the expectations built by Shaun and Fuzz and adds a depth of feeling the other two merely glanced at. It’s made from blockbuster spare parts and never asks you to ignore gaping plot holes or require you to make numerous excuses about how it’s good in spite of itself.  It has some of the most thrilling action scenes of any movie this summer and is a reminder that often the best action comes from simple situations, not necessarily building-toppling spectacle. It’s also really fucking funny.

14 thoughts on “Best Summer Movie of 2013: The World’s End

  1. Emster

    I think my favorite bit was the wistful blowing of the Cornetto wrapper over Frost’s closing monologue. It sums up the whole thing, really.

    I can’t wait for Ant-Man.

  2. Good point about The World’s End having a depth of feeling the other two merely glanced at. It’s what really makes these films a trilogy; you need to see the other two to connect with Wright’s style and pace and then you can absorb so much more from The World’s End for the moments it slows down.

    I also loved the use of mobile phone interference on the soundtrack as a sinister theme, taking the mixture of mundane and alien to deeper levels.

  3. I’m going to see it today! Thanks for your blog, I love reading it.
    Question.. would it be possible to put a search feature on the blog? (Maybe I’m blind and it already exists – if so, sorry!)
    I don’t like going to or renting a movie until I know what you thought of it.



  4. I second the search feature request. Also, I really enjoyed this movie, too. The one brief monologue of Eddie Marsan’s when the guy doesn’t recognize him in the pub is my favorite scene.

    Then with that big bathroom scene, all I could think was, didn’t he just say that floor was covered with pee?

    1. Eddie Marsan’s monologue BROKE MY HEART. In that short scene, he really stole the entire movie (for me), which is saying something because everyone did such an amazing job.

      I love seeing a movie for the first time and knowing that it’s going to be just as good every time you watch it for the next 20 years. That scene in Shaun of the Dead where Frost is looking for the zombies and peeking out the mail slot, doesn’t see any, looks the other direction and deadpans “Oh, no, wait, there they are.” Brilliant! Still kills me even if I just think about it.

  5. Heidi

    The movie is not out here (Germany) yet… I’ve only seen the trailer and wasn’t sold at all and I’m not sure yet if I should see it. I often agree with your opinions about movies so maybe I should give it a try after all. I’m wondering though… is it really essential to know the other two movies (which I haven’t seen) or do you think it’s okay to only see this one?

  6. marie

    I saw this movie over the weekend and yes, best out of the trilogy. Martin Freeman slays me with that smile he had when they stepped out of the bathroom and tried to pretend everything was okay. And Marsan, my God, I didnt expect to be teary eyed watching this movie but he really did make me cry. Something that just bugged me though, if Pierce Brosnan could come out whole again after the whole face smashing act, why couldn’t Martin Freeman? sorry, just a fan and really wanted to see more of him 😀

    1. Didn’t Brosnan come back before Bill Nighy unplugged, though? I assumed Martin Freeman stayed half a face because he didn’t regenerate before the machine unplugged.

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